Cardio is just a way of burning more calories; some people will diet and just use resistance exercise and lose body fat. If you look at most competitive bodybuilders, they all use cardio as they are dieting to enhance fat loss, but it’s more of a preference. Some will restrict more calories from their diet and just use resistance exercise as their preferred method of energy expenditure.
FORGET CARDIO!! RESISTANCE TRAINING FOR FAT LOSS SUMMARY
- Resistance training for fat loss can be just as or more effective as traditional cardiovascular exercise for losing body fat.
Resistance exercise may increase NEAT levels which can lead to additional calories burned throughout the day.
DO I HAVE TO DO CARDIO TO LOSE FAT?
Aerobic exercise burns more calories during exercise, whereas resistance exercise burns fewer calories but has a greater impact on increasing lean muscle mass. The longer rest periods between sets during resistance exercise result in lower energy expenditure than continuous aerobic exercise. Resistance exercise can also reduce abdominal fat despite lower calories burned during exercise due to increased lean muscle mass. The benefits of resistance exercise are improved body recomposition by improving lean muscle mass while reducing body fat.
NEAT AND RESISTANCE EXERCISE
Resistance training can increase/preserve lean mass while dieting, whereas aerobic exercise is associated with losses in lean muscle.(1, 2) Another benefit of resistance training is that it increases NEAT compared to aerobic exercise, which has been found to reduce Non-Exercise Adaptative Thermogenesis (NEAT). NEAT is any activity that relates to physical activity outside of exercise. For example, you run on the treadmill for an hour, but you are so tired after exercising you want to sit and relax and watch TV.
The total calories you have burned throughout the day go down because you are moving less and burning fewer calories instead. In contrast, resistance exercise has the potential to increase NEAT. This was documented in a study in which differences in 24-h energy expenditure and daily physical activity levels were assessed after 16 weeks of aerobic training and resistance exercise using a randomized crossover design. Both activities resulted in an increase in 24-h energy expenditure on exercise days.
On exercise days, total daily energy expenditure increased more on aerobic days by 443 kcal/d and 239 kcal/d for resistance exercise. However, on days that the subjects were not exercising was a different story. On non-exercising days, NEAT levels decreased in the aerobic group, the subjects burned -148 kcal/day, whereas, on non-exercising days, NEAT levels increased, subjects burned more than +216 kcal/day in the resistance exercise group. The researchers concluded that resistance exercise may burn more calories in the long term by stimulating higher physical activity on non-exercising days. The lower fatigue and lower energy expenditure during resistance exercise may result in less time to recover between exercises and greater physical activity on non-exercise days. Thus, aerobic exercise can cause a compensatory reduction in calories by lowering calories burned on non-exercising days from greater fatigue.(3)
FAT LOSS STUDIES
In a large scale study of over 11,938 healthy adults, those who performed resistance exercise greater than two days (i.e., > 180 minutes per week) per week had significantly reduced risks of obesity (i.e., 20-30%) compared to those who did not use resistance exercise, even if they just performed aerobic exercise. A dose-response curve suggested that those who performed a greater amount of resistance exercise had the greatest reductions in % body fat. The researchers concluded that resistance exercise had a protective effect on excessive fat accumulation and should be promoted in conjunction with aerobic exercise for optimal health benefits.(4)
Studies have found that even if you don’t diet and maintain calories, despite weight not changing, resistance exercise can cause an increase in lean mass and a reduction in body fat.(5) Several studies have found that when comparing diet alone to diet plus resistance exercise, despite weight loss being the same between groups, body composition improves favorably when diet is combined with resistance exercise (i.e., greater reductions in body fat and preservation of lean mass).(6, 7)
RESISTANCE TRAINING FOR FAT LOSS STUDIES
A meta-analysis found that a combination of resistance and aerobic exercise was superior to aerobic exercise alone for improving body composition (i.e., lean mass, body fat, % body fat)(8). In a study of obese patients who were not placed on a diet and told to eat their normal diet, a combination of resistance exercise and cardio produced greater reductions in body fat (i.e., -4.4%) compared to resistance exercise alone (-3%).(9)
A 2020 meta-analysis of over 3552 subjects combining 43 studies found that comparing aerobic exercise, resistance exercise, and a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance exercise all led to reductions in subcutaneous adipose tissue. A combination of aerobic exercise and resistance exercise had the greatest reduction in subcutaneous adipose tissue compared to aerobic exercise or resistance training alone.(10) Resistance exercise has distinct metabolic advantages of increasing resting metabolic rate over aerobic exercise. In a meta-analysis, resistance exercise increased resting metabolic rate, whereas aerobic exercise did not.(11) In a 2021 meta-analysis of over 58 studies and 3,000 people, researchers found that resistance exercise alone could reduce body fat by 1.4% or 1.1 pounds of fat loss, which is similar to most studies doing just cardio.(12)
A NEW STUDY SUGGESTS A SUPER CIRCUIT TO ENHANCE FAT LOSS
Traditionally, when someone has a heart issue, you would think that high-intensity exercise would be counterproductive, but new research suggests that it may be beneficial. In the prestigious journal PLOS ONE, researchers took patients who had recently had a heart attack and divided their cardiac rehab into continuous aerobic exercise or super-circuit training. The super-circuit consisted of a high-intensity exercise, alternating between resistance and aerobic training.
