Cardio Vs. Weight Training for Fat Loss

by Mandy Ross

About Mandy Ross

Melissa Ross began writing professionally in 2009, with work appearing in various online publications. She has been an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer since 2006. Ross holds a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and a Master of Science in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.


Although cardio and weight training provide numerous health benefits, cardio supports fat loss to a greater extent than resistance training. Attempting to reduce fat with resistance training alone results in minimal weight reduction due to inadequate caloric output. Instead, weight training benefits weight maintenance and may be combined with regular endurance exercise and dietary restriction for successful weight loss.

Fat Loss Requirements

One pound of body weight contains 3,500 calories, as stated by the American Council on Exercise. Caloric deficits are required for weight loss and occur when your body burns more calories than ingested. Exercise and dietary restriction contribute to deficits and can be managed to fit your weight loss goals. For example, a daily deficit of 500 calories causes a weekly weight loss of 1 lb., while a deficit of 1,000 calories results in a 2 lb. loss in a week.

Weight Training and Weight Loss

Weight training promotes muscular strength and endurance but burns fewer calories per minute than endurance, or cardio, exercise. In the February 2009 issue of "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise," Dr. Joseph E. Donnelly and colleagues shared that resistance training alone fails to promote significant weight loss above 3 percent of total body weight. However, weight training may reduce risk for heart disease, improve cholesterol and lower blood pressure at your current weight and should be included in a well-balanced fitness routine.

Cardio and Caloric Output

Donnelly and colleagues suggest a dose response between amount of exercise and fat loss. For example, fewer than 150 minutes of weekly physical activity promotes minimal weight loss, while 225 to 420 minutes of weekly exercise can result in weight loss greater than 3 percent of your starting body weight. For example, a 200 lb. person burns 1,134 calories after 150 minutes of 4 mph walking and 3,178 calories after accumulating 420 minutes, according to ACE. In other words, a longer workout means greater caloric expenditure, which results in greater weight loss.


Caloric expenditure reduces body fat whether or not calories burned originated as stored fat or carbohydrates. Although lower-intensity exercise utilizes fat as fuel, higher-intensity exercise burns more calories per minute and holds superior weight loss potential, as stated by ACE. Although a combination of dietary restriction and exercise expedites fat loss, Donnelly and colleagues advise against daily caloric restrictions greater than 700 calories when combined with an exercise program. Consult a doctor before starting an exercise or diet program.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or