Understanding Calorie Burn

At Arsenal Strength, we’re not just about helping you achieve immediate results; we’re committed to guiding you towards a lifetime of optimal health and well-being. One key element of this journey is understanding how different forms of exercise impact your body, particularly when it comes to calorie consumption. You’ve probably wondered which is more effective for burning calories—cardio or strength training? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Both forms of exercise offer unique benefits and downsides when it comes to caloric burn, both during the workout and in the hours that follow.

Calories Burned During Exercise


  1. High Immediate Caloric Burn: Cardio workouts, like running, cycling, and swimming, often lead to a higher immediate caloric expenditure.
  2. Variable Intensity: The caloric burn can be modified by altering the intensity, duration, and type of cardio.
  3. Caloric Equation: The more intense the activity, the higher the heart rate, which typically results in more calories burned per minute.

Strength Training

  1. Lower Immediate Caloric Burn: In general, you burn fewer calories during a weightlifting session compared to a cardio session of the same duration.
  2. Compound Movements: Exercises that engage multiple muscle groups will generally burn more calories.
  3. Energy Systems: Strength training mainly utilizes anaerobic systems, which is less efficient at burning calories minute-by-minute compared to the aerobic systems used in cardio.

Calories Burned After Exercise (Afterburn Effect)


  1. Lower Afterburn: While cardio does offer an afterburn effect (known as EPOC, or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), it’s generally not as long-lasting or as significant as that achieved through strength training.
  2. EPOC Duration: For moderate to high-intensity cardio, EPOC effects could last up to several hours.

Strength Training

  1. Higher Afterburn: Strength training often leads to a longer and more substantial afterburn effect.
  2. Muscle Repair: Lifting weights creates tiny tears in the muscle fibers, requiring energy (calories) for repair, which contributes to a longer afterburn period.
  3. EPOC Duration: Depending on the intensity of the workout, EPOC can last up to 48 hours.

Practical Takeaways

  1. Combo Approach: For optimal health, it’s beneficial to incorporate both cardio and strength training into your routine.
  2. Goal-Oriented: If your goal is immediate calorie burning, cardio is more effective. If you’re looking for a prolonged metabolic boost and muscle building, strength training is the way to go.

As you can see, both cardio and strength training play crucial roles in a well-rounded fitness regimen, and each comes with its own set of advantages for caloric burn. Cardio generally leads to higher immediate calorie expenditure and is excellent for cardiovascular health. On the other hand, strength training offers a prolonged afterburn effect, contributing to muscle development and metabolic health.

At Arsenal Strength, we recommend a balanced approach that incorporates both cardio and strength training for a truly comprehensive fitness plan. Understanding the nuances of how each type of exercise impacts your calorie burning can empower you to make more informed decisions tailored to your unique fitness goals.