Do people who run every day lose more weight than the people who work out at the gym?

A lot of people have been miss-lead regarding the effects of cardiovascular exercise, when it comes to fat loss in the short and long term.

Cardio – fat burning potential

It’s official that cardio burns more calories per session, than something like weight training. The faster you run, the more calories you burn. The same goes for weights. Increasing the intensity of the movement, as well as the amount of weight lifted, will trigger caloric burn potential. The number of calories you burn overall is determined by your body size and intensity.

One thing that steady state or light cardio doesn’t do, is re-shape your body and increase muscle mass. In fact, it can do the complete opposite.

HIIT – a better option for fat burning and weight loss

HIIT is very popular because it’s time effective, and does not allow for a large decrease in muscle mass. In fact, HIIT can make you even more muscular, and shredded at the same time. A lot of people use this intensive bout of exercise, as a way to rid themselves of stubborn fat that is hard to diminish with diet and strength training alone.

All you need is 20–30 minutes, a cardiovascular piece of equipment, like a treadmill, bike, cross trainer or skipping rope. Many people venture outdoors for hills and stairs as well. This is highly effective. HIIT requires an all out sprint effort for 20–30 seconds only, followed by one minutes worth of rest. This is completed on and off for a small period of time. That’s it!

The after-burn effect of HIIT is high, as is the possibility of building muscle tone and pure strength (depending on what you are doing).

Weight training – fat burning potential

Even though weight training does not burn as many calories as a cardio session does, it has many more benefit than most people realise.

Weight training builds muscle and strength, which is something cardio exercise does not do. Cardio on the other hand is inclined to use muscle as fuel, not just fat. The best thing about building muscle mass is that your resting metabolism is elevated substantially, allowing you to burn a lot more calories overall. When we lose our muscle mass, due to excessive cardio, or cardio long term, we will in fact decrease our resting metabolism.

Keep in mind that building muscle via weight training wont make your metabolism excessively elevated, rather it will increase it in smaller amounts. You will still have to be conscious of your macronutrient intake. Leg sessions will obviously burn a lot more calories and increase muscle mass faster, because it is such a large group of muscle to work at the same time. Biceps and triceps will not be as effective.

Resting metabolism also stays elevated for several hours after weight training, however, cardio does not show this at all (apart from HIIT)

We will become more efficient at burning body fat and caloric intake when we lift weights. It also changes out body composition, making us look more fit, toned and strong.

What is the best option then?

For balance of both, I recommend allocating days for strength training, preferably focusing on different muscle groups, and some for both HIIT and low impact cardio.

Both options are essential, because you do want to build a strong, fit and athletic physique, as well as tap into the caloric expenditure of cardio. The key here is to find a good balance that works well with your schedule and what you enjoy doing regularly.

Some people really love HIIT because it’s short, sweet and intense. You will get the most effective caloric burn with this, and It also increases muscle mass and post workout caloric burn.

Others may enjoy low impact cardio, such as jogging, walking or climbing. Pick something you enjoy, even if it is running, and do this regularly with weight lifting.

Remember, that the key to weight loss is allow yourself to constantly increase the intensity, and implement a proper eating plan, as well as low impact exercise. You need to keep moving daily and eating well consistently to get results.

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