Cardio VS Weights: Which is Best for Weight Loss?
Updated: Jul 13
Say you wanted to lose fat. And you had no choice but to do either Cardio or Weightlifting but not both, which one is more effective in getting you to your goals?
Most of us would probably choose Cardio. But is that necessarily true?
Let's find out!
High-intensity cardio and compound weightlifting exercises are best for fat loss.
Cardio and weightlifting have unique advantages in a fat loss program.
You can never outwork a bad diet
Defining Cardio and Weightlifting
To start, let's define what we mean by "Cardio" and "Weightlifting".
In this context, "Cardio" are exercises that mainly tax your cardiovascular system with minimal muscle fatigue. Such as rowing, cycling, running, skipping, bodyweight HIIT, etc.
Put simply, that means exercises that cause your heart rate to go up, your breathing to become strained, while minimally causing any muscle soreness.
"Weightlifting" on the other hand would mean resistance type of training that focuses on muscle growth and very little on cardiovascular fitness.
Types of Cardio and Weightlifting
Now that we've clearly defined the differences between the 2, let's break them down further in order to make a better comparison with respect to fat loss because not all types of cardio or weightlifting programs are creating equal.
Generally speaking, there are 2 kinds of cardio: steady-state and high-intensity cardio. Basically the difference between doing a light jog and an all-out sprint. As we've discussed in our previous post, high-intensity is more effective for weight loss.
As for weightlifting, we can also categorize them into 2 types: isolation and compound exercises. For example, a Bicep Curl is an isolation exercise that works only the biceps, compared to a compound exercise like the Squat, which works not only your quads, but also your hamstrings, glutes, and even your core.
For reasons we won't get into today, compound exercises are definitely the better option when it comes to effective fat loss.
Hence, the best ways to lose fat are, high-intensity cardio and compound weightlifting exercises.
So our 2 finalists in each category are, high-intensity cardio and compound weightlifting exercises. Which one is most effective for fat loss?
The short answer: it depends on your body goals.
If you just want to focus on pure fat loss without any muscle definition or the "lean and athletic" physique that most people are looking for, cardio is your best bet. However, without good nutritional habits as a foundation, you run the risk of getting the dreaded "skinny-fat" look, where you look slim, but also have excess fat hanging around.
If your focus is on developing an athletic build, weightlifting would be more suited for your needs. However, similar to cardio, without good nutritional habits, you also run the risk of looking "bulky", which is what most women fear when starting on any muscle-building program.
Cardio and weightlifting meet different needs and purposes. This is why, when they are used together in an intelligent program, they can do wonders towards reaching your body goals.
However, as you've realized, there are significant drawbacks to even the best exercise programs without a foundation built on good nutrition knowledge.
That's because no matter how hard you try, you can never outwork a bad diet.