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Cardio vs Weightlifting for Losing Weight?

Hello. I am a 45 year old woman who weights 280lbs. I used to work out and eat healthy but was unable to go to the gym because of various reasons, and then Covid hit. I dropped from 285 to 239, when I was working out. And by working out, I mean I was hitting the cardio hard. But now I’m back up to 280lbs.
In the summer, I would hit the gym (cardio) hard, then stop in the winter, gain 20 lbs, then go back in the summer.
The next summer, I learned about weights, and the benefits from them.
Weights are supposed to be better than cardio, right?
But here’s my thing… I lost a lot more weight when I was doing hard cardio at the gym.
I could never get into lifting weights, they flat out bore me, while thinking about a good cardio workout gets me excited.
The gym has just reopened as of today, and I thought I would ask for some advice before I started going back.
Also, I’m still working on my diet. I know what I’m supposed to be eating, but I tend to give into my cravings. I absolutely have no self control. I’m working on that.

In my opinion, the order of importance for weight loss is:

  1. Good dietary habits. This is so important, I’d suggest it’s the only real key in my opinion.

  2. Increase NEPA (non exercise physical activity). Walk more.

  3. Workouts. These are, in my opinion, the least important of the 3. I think there are benefits to basic strength training, hard conditioning and long duration cardio, but none of them are essential. You can lose weight without any of them.


uneducated guess incoming

I’d imagine the intensity of exercising matter a lot too. I think maybe cardio makes it easy for the intensity to be there, where as weightlifting you really need to be putting forth real effort and not just mindlessly churning handles of the spin master 50000

In your situation weights will help more(def keep doing cardio also) -you need to improve overall body composition.
Training legs very hard in particular leans people out and will boost your metabolism

This will get you in the shape the fastest and is not boring…

million thing can be the case -lifelong habits etc but fill yourself up on normal food especially good fats and the cravings will go down.

if you have to snack /cheat make it anything but candy and sugary crap …go for chips, pizza, nuts if really must

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That’s another great point about boosting metabolism! I’m also guessing more muscle mass means a higher maintenance calorie level as well?

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Make new lifelong habits. If you eat the same, quality food for breakfast and lunch everyday, that’s a significant portion of your boxes that are already ticked. Be in the habit of planning your food, prepping it and having it available when you need it.

100% this. If I eat “enough” protein and fats, it’s much easier to avoid hunger and cravings. As mentioned above, habits and routine in your day will also help. My totally unscientific opinion is that your body knows when to expect food, and it gets used to routine if you have one.

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Yes. Cardio burns more calories than lifting, during the act.

But lifting weights builds muscle mass. More muscle mass burns more calories, all the time.

So cardio is like, short range effective. It starts working right away.

Building muscle takes a little longer, so it takes a little longer to get the muscles, before more muscle can burn more calories.


Cardio burns a lot more calories. Diet is the most important thing though. Make sure you are doing the simple things. Don’t drink calories. Don’t use high calorie dense sauces. After that do stuff like cutting out snacks.

Thank you everyone. You all have brought at least one thing to the table to think about.
I understand that lifting weights is better in the long run, but I’ve always done better with cardio.
METCON was mentioned and both excited me, and scared me. I was given a program to try out that had me wiped out, and made me nap for 4 hours afterwards lol. I have read the article that was suggested, and will keep it in mind when planing my next workout. This is something that I would definitely like to try and get into again.
I think maybe everyone has convinced me to keep going with the weights, but maybe I’ll lift heavier.
I appreciate the time spent replying, I feel it was great motivation to dig in and get going again.
Thank you.

Not necessarily. It’s up to you to find a good frequency between weights and conditioning work (ergo, cardio).

I wouldnt say it was solely the cardio that was giving you the high amounts of weight loss. What did your diet look like at the time?

Rebounding like you’ve described, often times can stem from restricting your food intake so much so that cardio becomes really hard to even muster 20 mins worth, and in turn can cause to compensate by overeating, or eating to where your body at least gains enough to function somewhat properly again.

I can understand that. My husband is much the same way. I wouldn’t say to completely neglect weight training though. Implemented properly, I think it’s absolutely badass for us women from how we look, to how we feel, and function.

I’d suggest getting familiar with a few training principles, templates, rep and schemes, etc. If you don’t like being in the gym for a long time, try to adjust for heavier weight, with shorter reps and sets. If you’re looking for intensity, go for somewhat moderate/somewhat taxing weights, give yourself less resting time, and crank up the volume(number of reps and sets).

You can go with a super basic 5/3/1 template, keep the principles the same, and adjust here and there. Do full body, pick some tried and true movements, and adjust accordingly, maybe a PPL routine, keep the weights fairly heavy, and shoot for 6-10 sets with 2-4 reps. Your overall reps could fall anywhere from 15-40 reps, and your time spent would just vary according to you. Implementing time could be a good way to rack up intensity, and work on work capacity.

Find a certain way of lifting that’ll keep you engaged. 2 times a week I’d say is decent as far as frequency goes. If you want more, just adjust.

Keep at it. I’d also agree that this is quite an important factor. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the sense that you often times restrict your calories way too much?

I’ll spare you all the many details of eating in such a way that’s conducive to your goals and just say that, you’ll want to aim for a caloric intake that’s supporting your goals.

Of course you’ll need to cut some calories here and there, but when In doubt, stack up on foods that are quite low in calories, but filled to the brim with micronutrients.

It would be better to eat way too much trail mix, or one too many apples, oranges, leafy greens, fruits, etc. Sometimes it’s not so much craving certain foods, as it is just craving more food in general. Better to have eaten a bit too much of a meal consisting of lean meats, veggies, fruits, and a decent carb source, than go out and eat something really fatty, salty, and sugary. Know what I mean?

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My best strategy for losing weight has been to actually just focus on diet…at least at first.

If you haven’t gotten full control over what and when you eat, introducing excercise into the mix is just going to make it even more difficult.

Once you have managed to get a couple of weeks strung together in which you are fully in control of the eating situation, then introduce some exercise. And because you already know what works for you, yes, do some cardio. Or, simply walk. Walking instead of eating will get you out of the house, away from the kitchen, hopefully for at least an hour.

Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. As was mentioned above, diet is by far the most important factor in weight loss.

Did you catch that she’s 280 lb? Definitely not a suitable program for her without serious modifications.

Just curious on your reasoning here. Chips, pizza, and nuts are very calorically loaded.