Can You Burn Meaningful Calories Lifting Weights?
Dear Fitness Nerd,
How many calories are burned during weight lifting? I ask because I lift weight 5-6 days a week, but really hate doing cardio. If Im trying to keep body fat off, are the calories burned through weight lifting enough? Or do I have to do cardio on top of it? Adam (Waco, Texas)
The amount of calories you burn weight lifting depends on your weight, the intensity of your weight training, and the duration (and your age, to some extent, but this is less important.)
A 180 lb male performing 60 minutes of weight training with vigorous effort (meaning little or no rest periods between sets) and at an intensity that causes your heart rate to remain somewhat elevated during exercise would burn approximately 400-475 calories weight lifting.
If you tend to take long rests between sets and your intensity is lower, the same person can expect to burn around 250 calories weight lifting for one hour.
This, of course, will very depending on your body weight.
The key here really is how intense the weight lifting is.
If you are performing circuit-type weight training, with extremely short rest periods or are performing supersets, it is possible to burn a fair amount of calories during a bout of weight training.
If youd like to calculate how many calories you would specifically burn weight lifting, you can try this calculator from Calorie King that takes into account your age, height, weight and gender and then returns a list of activities with their estimated calories expended.
Weight Lifting versus Cardio For Calorie Burning
However, regardless of your intensity during weight lifting, you will still burn less calories during that same time period than if you performed moderate-intensity duration cardio.
To illustrate this, if you ran for 60 minutes at 8.6 mph (roughly a 7 minute mile), a 180 lb male would burn approximately 1,100 calories. If thats a little too fast for your blood, running at 5.2 mph for an hour would still burn 734 calories, approximately 300 more calories than youd burn performing the same duration of weight training.
That said, while you burn more calories during aerobic cardio exercise like running, research has suggested that Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is greater after weight training than after aerobic exercise.
The estimates of how long that post-workout metabolism lift might last are controversial.
Youll often hear fitness and bodybuilding magazines throw around the figure up to 24 hours (and Ive actually heard people claim as long as 48 hours), but recent research says increases in EPOC may actually only last for 60 minutes or less.
A warning: Its important not to make too much of this increased EPOC after weight lifting.
While EPOC is increased, were not talking about hundreds of extra calories being burned after weight training its more like an extra dozen or so, which generally isnt enough to make up for the gap between cardio and resistance training when it comes to calories burned during these respective exercises.
Do I Have to Do Cardio?
The whole Cardio versus Weight Training issue is hotly debated, especially among bodybuilders.
There are some bodybuilders who perform very little, if any cardio, and still maintain low body-fat to lean tissue levels. Its hard to say if this is because of their training routine, the use of anabolic steroids or performance enhancing drugs, or their individual genetics.
Some people simply dont put body fat on easily, and have few problems taking it off quickly, so cardio doesnt play as large of a role in their training. Others have to perform some form of regular aerobic exercise to maintain a good lean muscle to body fat ratio. The trick is to find what works for you.
Most natural bodybuilders will perform some amount of regular cardio along with their weight training. However, its unusual to find them performing extremely long duration, solid state cardio. Marathon running or long-duration cardio is generally too catabolic to encourage the muscle gains that bodybuilders are looking for.
Even if you dont have your eyes on the Mr. or Ms. Olympia, if your goal is to add lean mass and get toned, youll want to moderate your total cardio. No one, male or female, gets toned by endless rounds of cardio alone.
Cardio and Weight Lifting: The Best of Both Worlds
The best overall approach for most people is to perform a combination of weight and resistance training and some cardio.
There are benefits to aerobic exercise outside of simply burning fat it improves cardiovascular endurance and can have positive effects on your mood.
Also, research has indicated that combining cardio with regular weight training burns more fat overall than if you just performed weight training alone, or only cardio.
If you dread cardio (especially the monotony of running on a treadmill), try high intensity interval training (HIIT),which allows you to enjoy some of the benefits of aerobic exercise (including improved cardiovascular endurance and increased VO2Max), while avoiding the long, solid-state runs.
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