Lifting weights burns more fat than cardio

When people talk about losing weight or burning fight they almost immediately follow that up with “I’m going to start running” or “I forgot to hit the treadmill”.  Every time I hear this it makes me cringe a little.  For individuals that don’t know much about exercise or the science of the body, I guess I can see why this seems logical.  Well unfortunately it’s not all that logical when you look at the science of it.  The many great things that happen in your body after you lift weights could never be achieved during a cardio session.  Most importantly, cardio doesn’t build any muscle either.  Let’s look at some research from 2012 that compared cardio to weight lifting.

The Study

The study titled “Effects of Aerobic Versus Resistance Exercise Without Caloric Restriction on Abdominal Fat, Intrahepatic Lipid, and Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Adolescent Boys” looked at 45 kids who were obese.  Before the study began, they did a pretty significant workup of the group measuring everything they could.  Something to take note of here in the insulin sensitivity in these boys.

markers before cardio fat loss study
Table shows the total adiposity, skeletal muscle, visceral AT, and abdominal subcutaneous AT

Insulin in-sensitivity (resistance) and obesity are precursors to Type 2 DiabetesVisceral fat is also something to note here to see how much fat mass they lost after the 3-month study concluded.

They separated these 45 boys into three groups: a cardio group, a weight lifting group, and a non-exercise group (control group).  They counseled each boy with nutrition guidelines and adherence criteria.  They wanted them to be taking in only the calories they needed with no deficit to show the efficacy of exercise on fat loss.  They monitored the weight closely before each exercise session to make sure no drastic changes were taking place. They exercised 60 minutes 3 times per week.  The control group were instructed to do what they normally would in their leisure time (which is not likely much since they were obese).  The results were pretty awesome.

The Results

The weight lifting group lost the most body fat out of all 3 groups.  Pretty much across the board, the weight lifting group had better markers and results.  The only real place doing cardio outperformed weight lifting was an increase in VO2 max.

markers after cardio fat loss study
Absolute changes in the 45 study subjects across 3 groups. The weight lifting group shows a much greater improvement.


insulin sensitivity improvement
A drastic increase in insulin sensitivity was seen in the weight lifting group


fat loss in weight lifting group
Visceral fat decreases were seen in both exercise groups with the weight lifting group seeing the biggest improvement


This study is just an example of the benefits that weight lifting has on your health in general.  The study breaks this over-generalization that cardio is for fat loss and lifting weights is for building muscle.  Something really great to point out is the increase in insulin sensitivity in the weight lifting group.  That increase in sensitivity not only is going to help those boys process carbohydrates more effectively, but it will have a great impact on their health overall.  This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever do any form of cardio.  Combining a cardio regime into your weight lifting routine is great to speed up fat loss for the impatient people out there.  If you’re solely relying on your cardio for fat loss, then just stop it.  Please.  The treadmills would likely appreciate the break.


Go read the study for yourself

6 Comments Add yours

  1. I totally agree, just by personal experience alone. I do strength training twice a week and cardio three times a week.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this. I lost a lot of weight by walking and I kept it off but never got the look or desired results I wanted. I thought I had to do one or the other. Now in a 30 minute routine with weights and cardio that I do at least 4 days per week I look much better and I have no problem eating more of what i want.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Nice study. I completely agree. I do believe cardio burns more calories per second DURING THE SESSION, but people forget body recomposition, metabolic after effect of training, hormonal release from weight training, and other factors besides calories burned within 30 minutes. My 2 cents. Why not use both? Lift to recomposition your body and trigger metabolic and hormonal releases, then perform your cardio after for increasing your caloric expenditure for that session. Cheers mate!


  4. purebcaa says:

    You recently can! Most people tend to think cardio is for burning fat and lifting weights is for building muscle. Both are great for fat burning.


  5. wonderwomanweights says:

    This was pretty interesting, I have found weights trumps cardio for me!


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