P90x, Crossfit, OrangeTheory, SoulCycle, Zumba…the list of exercise programs goes on almost as long as the debate over which one is the best. If you are trying to burn as much fat as you can each day, but are at a loss for how to best do that, this post is for you. I want to cut through the confusion and marketing ploys to tell you what you need to know before you head to your next class.
Personally, Tao Bo was my jam when I first tried to get into fitness–You can’t beat those outfits or Billy Blanks’ motivation, am I right?
Let’s start at the beginning–what do each of these programs have in common? They are all some form of either cardio, resistance training, or a combination of the two. That is the crux of this debate and will inform all of your exercise decisions moving forward as we look to answer the question: What burns more fat–cardio or resistance training?
I wish the answer to this were simple, but, as the conflicting advice out there tells us, this isn’t an open and shut case. In order to decide which one will work best for your personal goals, you need to weigh (pun intended!) the strengths of each.
Cardio (running, cycling, dancing…if it gets that heart thumping and makes you out of breath it’s probably cardio) burns A LOT of calories during your workout. If you have ever tracked the difference in calorie burn between a 30 minute run and 30 minutes of weightlifting, you know that the run wins every time. And yet, a closer look at the effects of weightlifting on your body for the rest of the day may tell you differently.
I am going to throw on my lab coat over my leggings for a minute here with a quick science lesson (bear with me, we’ll get through it together). Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is the key to this calorie blasting puzzle. After strenuous activity, the body consumes more oxygen in an attempt to restore normal metabolic function. This plays out as an “after-burn” effect where you burn more calories throughout the day than you typically would, even while sitting at your desk (thanks EPOC!). The best way to get this effect from a workout is through heavy resistance training; therefore, while it may look as though that run burned more calories, that may not be true when EPOC is taken into account.
Phew, I told you we could get through the science-y stuff, didn’t I? At this point you are probably asking, “Okay Sarah, I get that cardio burns more during the workout but resistance training burns more throughout the day, but what does that mean for me when I’m trying to lose weight?” I’m glad you asked. Really, it’s a trick question. Both are just as necessary for improving overall health and a combination will leave you burning more calories throughout your week than just one or the other. The biggest workout mistake you can make is not giving yourself a healthy balance of the two (plus some flexibility work, but that’s a conversation for another post). If you are spin class obsessed it may be time to pick up a dumbbell and, for all my meatheads out there, try a Zumba class–it’ll do you some good.