When thinking about burning fat, the first thing people think about is “cardio. ” For decades, we’ve been taught that cardio is great for fat burning because it keeps you in this magical “fat burning zone. ” Theoretically, it makes sense, since your typical steady state cardio, such as walking and jogging, primarily utilizes the energy system known as the aerobic energy pathway, which creates energy through combinations of glucose byproducts, oxygen, and most importantly, fat stores.
So yes, it makes perfect sense, but mostly on paper. In real world applications, we see that traditional cardio is not as effective as it seems. Even with the fat burning zone, the amount of energy burned with cardio isn’t as significant as cardio enthusiasts would lead you to believe. Cardio’s low intensity means lower usage of energy compared to something more intense, which means in order to burn any significant amount of calories will take upwards an hour or more.
People these days simply do not have that luxury of time. Weight training, on the other hand, is a very different monster. Strength training’s greater intensity will allow you to burn calories at a much faster rate. Reason being is that weight training allows you to engage your larger and stronger type 2 muscle fibers, which are much more energy-demanding than the type 1 fibers predominantly used during cardio.
The higher intensity is so taxing to the body that it’s still burning calories even after you’re done working out. This state, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, aka EPOC, aka the “after burn,” has shown to burn upwards 75 calories, or33% more than your traditional cardio 16 hours AFTER the workout. Might not be much up front, but remember that you’re spending much less time at the gym and it can definitely add up.
Some studies suggest that EPOC from strength training is still elevated even 36 hours later! And the best part of it is that roughly 80% of those calories come straight from your fat. Oh, and we’re not done yet. Let’s talk about building muscle.
In order to build muscle, your body has to send a strong enough stimulus to the brain to activate the hormones and satellite cells involved in muscle hypertrophy. That stimulus is best provided through resistance training… not so much cardio training.
In fact, cardio has such a low stimulus, your body does not prioritize on keeping your larger type 2 muscle fibers, meaning as you lose weight and fat, you might be losing muscle mass as well. With resistance training, you’ll still lose the fat as we saw with the afterburn effect, but also preserve or even build muscle along the way.
And the good thing is that you’ll burn even more calories the more muscle mass you have on your frame. So now knowing that strength training can definitely help you burn fat effectively, it’s also important that you do the type of exercise routines that are best for it. Perhaps the best would be exercises that involve heavy compound movements that target multiple muscle groups at once.
The more muscles being engaged, the more energy and calories being burned. It also should focus on an intensity that will have you reach muscular failure at around 15-20 reps. This allows you to engage all of your muscle fibers which will allow for a greater metabolic demand, which once again, burns more calories as well as improve muscle growth.
And it’s also important that the exercises are done at a rather quick pace to minimize the amount of time spent in the gym. The most common training exercises that covers these points are circuit type training and interval training. Both utilizes multiple full body or compound exercises with very little rest in between. This requires you to push near your maximal effort and burn as much calories as quickly as possible while pushing your muscles to the limit.
All of these exercise applications fall under the umbrella known as metabolic resistance training. Metabolic, as in pushing your calorie burning and energy systems to its limits, by using resistance training exercises. Give it a shot and see how it goes for you. Now this doesn’t mean you should avoid cardio and just do resistance training, after all cardio does have great benefits such as building endurance and improving heart health.
But if fat burning is a huge goal for you and you don’t want to tediously spend hours and hours grueling through your workout, metabolic resistance training might be for you. But if you enjoy cardio, then continue do so. What are other exercises that you use and found great fat burning results? Share in the comments below.