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Cardio vs Weight Training for Belly Fat Loss

For years there have been two lines of thinking regarding the best workouts for losing weight in your belly.

You have those who feel cardio is the best and fastest way to lose weight in one training camp. Then there is the training camp that thinks weight training is the right path to losing the most weight.

Do cardio activities burn more belly fat than Weight Training?

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A recent Harvard study confirmed past research and data showing that calories burned during various activities were higher with people who weighed more. 

Based on this research, you can see how body weight directly correlates to calories burned during various types of exercise, including different cardio activities and weight training.

All cardio exercises burned considerably more calories than weight lifting activities. Using the information from the study, a 185lbs person performing vigorous weight lifting would burn 266 calories in 30 minutes. On the other hand, the same person could spend those 30 minutes rinning at a 5MPH pace and burn 355 calories.  

It would appear that cardio burns more calories than weight training, but this isn’t the whole picture.

Does weight training burn more belly fat?

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A weight-training workout doesn’t burn as many calories per session as cardio. But there are additional benefits to weight training. Weight training is far better at helping retain muscle during weight loss. Also, weight training has an extra calorie-burning effect that cardio does not offer.

Additional lean body mass also raises your rest metabolic rate. With an increased metabolic rate, you can expect to burn more calories, and because of this, you will find that you can burn off more of that pesky belly fat.

One study measured the resting metabolisms during 24 weeks of weight training. The effect on women was a 4% increase in their resting metabolism, while men saw a 9% increase. Those numbers may be promising, but it isn’t as big as one would expect when you look at what that translates over a day.

It was only 50 calories per day for women, and in men, it was 140 calories. But hey, 140 calories a day is 140 calories that are not in your belly.

These numbers are a bit disappointing, but there is more to the story. Weight training has shown that it can effectively raise resting metabolism for up to 38 hours. These more extended periods of increases resting metabolism occurred with individuals that performed intense and heavyweight training. 

Weight training does not burn as many calories as cardio but helps with residual raised metabolic rates for hours or even days. This is something that should not be discounted when you are trying to lose weight.  

High-Intensity Interval Training for Belly Fat Loss

It would appear that cardio is the clear winner, but not so fast.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of cardiovascular workout that involves short bursts of very intense exercise broken up with short periods of low-intensity cardio. A HIIT workout is typically brief, 10-30 minutes. HIIT can be performed in many traditional cardio types of activities like sprinting, jump roping, bicycling, and body-weight exercises. 

Is HIIT Best For Burning Belly Fat?

Some studies have discovered HIIT workouts can burn an additional 25–30% more calories than similar exercises performed for the same length of time.

Research studying the effects of HIIT and traditional cardio on overweight adults showed little difference between the two exercises. 

HIIT has one benefit over traditional cardio. You can burn as many calories in the same time as cardio, but you get resting periods between the intense bursts of energy. For many out-of-shape individuals, not having to sustain a consistent workout intensity for long periods is more achievable. 

How often should you exercise?

ACSM recommends more than 150 minutes per week of moderate or vigorous exercise for weight loss. One hundred fifty minutes per week is the minimum, and the more exercise you can do, the more weight you have the potential of losing. 

It is not just exercise

To lose weight effectively, one also needs to reduce their caloric intake. Health organizations all recommend a combination of diet and exercise to promote weight loss. 

Researchers have discovered that a combination of diet and exercise yields a 20% increase in weight loss over diet alone. Also, individuals that use a combination of physical activity and a reduced-calorie diet have a higher success rate at keeping the weight off longer. 

What exercise will help me lose the most weight in my belly?

Looking at the data, cardio or HIIT are the winners when it comes to losing weight. There is more to getting healthy than hitting a certain number on the scale. It’s about how you look, feel and your physical health. Weight training helps you maintain or even build some muscle during your weight loss. By not losing muscle, your weight will not change as quickly, but you will not end up with skinny fat at the end of your weight loss journey. 

The Bottom Line – Cardio Vs. Weight Training for Belly Fat Loss

Cardio and weight training will offer different benefits when trying to lose weight. Cardio will help you burn the most calories in the time you have to work out. While weight training will allow you to burn more calories long after you are no longer working out. Additionally, weight lifting will help you maintain a lean body mass. 

The best weight loss program will use both so you can reap the benefits that both have to offer.