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Should You Focus More On Cardio Than Weights If Your Goal Is Fat Loss?

How to lose weight? Shouldn't you focus on cardio and avoid weight training if your main goal is fat loss?

Undeniably, if you can't gain muscle when you're dieting and doing cardio, why bother lifting at all? This is a very common and confusing question. That's because the answer is counter-intuitive...

The obvious benefits of lifting are muscle growth and fat loss, but most people are unaware of the many other fitness and health benefits of lifting.

Since most people associate cardio with fat loss and weight lifting with muscle gain, lifting weights may not seem like the best option for fat loss.

Because you can't gain maximum muscle while in a calorie deficit, many people wonder if lifting is a waste of time when dieting.

Contrary, the truth is. Weight training is the best type of training for fat loss.

While cutting your calorie intake below maintenance won't help you gain muscle, it will help you keep it.

Weight Training Keeps Muscle While Dieting

Weight training reduces the risk of losing lean body mass when dieting in a deficit. Losing muscle slows your metabolism, making it harder to lose fat at the same rate.

It's also important to know that while a calorie deficit can help you lose weight, it won't help you gain muscle mass or gain muscular body weight.

Except for: 1. Beginners 2. Mesomorphs with good genetics 3. Using augmentations 4. Muscle loss and regaining (muscle memory).

It also requires a special “body recomposition” program that combines weight training with a cyclical diet that alternates between calorie surplus and deficit (not a continuous deficit). Over time, it builds muscle and burns fat.

But just because you won't gain much muscle while trying to lose fat doesn't mean you shouldn't weight train.

You will avoid the dreaded “skinny-fat” syndrome by weight training while on a fat loss program.

If you want to improve your body composition (lose fat and gain muscle), weight training should be your only option (or resistance training of some kind). Resistance training is the most effective way to improve body composition.

If you are short on time, prioritize weight training and add cardio as time allows, preferably intense cardio. To achieve a calorie deficit, you would need to eat less.

Weightlifting Burns Calories! Consumption = Fat Loss

What most people seeking fat loss don't consider when lifting weights: Not only cardio burns calories. No matter how intense the exercise, it burns calories. Weight training can burn more calories than cardio if done intensely and using big muscle group compound exercises.

Moderate to intense cardio can also help burn fat. Both types of training help burn fat.

Stop thinking only cardio is good for fat loss and start thinking about calorie burning.

Whatever exercise you do, if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose more fat.

Weight training provides many fitness and body composition benefits that cardio cannot.

With no weight training, too much cardio in a deficit can lead to muscle loss, so without weight training, your body composition could deteriorate while dieting.

Nutrition is the primary driver of fat loss. Weight training is the most important exercise, followed by cardio. To put it simply, adding cardio to a good nutrition and weight training program increases your calorie deficit, so consider it a “fat loss accelerator,” not the main engine.

When you think about weight training, you will realize how beneficial it is for improving body composition, fitness, and overall well-being.

Body Composition Benefits of Weight Training:

  • Muscle gain, fat loss

  • Improves body shape and appearance even if you don't gain weight

  • (Only cardio and diet can give you a “skinny fat” body, where you weigh less but look mushy.)

  • Maintains lean body mass when dieting in a fat loss deficit

  • Reduces sarcopenia (muscle loss that occurs naturally with age)

  • Use compound big muscle group exercises like squats, presses, deadlifts, lunges, and rows with short rest periods to burn a lot of calories.

  • Increases metabolism for hours after the workout (most people think the “afterburn” effect is only from cardio, but weight training can do the same thing)

  • BMI boosts (if you gain a lot of lean body mass, this increases the calories you burn at rest)

Weight Training Health Benefits:

  • Enhanced muscular power

  • Strengthened tendons and connective tissue

  • Injury resistance (during sports, recreation and everyday living)

  • Bone density gain

  • Improvements in blood lipids and blood pressure

  • Boosted confidence and self-esteem

  • Better quality of life and independence as we age

  • Longevity and improved cognition

  • Weight training with a full range of motion makes you more flexible. “muscle-bound” is a myth) I'm sure the list of benefits could go on and on, but these are the ones that came to mind.

Overall, weight training and cardio work well together for fat loss, fitness, and health.

Even if your main goal is to lose fat, weight training is your first priority. Unless you're training for endurance sports, don't prioritize cardio over weight training.



My name is Steven Goldstein

With over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, I have worked with clients of all ages and fitness levels. From professional athletes to individuals aiming to lose weight, I have helped countless people achieve their goals and improve their overall health through customized training and nutrition plans.

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Hundreds of clients of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities have put their health in our hands over the years and achieved truly remarkable results. 

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