Strength training and cardio both have their place in a weight loss program, but there is evidence that strength training may be more effective for long-term weight loss than cardio alone. Here are a few reasons why:
Increased muscle mass: Strength training helps build muscle mass, which increases your resting metabolic rate (RMR). A higher RMR means you burn more calories throughout the day, even when you're not exercising. In fact, research shows that for every pound of muscle you gain, you burn an extra 6-10 calories per day at rest (1). This can add up over time and lead to greater weight loss.
Afterburn effect: When you perform strength training exercises, your body continues to burn calories at an increased rate for up to 24-48 hours afterward (2). This is known as the "afterburn effect" or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Cardio also has an afterburn effect, but it's typically shorter in duration.
Increased fat loss: While cardio can help burn calories and fat during exercise, strength training can lead to greater fat loss over time. This is because strength training helps preserve muscle mass while you lose weight, which can help prevent a decrease in metabolism (3).
Better body composition: Strength training can help improve your body composition by increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat percentage. Cardio alone may help you lose weight, but it may also lead to a loss of muscle mass and a decrease in overall strength.
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Prado, C. M., & Heymsfield, S. B. (2014). Lean tissue imaging: a new era for nutritional assessment and intervention. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(7), 1088-1095.
Schuenke, M. D., Mikat, R. P., & McBride, J. M. (2002). Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. European journal of applied physiology, 86(5), 411-417.
Westcott, W. L. (2012). Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Current sports medicine reports, 11(4), 209-216.