Weight training is better for fat loss than cardio. In fact weight training is better for all body composition goals, these can be categorised in to two overall aims. To gain muscle and prevent fat gain or to lose fat and maintain muscle while still preserving a healthy metabolism. Whichever you are currently going for weight training trumps cardio on all fronts when it comes to improving the way you look!
Why is it then that when it comes to losing fat, or getting more ripped that most people turn to more cardio in the hopes that this will strip them of fat? Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to how to lose 'weight' which doesn't take in to consideration all of the neccessary facts. Sure if you eat a very low calorie diet and perform tons of cardio every day without any weight training you will lose weight, but this isn't the best way to go about improving the way your body looks.
Why doing only cardio will have a negative effect on your body
Lets go back to your goals, are you simply trying to lose weight? Or are you looking to rid yourself specifically of body fat while preserving muscle to reveal a healthy and aesthetically pleasing look which is maintainable without having to starve yourself? The goal should always be to maintain as much lean body mass (muscle) as possible, this is what gives girls their attractive curves and guys their impressive muscle tone. And beyond the obvious aesthetic benefits of maintaining muscle it is essential for making your quest to lose fat a maintainable one, if you simply lose weight without regard to which kind of weight it is you can dramatically slow down your metabolism meaning you now have to eat dramatically less calories overall to prevent gaining fat. And so begins the spiral of yo-yo dieting where it seems you can't help but put on fat so you have to run more and eat less, before you know it you are jogging 4 times a week and eating 1000 calories a day with a body you are unhappy with. What happens when you can't run anymore and the calories cant be restricted further, not to mention this is no way to live your life!
Just doing cardio on a low calorie diet when you want to lose body fat will be the kiss of death on your muscle tone, metabolism, and stress levels. Over exposure to steady state cardio training has been shown to increase cortisol production which could be blunting your fat loss progress completely. Check out our article on how cortisol from jogging can negatively effect fat loss.
The bottom line is this. If you lose weight without maintaining lean mass using constant cardio and low calorie dieting you will not look great. You may be smaller and you will lose body fat, but you have none of the shape which men and women both intend for their ideal physiques. The loss of all lean mass will slow your metabolic rate down to a point where it is difficult to avoid spilling over in to 'unexplained' fat gain as soon as you eat a normal amount of calories again. Failure to maintain a healthy metabolism is the missing link in fat loss, once you have a slow and damaged metabolism it is incredibly difficult to repair. Sadly this is where all of that crash dieting, long slow cardio, and stress will get you.
Proof that weight training is better for fat loss than cardio
So now you know that doing cardio only is not the best way to get the body you want, whatever your goal. But weight training won't help you burn body fat right? Wrong, a study compared the effect of just cardio based training with just weight training while eating a very low calorie diet and here are the results.
Those doing just cardio lost 28 pounds of fat and 9 pounds of muscle which decreased the amount of calories burned naturally by the body a day (metabolism) by 200 calories. Those doing weight training lost 32 pounds of fat and only lost 2 pounds of muscle. The weight training subjects also had an increase in the metabolism of 63 calories a day. This means that despite losing a ton of weight using both protocols, the loss of muscle doing cardio and the consequential slowing effect on the metabolism which by the end of the study added up to 260 calories less being burned per day means that losing further body fat will now require an even stricter calorie deficit and fat gain becomes that much easier. You can see how this cycle isn't the best way to achive the body you want.
Using cardio alone when trying to diet down will damage your metabolism and your physique. When compared with weight training which has better overall fat loss results and a healthy effect on the metabolism it should be a no brainer which is the best approach. Failure to take care of your metabolism is a game of diminishing returns which ultimately leads to being overweight on a low calorie diet, this is no life.
Ditch the crash low calorie metabolism wrecking diets, stop relying on cardio to lose weight and start targeting fat loss, and use weight training to preserve muscle and your metabolism. You will look better, you will feel better, and you will make changes to your body which are maintainable without living a life of constant restriction and sacrifice.