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There’s a lot of conflicting advice as to whether cardio or weight training will help you lose weight quicker and keep it off longer, so we thought we’d go through some of the ideas behind this and see if we could settle the argument.

Even though we’re going to be weighing these two ideas up, it’s important to remember that both can help you lose weight.

Weight training offers a calorie burn even after the workout is over

Weight training is helping you burn calories even once you’ve finished at the gym. In fact, the effect is so strong that studies suggest you’re still burning calories for up to 38 hours after your last workout. This means that for more than a day after your workout, you’ll be feeling the weight-loss effects, even if you’re not exercising during that time. That also means if you exercise regularly, you could feel the extra calorie-burn effect for days and days at a time and lose weight over an extended period.

In comparison, the lasting effects of cardio aren’t as long-lasting. In order to get the same kind of calorie-burn intensity, you’d have to do cardio for a longer period of time. However, something like sprinting is a different story. Sprinting is not only a cardio activity but is also very muscular, and will bring your metabolic rate close to the same level as if you were strength training. But in order to see that long-lasting burn, you’ll have to sprint hard, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Weight training adds to your passive calorie burn

As well as short-term metabolic increases from post-workout high, if you’re consistent with your workout programme then weight-training can also help you in the long-term. If you increase your muscle-mass through weight-training, that will increase the general amount of calories that you burn throughout the day, whether you’ve had a recent workout of not. This happens because your muscles burn a base level of calories throughout the day, passively. They burn more if they’re being used, but they burn a certain level whether they’re being used or not. This is called your basal metabolic rate and the more lean muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate. Not only that, but once you’ve built up the muscle. it takes far less effort to maintain, which means that if you stick to a progressive weight-training programme, your daily passive calorie burn will steadily increase. Be realistic about how much muscle you can build and how quickly though, so keep in mind that men are expected to be able to build around 1-2 pounds of muscle per month, and women about half that. So, the key to getting to where you want to be is to aim for steady progress.

Weight training is an opportunity for reshaping

One of the reasons you see bodybuilders pay attention to specific areas of their body in a way that you don’t see runners do is because weight training offers the chance to influence the shape of your body. Cardio will definitely change your body shape from weight loss, although often this weight loss comes from both fat and muscle so essentially your proportions shrink. With weight training and body building, you’ll lose fat but you’ll also be building muscle, enhancing the natural shape of your body. This means there’s potential for a real transformation not just in your size but also in your shape, letting you toughen up those abs and build up those triceps.

Weight training for women

We’ve found that women are often more reluctant to start weight training because of the perception they’ll look less feminine due to packing on muscle. Generally, women don’t have the testosterone levels required to gain the sort of muscle that would cause them to have a masculine body shape. However, lifting weights will have a positive effect for women by helping them increase their metabolic rate, lose weight and gain a more defined body shape.

Mid-workout calorie burn

You might be asking what the difference between a cardio and a strength workout is in terms of calorie burned during the actual session. You can burn between 500-800 calories during a longer cardio session, which will definitely help with fat loss although it’s worth remembering that getting rid of one pound of fat requires burning about 3,500 calories, so it will take a few workouts to see the difference. With a weight training session, you won’t burn as many calories during the session itself, but you’ll find that the lasting calorie burn, after the session, will typically offer longer benefits.

Cardio and overall health

Gaining strength is great and is also a good way to ensure you stay healthy overall. Cardio probably has a greater benefit to your overall health as it gives a great workout to the heart and lungs. Because of these benefits, it’s a good idea not to rely just on strength training for your weight-loss program and make sure to include cardio.


We hope we’ve dispelled some myths about whether cardio is just for fat loss and strength training just for muscle. Cardio should be an important part of your routine, but strength training might be very useful if you’re looking to lose weight and can also help tone up your muscles. Extra muscle can also help you passively lose weight. However, there are benefits to both cardio and strength training so any good program should seek a balance between the both.