It’s fat loss fight night – In the blue corner, we have weight training. In the red corner is aerobic training. These two have been fighting for fat loss supremacy since the dawn of time. It’s cardio vs weight training in a fight for the truth.


Cardio vs weight training for fat loss

The Journal of Applied Physiology attempted to settle the age-old back and forth between the cult of bro’s who lift weights versus the serial class-goers who can’t get enough aerobics. Participants were put into 3 groups to end the debate once and for all:

1) Cardio only
2) Resistance training only
3) Cardio training and resistance training together

Here are the results:


cardio vs weight training or both


In this graph you can see that the cardio group lost the most weight – well, that’s the wrap, everyone go home. Not so fast, before you raise cardio’s hand in victory, there’s a ton of ways we can lose weight. Diarrhoea, amputation…contract malaria. These are all easier than cardio too but, just a hunch, I’m not sure you’re up for any of those. Let’s scratch a little deeper beyond the surface of these results.


cardio vs weight training


Ah, now we’re talking. Weight loss might be superior with cardiovascular training alone, but these results show that those of us who care more for aesthetics won’t be engaging in a juvenile “Cardio is better than weights”, or vice versa type of mud-slinging.

This graphic clearly shows that when the weight loss or gain is broken down, there’s a lot more going on than the simple number on the scales would suggest. While fat loss was significant in the cardio group, there was no muscle tissue gained and a small, but pretty insignificant amount was actually lost.

The resistance training group is perhaps the one that confuses us as the general public much more. The scales went up which means there was no way that fat could have been lost, surely? The graph shows that actually most of the gain was lean body mass with a small drop in body fat too despite the scales having increased.

The clear winner for fat loss being a combination of the two modes of training, which demonstrates almost an entire kilo more of fat loss than the cardio only group. But, this wouldn’t be apparent had you not looked beyond the number on your bathroom scales, because the cardio only group lost more overall weight.

In conclusion, using both in combination is clearly superior for fat loss and lean muscle growth – a more important metric than weight loss for us gym rats. A timely reminder that the scales alone don’t give us the full story behind our training efforts.


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