One resistant training set was followed by three minutes of aerobic exercises and a resting period, repeated eight times. Each exercise consisted of one set of 15 repetitions on a Cybex resistance training machine. The cardio group just walked on a treadmill for 55 minutes. At the end of the study, the super circuit group had better cardiovascular outcomes than the traditional cardio group. More excitingly, the super circuit group lost more body fat. The super circuit waist circumference decreased (-6.35 cm) to a greater extent than the continuous cardio group. The continuous cardio group had no changes (-1.01 cm) in waist circumference despite doing an hour of cardio a day.(13)
In sum, cardio is just a way of burning more calories; some people will diet and just use resistance exercise and lose body fat. If you look at most competitive bodybuilders, they all use cardio as they are dieting to enhance fat loss, but it’s more of a preference. Some will restrict more calories from their diet and just use resistance exercise as their preferred method of energy expenditure.
FORGET CARDIO!! RESISTANCE TRAINING FOR FAT LOSS KEY POINTS:
- Resistance exercise can be just as or more effective as traditional cardiovascular exercise for losing body fat.
- Resistance exercise may increase NEAT levels which can lead to additional calories burned throughout the day.
1. Bryner RW, Ullrich IH, Sauers J, Donley D, Hornsby G, Kolar M, et al. Effects of Resistance vs. Aerobic Training Combined With an 800 Calorie Liquid Diet on Lean Body Mass and Resting Metabolic Rate. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 1999;18(2):115-21.
2. Hunter GR, Byrne NM, Sirikul B, Fernández JR, Zuckerman PA, Darnell BE, et al. Resistance Training Conserves Fat-free Mass and Resting Energy Expenditure Following Weight Loss. Obesity. 2008;16(5):1045-51.
4. Brellenthin AG, Lee D-C, Bennie JA, Sui X, Blair SN. Resistance exercise, alone and in combination with aerobic exercise, and obesity in Dallas, Texas, US: A prospective cohort study. PLOS Medicine. 2021;18(6):e1003687.
5. Smith BK, Kirk E. Chapter 5 – Resistance Training and Physical Exercise in Human Health. In: Bagchi D, Nair S, Sen CK, editors. Nutrition and Enhanced Sports Performance. San Diego: Academic Press; 2013. p. 55-64.
7. Geliebter A, Maher MM, Gerace L, Gutin B, Heymsfield SB, Hashim SA. Effects of strength or aerobic training on body composition, resting metabolic rate, and peak oxygen consumption in obese dieting subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;66(3):557-63.
8. García-Hermoso A, Ramírez-Vélez R, Ramírez-Campillo R, Peterson MD, Martínez-Vizcaíno V. Concurrent aerobic plus resistance exercise versus aerobic exercise alone to improve health outcomes in paediatric obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2018;52(3):161-6.
9. Ho SS, Dhaliwal SS, Hills AP, Pal S. The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC Public Health. 2012;12(1):704.
10. Yarizadeh H, Eftekhar R, Anjom-Shoae J, Speakman JR, Djafarian K. The Effect of Aerobic and Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Subcutaneous Abdominal Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Advances in Nutrition. 2021;12(1):179-96.
11. Mackenzie-Shalders K, Kelly JT, So D, Coffey VG, Byrne NM. The effect of exercise interventions on resting metabolic rate: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2020;38(14):1635-49.
12. Wewege MA, Desai I, Honey C, Coorie B, Jones MD, Clifford BK, et al. The Effect of Resistance Training in Healthy Adults on Body Fat Percentage, Fat Mass and Visceral Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2022;52(2):287-300.
13. Dor-Haim H, Horowitz M, Yaakobi E, Katzburg S, Barak S. Intermittent aerobic-resistance interval training versus continues aerobic training: Improvement in cardiac electrophysiologic and anthropometric measures in male patients post myocadiac infarction, a randomized control trial. PLoS One. 2022;17(5):e0267888.