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Cardio vs. Weights: Which Burns More Calories and Why You Should Also Monitor Your Food Intake


When it comes to fitness and weight management, there are two main approaches: cardiovascular exercises (cardio) and weight training (weights). Many people often wonder which one burns more calories and which is more effective for achieving their fitness goals. While both cardio and weights offer unique benefits, the calorie-burning aspect of each exercise type varies. In this blog post, we'll explore the calorie-burning capabilities of cardio and weights, and why it's crucial to pair your workouts with mindful food intake to achieve optimal results.


Cardiovascular exercises, such as running, cycling, swimming, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), are renowned for burning calories. Here's why:

  1. Elevated heart rate: Cardio activities elevate your heart rate, which increases calorie expenditure during the workout. The longer you maintain an elevated heart rate, the more calories you burn.

  2. Sustained calorie burn: Cardio workouts primarily rely on the aerobic energy system, which allows you to burn calories consistently throughout your exercise session and even after you've finished working out. This phenomenon is known as the "afterburn effect" or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

  3. Weight loss: If your primary goal is to shed pounds, cardio can help create a calorie deficit, which is essential for weight loss. A calorie deficit means you burn more calories than you consume.

Weight training, on the other hand, may not burn as many calories during the workout itself compared to cardio, but it offers other benefits that contribute to calorie expenditure and long-term weight management:

  1. Muscle-building: Weight training helps you build lean muscle mass. Muscles require more energy (calories) to maintain than fat, so as you gain muscle, your basal metabolic rate (BMR) increases. This means you burn more calories at rest.

  2. Post-workout calorie burn: While the immediate calorie burn during weight training may be lower than cardio, resistance exercises can lead to a significant afterburn effect, contributing to additional calorie expenditure.

  3. Improved body composition: Weight training helps shape and tone your body, giving it a more lean and defined appearance, which can boost your confidence and motivate you to stay active.

Why You Should Pay Attention to Food Intake

While it's essential to understand the calorie-burning properties of cardio and weights, exercise alone is not enough to achieve your fitness goals. Here's why monitoring your food intake is equally crucial:

  1. Balance is key: Consuming more calories than you burn, even through intense workouts, can hinder weight loss or lead to weight gain. It's vital to maintain a calorie balance that aligns with your goals.

  2. Nutrient quality: The types of calories you consume matter. Prioritise a diet rich in whole foods, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to support overall health and energy levels.

  3. Recovery and performance: Proper nutrition is essential for post-workout recovery and muscle repair. Adequate protein intake, for example, is crucial for muscle growth and repair.

  4. Sustainability: A sustainable approach to fitness and nutrition is key to long-term success. Extreme dieting or overly restrictive eating plans are difficult to maintain over time and can lead to burnout.

Cardio and weight training both have their roles in a well-rounded fitness routine. Cardio is an excellent calorie burner, while weight training builds muscle and boosts metabolism. To maximise your results, it's essential to find a balance between these two exercise types and pay attention to your food intake. By maintaining a calorie balance, prioritising nutrient-rich foods, and adopting a sustainable approach to fitness and nutrition, you can achieve your fitness goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle for the long term. Remember, a holistic approach that combines exercise and mindful eating is the key to success, as you CANNOT out-train a bad diet!

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