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Cardio vs. Weights: Which is better for reaching your goals?

The age old question, which is better? Which burns more calories? Which will help me lose fat or reach my “summer body” faster? These may seem like different questions but honestly the answer to them are all pretty similar. So let’s break them down.

First, which burns more calories and which will help me lose fat faster are actually the same question! When it comes down to it, weight loss is calories in vs. calories out so you want to make sure you’re getting the best “bang for your buck” workout. So which workout, cardio or weights, burns more calories?! This may seem like a no-brainer to you. Your hand may have shot up faster than a front-of-the-class brown nosing first grader. “Cardio of course! I see way more calories burned on my watch or on the screen when doing cardio” you may answer. Well, the answer to this question isn’t exactly cut and dry like you may think. While yes, cardio typically keeps your heart rate up higher and thus DURING the workout you will typically see a higher calorie burn, but there is something called EPOC that you have to take into account when determining your TOTAL calorie burn from that hard work you put in during that workout and it levels the playing field.

So what is EPOC? Well, EPOC stands for Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption and I’ll give you the cliff notes of what exactly it is. Think about taking your car on a long drive through the mountains, once you get to where you’re going and turn off your cars engine, it’s still red hot!! And it takes a while for that engine to return to its cool usual temperature when it’s not being used. Your body is the same way. Once done with exercise your body has to return all its systems to their “normal” levels or what’s known as homeostasis. It has to return the body to its normal temperature, it has to replace energy stores that were used, it has to restore oxygen levels in the blood, it has to repair muscle that was broken down, and much more. And guess what, all this work requires energy, aka CALORIES!

When we perform many forms of cardio exercise we are expending more calories during the workout but the calories required to return to homeostasis may not be as much as if we lifted weights. Say for instance we go for a run and burn 500 calories during that run. Because of our EPOC from the run we burn an additional 100 calories the next 48 hours. Now let’s say we decide to go do a weightlifting routine and find that we only burned 350 calories during our workout. However, we look at our additional calorie burn because of the EPOC from this workout and it ends up being an 200 calories. If we total both workouts up we actually burned 50 more calories from our weightlifting routine than from our run.

“So you’re saying weightlifting is better?” Well not necessarily. While lifting weights CAN have a greater EPOC and can build muscle, which will burn calories even when you are NOT working out, it all comes down to your intensity. If you work really hard in a cardio session but not very hard when lifting weights because you don’t enjoy it, even with that added EPOC, your calorie burn is going to be less compared to your cardio. “So cardio is better?” Again, not necessarily. “Ok you got me, what’s best?” If your goal is weight loss or what most people call “toning” (pretty much anything except wanting to just ADD MASS) and you want to get THE BEST bang for your buck workouts then high-intensity weighted circuit training is going to be the MOST BENEFICIAL. And guess what that is….you got it, BOOTCAMP style. What is bootcamp style? While you may see many places nowadays jumping on the “bootcamp” bandwagon, not all bootcamp workouts are created equal (we’ll get into that in the next blog post), however, the simplified definition of a bootcamp style workout is anything that involves strength training moves with weights or equipment combined with cardio moves or short rest intervals designed to keep the heart rate up.

So there you go, want to speed up your results and get that “summer body” as fast as possible? Make the most of your gym time and transition into bootcamp style workouts that combine BOTH strength training AND cardio into one calorie blasting sweat session!

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