5 Reasons Why Weight Training Beats Cardio
On "paper," cardio burns more Calories than weight training. We know this. HOWEVER, weight training will provide better results for BOTH muscle optimization AND fat loss. Why is this?
1. Muscle Protein Synthesis. Harvard studies (see sources below) show across the board that weight training increases muscle protein synthesis.
- Muscle mass is built in a Calorie surplus.
- Muscle mass is preserved in a Calorie deficit.
In other words, regardless of what happens with your diet, weight training will "at-best" bring you closer to your goals, and "at-worst" minimize the damage caused by a poor diet (though we never advocate exercise as an excuse to live a poor lifestyle around food in the first place). If your exercise consists of only cardio and you are in a Calorie deficit, you will experience muscle loss and not fat loss--then you become "skinny-fat." Yikes!
2. After-Burn. ACSM research finds that Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (abbreviated E.P.O.C. and commonly called "after-burn" among gym-rats) Calories are burned post-workout and often into the next day, so while "on paper" low-intensity cardio will burn more Calories, at the end of the day, the same amount of time is better invested in strength training or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to get the most bang-for-your-buck!
3. Increased Metabolism. Muscle burns Calories, even if it's sitting there doing nothing! Therefore, making it a priority to either build or retain muscle mass is essential to a healthy metabolism.
4. Hormone Optimization. Both weight training and HIIT have been shown in studies to increase natural productions of hormones that are vital to both fat loss and muscle retention/building:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
- Cortisol (keeps it from being produced into unhealthy high levels)
Additionally, melatonin is indirectly created towards the end of the day when you need it to sleep. If done correctly, weight training is an enjoyable form of exercise in which you will see improvements every week. This creates a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment which produces the hormones dopamine and serotonin, which is a precursor to the renowned melatonin, I.E. "the sleep hormone." Basically, you will feel better throughout the day and sleep better. Yay!
5. Functionality. If you ever see me running, you'd better run too, because I'm running from something! My bodybuilding coach taught me not to run as a primary form of cardio because prolonged periods of low-intensity cardio tend to cause muscle loss, whereas the same effort put toward weight training or HIIT will not have these consequences. There is nothing wrong with a jog here and there, but from a practical standpoint, how often do you find yourself needing to jog or bike a long distance? How about picking up something off the floor (deadlift)? How about starting a lawnmower (low row)? How about picking up your sleeping child from their crib (high row)? How about being intimate with your wife (hip thrust)? All of these functional, day-to-day exercises have their roots in weight training!
BONUS! Energy for Cardio. Our personal experience (as well as that of our friends and clients) has shown most people feel energized after a workout and in the mood to do cardio anyway! Also, your post-workout hormone production has your testosterone and HGH in top-shape to make the most out of your cardio, so capitalize on it!
The Bottom Line: To maximize fat loss and/or muscle mass, as well as enhance your overall lifestyle, train with weights. Man or woman, don't need to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronnie Coleman to enjoy the benefits of a fun, simple, healthy weight training ritual.
1. Harvard Studies: https://www.health.harvard.edu/search?q=weight+training
2. ACSM Studies: Barrett, Steve. The HIIT Bible p. 22, 23, 31. Bloomsbury Publishing. (2017)