When people ask “What’s the best type of exercise to burn fat, weight training or cardio?” my standard response is “Both!” You see, different types of activity rely on different energy “pathways” and so they affect our metabolism differently.
Moderate-intensity activity such as walking, hiking, cycling, etc utilizes a mix of glycogen (stored carbohydrate) and fat to fuel performance. If you are following a lower-carbohydrate eating plan the muscles will burn fat more readily once the glycogen stores have been depleted. (This is why I recommend doing weight training first before a cardio session.)
Higher-intensity activity like running or higher-repetition weight training uses more glycogen (carbohydrate) for fuel but it also pushes the body to make more adaptations resulting in a higher level of fitness along with increased cardiovascular capacity, improved ability to utilize oxygen, improved blood pressure, reduced insulin levels, and more.
The best mix I’ve discovered when it comes to cardiovascular exercise is something called H.I.I.T or High-Intensity-Interval-Training.
It sounds complicated but it’s really not! It simply involves alternating bursts of higher effort with lower-intensity or recovery periods.
My standard pattern is 5 rounds of 5 minute cycles going from lower to higher intensity effort on an elliptical machine. I increase the resistance level each minute. On every 5th minute I try to push my heart rate to about 75%-80% of my max.
Another secret to maximizing fat burning during exercise is to keep the intensity to a level that allows you to breathe through your nose. Once you reach a level that requires you to breathe through your mouth you have crossed from aerobic (with oxygen) to anaerobic (without oxygen) and are more likely to require glucose from stored carbohydrates or worse, force your body to break down your hard earned muscle tissue and turn it into glucose!
The majority of effort needed to transform your physique and improve your health can come from dietary changes and a few key supplements. It’s not necessary to go so hard in the gym that you don’t enjoy your workouts. Put these tips into practice and take your workout to a whole new level!