Which burns more calories — strength training or cardio?

If your main concern is burning off the extra calories you ate at Thanksgiving — as well as the calories you plan on eating at Christmas — you likely have one main concern. How can I burn the most calories during my workout?

Most people in the Twin Cities do not want to spend their lives in the gym. We’re looking for efficient workouts that will quickly burn as many calories as possible. As a result, many people wrestle with the common debate as to which burns more calories — strength training or cardio.

If you look at the number of calories burned during one hour of running versus one hour of lifting weights, it’s fairly easy to see that running is the obvious winner. If you’re jogging at a slow to comfortable pace, about 12-minute miles, you’ll burn about 25 percent more calories running than you would lifting weights. If you’re a faster runner and you’re logging about 8-minute miles, you would burn almost twice as many calories running as you would lifting weights.

But that’s not the end of the story. An additional payoff from lifting weights comes after you leave the gym.

With any good exercise, your body will continue burning calories at a higher rate for at least an hour after your workout. We’ll call that the “afterburn.” The intensity of your workout determines how long that afterburn lasts and how many calories you will burn. However, the number of calories you will burn is not the only thing that will impact the payoff from your workout.

When you lift weights, your body also burns a higher percentage of fat calories after your workout. This post-workout fat oxidation — the process of your body using oxygen to turn fat into energy — lasts for hours. In 2003, a study that was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, found the exact metric for the payoff.

Fifteen hours after their workout, individuals who lifted weights for an hour were burning 22 percent more fat than individuals who ran. In order for the runners to burn the same amount fat after their workouts, they needed to burn at least 800 calories during their runs.

There is a direct correlation between the intensity of your workout and the number of calories you burn afterward. That is part of the reason it is important to push yourself during your workout. You will not only maximize your results at the gym, it will also help you burn more calories after you leave.

There is no question as to whether cardio training is fundamental for burning calories. However, weight training can also help you burn calories. Do not be afraid that weight lifting will only cause you to bulk up. Instead, think of it as a good way to burn calories during and after your workout.

Becky Spurbeck

6 Comments on “Which burns more calories — strength training or cardio?

    • Glad you liked it and learned something. That’s our goal.

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