You’re committed to keto, and you’re ready to crush some fitness goals. It’s time to revamp your workout routine, but which exercises are better to lose fat: cardio or weightlifting?
These are two of the four main types of exercise, and we’ll uncover the benefits of each for weight loss.
What’s the Difference between Cardio and Weightlifting?
Although cardio and weightlifting are two of the most performed exercises, not everyone knows the differences between each type of exercise.
Cardio – short for cardiovascular exercise – is a type of aerobic exercise that uses oxygen to keep up with the high demands for energy. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone engages in 150 minutes of heart-healthy cardio each week. Aerobic exercises such as jogging, biking, and swimming improve cardiovascular health and help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Cardio can also help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. 
Weightlifting is a type of anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise convert glucose into energy without using oxygen. Anaerobic exercises are typically short activities with intense bursts of activity. Examples include:
- Jump rope
- HIIT workouts
- Sprinting at full speed for short distances
So the question isn’t really is weightlifting or cardio better. The real question is aerobic or anaerobic exercise better for fat loss?
Does Aerobic or Anaerobic Exercise Burn More Calories?
If you’re trying to burn more calories and lose weight, you likely have one question on your mind: which exercises will help you burn more calories and lose more fat?
When comparing two workouts of similar intensity for the same length of time, cardio workouts burn more calories… at first.
Let’s look at an example:
- Cardio: According to a 2011 study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, a 160-pound individual would burn about 365 calories after running for 30 minutes at a pace of 6 miles per hour. 
- Weightlifting: The same study found that the same individual could burn between 130 and 220 calories during a 30-minute strength training session.
Here’s where it gets trickier: cardio may burn more calories during the workout, but strength training can help you burn more calories throughout the day. Because weight training can increase your lean muscle mass, and lean muscle mass increases your metabolic rate, you’ll burn more calories even when you’re at rest. 
Anaerobic exercise also helps deplete glycogen stores, which is ideal if you’re trying to get into ketosis. Weightlifting can also increase your strength, boost your metabolism, boost your energy, and reduce your risk of developing diseases like diabetes.
High-Intensity Interval Training & Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio
Here’s another way to look at your aerobic and anaerobic choices: intensity. Should you go for the high-intensity, quick workouts or the lower-intensity, longer workouts?
Let’s take a look at both.
High-intensity interval training – often called HIIT – is a very popular form of anaerobic exercise. During a HIIT workout, you’ll work very hard with short bursts of activities (like jumping jacks or mountain climbers) followed by a short rest. Most HIIT workouts are a max of 30 minutes with many ranging from 10-20 minutes. HIIT workouts are popular because they can pack a punch, can fit easily into a busy day’s schedule, and burn up to 30% more calories (compared to biking or jogging). 
What if you don’t want to blast through a 15-minute HIIT workout? If you love long, steady workouts, then consider low-intensity steady state (LISS) cardio. During a LISS workout, you’ll spend anywhere from 30-60 minutes working out. Because this isn’t the super intense bursts of HIIT, you can keep up with a workout of this length. You’ll work at about 60% of your max heart rate, which keeps you in a fat-burning mode.
In addition to promoting weight loss, LISS workouts may be a better option if your joints can’t keep up with the demands of a HIIT workout, which typically do include a lot of jumping.
Both cardio and weight lifting are both exercises that can help you lose fat. Cardio may help you burn more calories during the workout, but anaerobic workouts (like weight lifting) can help you burn more calories throughout the day. Cardio is more effective at reducing body fat (especially if you’re working out at least 150 minutes), but weight lifting is more efficient at creating lean muscle mass.
The ideal situation is to combine both aerobic and anaerobic workouts into your weekly routine for the ultimate impact on your body composition and your overall health.
- Gim, Mi-Na, and Jung-Hyun Choi. “The Effects of Weekly Exercise Time on VO2max and Resting Metabolic Rate in Normal Adults.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science, The Society of Physical Therapy Science, Apr. 2016.
- Falcone, Paul H, et al. “Caloric Expenditure of Aerobic, Resistance, or Combined High-Intensity Interval Training Using a Hydraulic Resistance System in Healthy Men.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2015.
- Ainsworth, Barbara E, et al. “2011 Compendium of Physical Activities: a Second Update of Codes and MET Values.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2011.
- Wang, Zimian, et al. “Specific Metabolic Rates of Major Organs and Tissues across Adulthood: Evaluation by Mechanistic Model of Resting Energy Expenditure.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, American Society for Nutrition, Dec. 2010.
Kathryn Trudeau is a content writer and educational professional whose work centers on health and wellness and organic living. She has a passion for nutrition and fitness. She loves matcha, running, and crocheting.