I get it. Working out is tough and it’s a time commitment. But it’s so so good for you! Working out has a laundry list of benefits including boosting your mood by releasing endorphins, increasing your heart health, making you stronger so you can lift things up and put them down, and – everyone’s favorite – burning unwanted calories in your body. Most people think that long periods of time spent on cardio machines will burn the most calories, but let’s find out if that’s actually true. (Spoiler Alert: it’s not.) Let’s meet our contenders, shall we…

~CARDIO~

What It Is: Pretty much anything with low intensity that you can do for a long period of time that elevates your heart rate. Examples include: running, elliptical, biking, and dancing

Benefits: It’s a good place for people to start because it’s low intensity and low impact, which makes it easier on your body. Disadvantages: There’s not much Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), which takes place because your body needs energy to repair your muscles after you’ve challenged, which you don’t really do with simple cardio. So that means that you’re only burning calories while you are doing your cardio activity and not afterwards. Also, when you are doing low-intensity cardio for an extended period of time, your body gets used to the movements and ultimately stops burning as many calories over time while you’re doing it. Longer periods of cardio do not typically mean more calories burned. Also, when you notice that you’re losing weight while just doing cardio activities, you’re burning both fat AND muscle and you really only want to burn fat to look and feel your best with weight loss.

~INTERVALS~

What It Is: When you do cardio exercises with varying rates of speed and intensity. An example would be going between sprinting for 30 seconds and jogging for a minute.

Benefits: Unlike cardio, there’s a lot of EPOC involved with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) because your heart is constantly adjusting to changing conditions and your body doesn’t get the chance to get accustomed and immuned to the activity you’re doing. That means your body and metabolism are functioning at a higher rate and you continue burning calories hours after your workout- even when you’re laying in bed watching Real Housewives. With a higher functioning metabolism, you’ll burn off way more calories from whatever you eat after your workout, too. So you can relish in the fact that you’ve burned more calories or use it as an excuse to eat some of that ice cream in your freezer.

Disadvantages: The negative aspect of HIIT is that it takes more of a toll on your body so it takes longer to recover from the stress you’ve put your body under, which leaves you unable to do it every single day. Also, your body can really only take about 20-30 minutes of HIIT, but is that really a bad thing if you’re burning more calories and get to get out of the gym faster?

~WEIGHT TRAINING~

What It Is: Whenever you lift weights or do body weight exercises, often in an exercise circuit.

Benefits: According to fitness expert, Alwyn Cosgrove, along with many personal trainers I have talked to, exercises that recruit the largest number of muscles (squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, squat thrusts, burpees, inverted rows, pull ups, and push ups) are best suited for burning fat and losing weight. Why? Your body is exerting a lot more energy doing these types of exercises than it does during cardio and having lean muscle helps our bodies burn more calories throughout the day. By doing these exercises – and others like them – in a circuit without stopping and keeping your rep ranges between 8-12, you’ll build muscle and burn calories at an accelerated rate for potentially up to THIRTY-EIGHT HOURS after your workout. Also, the weight that you are losing is going to be pure fat because you’re building muscle, instead of burning it like you do with cardio.

Disadvantages: The disadvantages of weight training are similar to those of HIIT in that your body needs a couple days to recover from this type of exercise. However, as long as you’re not working the same muscles back-to-back, you can do weight training every day if you want to.

So, in summary: cardio will burn some calories while you’re working out, interval training will burn calories while you’re working out and will make your body burn calories for a while after your workout, and weight training will burn the most calories while you’re working out and your body will continue to burn calories for way longer after your workout is over.

A great workout schedule that will have you burning a ton of calories while also giving it ample time to rest so you can work to the best of your ability each week is:

Day 1: weight training

Day 2: HIIT (cardio if your body is low on energy)

Day 3: weight training

Day 4: HIIT (cardio if your body is low on energy)

Day 5: weight training (HIIT if your body is still sore from previous weight training days)

Day 6: rest day to recover

Day 7: rest day to recover