So first this guy is telling me to eat fat to lose fat. Fine. He proved it. Now he’s telling me that weight training is more effective than cardiovascular training for fat loss? He’ll prove it again. Yes, it is indeed true that this is the case (in most instances) and I will indeed prove it again. So within that unnecessary attempt to sound clever with shifting and inconsistent verb tenses, I make a bold claim that definitely counters most of our population’s intuition in regards to weight training and cardio and each of their respective functions. The notion that cardiorespiratory training is more effective for fat loss is simply that; a notion, and not a fact.

My speculations as to why this notion exists is based on the following two perceptions:

1) The perception that energy expenditure and oxygen intake is greater with cardiorespiratory training than weight training.

  1. It may seem like energy expenditure is greater when doing cardio than weight training; after all, isn’t that college girl drenched in sweat (natty ice from the night before) killing herself on the elliptical as skinny as a Victoria secret model? She is NOT sweating that much on the weight room floor that’s for sure.
  2. We seem to need more oxygen while hitting the stair-master; that must mean I am burning more calories and thus more fat, right? (wrong)

2) Our perception of athletes, their training styles, and the correlation we make to their body


  1. Marathon runners, soccer players, and cyclists are lean as string beans and boy do they run a lot.
  2. Football players especially linemen, and baseball players hit the weights hard and they are not exactly all that close to having washboard abs.

Let me start with this before diving into all my scientific mumbo-jumbo. Everyone is impacted by a countless number of different factors; our body composition and its ability to perform is no different. Thus, we must not fall victim to correlation and causation. Instead of making the assumption that our college girl in her pink Nike’s going absolutely haywire on the elliptical is efficiently burning fat by doing cardio just because she is skinny, we must recognize that she is impacted by MANY different factors. Perhaps she was a soccer player growing up and metabolically has been conditioned to utilize nutrients more effectively than you were. Maybe she just experienced a traumatic event that has made it difficult for her to eat. She may be genetically blessed. What applies to her may not apply to you, and what applies to you may not apply to that guy at work giving you advice who is an exercise science professional because he finished a 12-week bodybuilding.com workout plan.

What about the offensive lineman who is pushing 330? Did you ever look at the 1,000 carbohydrates he ate daily? Did you get a chance to see a picture of his dad or mom and know his genetics? So what’s the best thing to do then to figure out what is best for me? Use science. Let’s start then with this scientific fact: The majority of calories you burn in a day are not through activity, but instead through your resting metabolic rate, (RMR). So you may be confused. Do I really mean to tell you that the majority of calories that I burn are while I’m NOT active? YES, this has been proven over and over again in studies and what has also been proven is that there is a direct positive correlation between lean body mass and your RMR. Weight training’s getting you that lean body mass increase, not cardio. The paradigm to create in your mind based on this is that the fat-loss benefits of cardiorespiratory training are acute, while the fat-loss benefits of weight-training are around the clock! You hit the treadmill for 25 minutes, you get 25 minutes of benefit. That’s not the case with weight training. Your body is expending energy and burning calories when it is attempting to repair your muscles after that killer bench day. Processes like protein synthesis (which is an example of one of many) are going on for hours (36 – 48 to be exact), to help repair your muscles after an intense weight training session and during this time you are burning far more calories than when you are in the gym!

So you may be thinking now that all that cardio that you do is pointless. Not true. I am absolutely not saying not to hit the stair-master. If you want to go to that spin class, go. Prepare for that 5k in a few months; I would never advise you not to. In fact, I am not even saying that these things would not help you burn fat because they will; just understand that their benefits when related to fat loss are simply acute. Cardiorespiratory training, especially distance running is proven to be the most beneficial type of fitness for cognitive functioning and enhancement. All forms of cardio are beneficial for your heart health, and will increase your capacity to take in oxygen. DO YOUR CARDIO. In a perfect world a program would consist of a balance between resistance training and cardio-respiratory training. However, what you should take away from this is that if your goals are to burn fat and you had to choose between the stair-master and the squat rack, take the latter. Weight training is simply more efficient for fat-loss. Science says so.


Content provided by: *Neal Thakkar* 

Back to blog