Weight Training vs. Only Cardio

“I need lots of cardio for fat loss because weigh training will make me gain weight and get bulky.” This is a common misconception in the fitness world and this blog post will explain why this is incorrect.


The first reason why weight training is best for fat loss is the calorie burn after the workout is completed. You will have a metabolism boost up to 36 hours after your workout. In order to get the same effects from cardio, you would have to do cardio for a very long period of time. The exception is hard sprinting. HIIT sprints will increase our fat burning, but must be done very hard and only a few times a week.


The second reason why weight training is superior for fat loss is it increases lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass increases long term metabolic levels. A larger degree of lean muscle mass turns your body into a calorie burning powerhouse. You must remain consistent with your training though. Increase in lean muscle tissue also increases your BMR. So on your lazy days, you’ll still burn more calories.


Another reason why you may want to incorporate more weight training is because it reshapes your body. If you just reduce your calories and perform cardio, you lose some muscle tissue and lose some curvature to your body, which tends to make you look soft. Ever hear the term “skinny fat”? This is what describes that physique. Weight training helps to give your body that “toned” look.


Another misconception of weight training in women is lifting heavier weights will give you rippling muscles leaving a lady looking like a man. This is also untrue because women do not have testosterone levels to gain that kind of natural muscle and you would need to eat a great deal of food to do so.


A third, very important reason why weight training is important for fat loss is what it promotes. Weight training promotes lean muscle gain, while just cardio promotes the production of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that encourages muscle LOSS and tends to store additional fat around the midsection. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone. Large amounts of cardio will place stress on the body. We also tend to adapt to the amount of cardio we do. Soon, it will take hours of cardio to see progress again.


Now you may have questions about calorie burns during workouts and why they tend to be higher on more cardio intensive days. While your weight training session may not burn as many calories per minute as straight cardio, the overall benefits of weight training outweight just cardio sessions (increase BMR, afterburn, etc). On a side note, you can increase your calorie burn by increasing the intensity of the weight training sessions, ie. heavier weights, more reps, super setting exercises.


One point to make is cardio is not bad. Cardio is beneficial for your cardiovascular health and you shouldn’t completely eliminate it from your fitness plan. What many tend to focus on for fat loss is too much cardio. We tend to get stuck on that calorie burn number (MyZone burn) rather than what that particular programming did for your muscles.


Lastly, rest is also important for lean muscle building and repair. Muscles are built at rest. There’s a saying, “Muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen, and built in your sleep”. If you don’t ever take rest days, your muscles do not have a chance to repair.   A rule of thumb is at least 1 rest day a week.


Hope you find this post useful! Diet and exercise is a science and difficult to understand at times.


Coach Leah


About the author


Darin the founder of Fitness Renegades, a Dad and an Ironman. He started Fitness Renegades and the Renegade Lifestyle to help people transform their lives with our unique Fitness, Family, Food formula. He believes in fueling your body with real foods, providing workouts that are challenging, yet fun and having a family like atmosphere where we are all working toward improving our lifestyles. Welcome to the Renegade Family!

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