Is Cardio or Resistance Training Better for Losing Fat?
Contrary to recent headlines, aerobic exercise alone is not a recipe for faster fat loss. Instead, a combination of resistance training and aerobics will lead to the most impressive, and longest lasting, improvements in body composition. The common misconception is that weight is fat mass. Weight loss is not the same as fat loss. Since muscle is denser than fat, 2.2 lb. of muscle will take less space than 2.2 lb. of fat.
Muscle mass matters tremendously because muscle can help a person lose fat and stay lean. The more muscle mass a person carries, the higher their resting energy expenditure (REE). Since REE is the biggest part of a person’s total energy use in a given day, it can change how many calories are burned. Muscle uses energy when a person is doing absolutely nothing. Muscle is always being broken down and re-constructed or synthesized. Muscle synthesis requires amino acids and energy.
Each 2.2 lb. of muscle uses at least 10 Calories (C) per day.
A study published in Science Daily documented a randomized trial that analyzed changes in body composition. The participants were placed into three groups: 1) resistance training, 2) aerobic training, and 3) a combined resistance and aerobic training group. The aerobic training group lost the most weight, which was an average of 3.88 lb. The combination group (aerobic + resistance) lost an average of 3.59 lb.
The resistance training group actually gained 1.83 lb. Losing weight is very different from losing fat. The aerobic training group lost 3.66 lb of fat, not quite as much as the combination group, where participants lost 5.38 lb of fat. The resistance-training group lost the least amount of fat at 0.57 lb. In other words, combination training led to the greatest improvements in body composition.
From this study, it can be concluded that a combination of aerobic and resistance training was the best for fat loss and for an increase in REE. The real fat-loss magic results from resistance training that is also aerobically demanding. The increase in REE will result in an increased and improved metabolic rate, which will continue to burn calories even when the body is inactive. In the end this is what everyone is ultimately looking for, a better way to burn calories even when there is little or no work being done. When it comes to recognizing fat loss, a person needs to look at how their clothes fit, at how they feel, and at the scale over weeks — not just one day. The change may not be shown on the scale, but a change will be shown in body composition and appearance.