Does Running Or Weight Lifting Burn More Carbs And Calories?

Does Running Or Weight Lifting Burn More Carbs And Calories? EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer settles the long standing debate if strength training or cardio like running or cycling burns more calories and carbs. The answer isn't as straight forward as you think.

Full Video Transcription:

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Good morning family of fast. Matt Mosman the Chief Endurance Officer over at EndurElite.

Have you ever wondered if running or lifting weights burns more carbs and/or calories?

That is the question we are gonna answer today.

Now, a lot of you are already saying, "Well, man steady state cardio burns a lot more calories than carbs and weightlifting." I would just say, hold on one second, I would say, science does not give an F what you think. But for the most part you are right, but there's a lot of caveats and roundabout answer to this where that's not 100% true.

To Understand How Many Calories And Carbs We Burns We Must First Understand The 3 Energy Systems Of The Body

Now, before we delve into this, we have to understand a few things about physiology, energy systems, glucose, glycogen, Acetyl-CoA. Oh man, it's getting hot here with all this [inaudible 00:01:00.026] speak.

So we got to understand the energy systems of the body first and which ones we're using during cardio and which ones we're using during weights which we'll talk about.

We're also gonna address this and just get this out the way, like I love both running and weight training so this is not gonna be a bias video.

You also got to understand we're talking just about during exercise. We're not talking about how many calories you're burning after exercise, because I'm probably gonna get the argument that somebody's gonna say, "Well, if you have more muscle mass, you're gonna burn more calories throughout the day."

Well duh, I already know that, thank you very much. We're just talking about during exercise. So, in general, again, the answer isn't as straightforward as you think, there's a lot involved, and that's what we're gonna kind of hit on today.

How Many Carbs Do You Burn When You Run?

So let's address how many calories or which activity burns more carbs, the running versus the weight lifting. And we can't just put in that context honestly, we got to kinda put a time frame to this.

So we're gonna do, do you burn more carbs during that hour of steady state cardio like running or cycling, or an hour of strength training?

So let's talk about how you burn carbs during cardio first. With cardio like running, your body relies on few energy systems for the most part.

  • It's gonna rely on anaerobic glycolysis to some extent.
  • It's also gonna rely on the ATP-P system to some extent.
  • But for the majority of cardio, you're gonna be relying on aerobic metabolism which, as the main fuel sources that uses carbs, glucose/glycogen, and free fatty acids.
Now the extent to which you use carbs or fat is really dependent on the intensity of the cardio that you're doing.


So say, for example, if you're exercising below 70% of maximal heart rate, you're gonna be bringing about 50/50 blend of carbs and free fatty acids. But as you go up in the intensity spectrum, your body's gonna want to shift using more carbs with aerobic metabolism, and eventually you may get into anaerobic glycolysis which can only use carbs.

So how many carbs are you gonna use during, you know, let's just say a fairly moderate effort of steady state cardio?

Well, considering that you're gonna burn about a 1,000 calories during steady state cardio that would equate to about 250 grams of carbs, glucose/glycogen.

So that's just kind of putting a number on there. I mean, again you could be burning more or less based on the intensity, but that kind of gives you a general idea.

How Many Carbohydrates Do You Burn When Lifting Weights?

Now, let's move to weight training. Now when you think about weight training, you know, you're usually performing a set that lasts no longer than a minute and there's some examples where there's variation for that and you're resting in between sets.

Now, with strength training, your body is basically using three different systems, well, I would say two different systems. Regardless of the exercise performing, you're always using the three energy system to some extent, again, it's intensity duration-dependent.

But for the most part during weightlifting, you're using the ATP-PC system and anaerobic glycolysis.

Now the ATP-PC system stands for Adenosine Triphosphate Phosphocreatine system, and this can power exercise, like really intense exercise, like, you know, sprinting for about six seconds.

Because the phosphocreatine donates a phosphate group when the ATP breaks down and becomes ADP. The phosphate group comes to the ATP, forms ATP, and you produce energy rapidly. After that your body shifts to anaerobic glycolysis during weight training.

Now, during anaerobic glycolysis, the only fuel source it can use is carbs, glucose/glycogen. But, you know, that's good news for weight lifting. But again and how many of those carbs you use in glucose glycogen is a little bit different from steady state cardio, because, again, you are performing work and then you are resting, performing work, and then you are resting.

So you're not necessarily burning as many carbs during weight training as compared to like the steady state cardio, not even close.

Now, there are exceptions to this rule, like, if you go into like a HIIT type workout for an hour which I don't even think you could do HIIT for an hour, that would be pretty intense.

More, accurately let's just say if you do an hour worth of circuit training where you're lifting weight, you're not resting, you go into the next station, you're lifting weights, and you do that for an hour, then theoretically you could potentially burn as many carbs as steady state cardio.

But for the most part, steady state cardio will always trump in the number of carbs, glucose/glycogen you burn compared to strength training.


Okay, now let's get on to the calorie question. This one is gonna be fairly quick, because we've already, you know, kind of talked about this.

How Many Calories Do You Burn During Cardio?

With cardio, in general, you're gonna be burning more calories regardless compared the strength training, again, unless you're doing like circuit training at a pretty intense level.

So with the cardio, you can figure like say for running, you're gonna be burning about 100 calories per mile. So over the course of hour, we'll put in that context again, you're burning about a 1,000 calories.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Lifting Weights?

Now, again with weight training, you're gonna be doing intermittent efforts of work followed by rest, so you're not gonna be burning nearly as many calories. Also the metabolic equivalent of basically cardio verses strength training is pretty different in terms of again the amount of work you're putting in and how many calories you're burning, etc.

Again, how many calories you're burning is really intensity and duration-dependent. So, you know, on a scale of things you could be a little bit higher, lower than like the 1,000 calories per hour running compared to strength training whether, you know, the effort is more intense or less intense, and the same goes with strength training.

But, in general, again, you're gonna be burning more calories with steady state cardio like cycling and running as compared to weight training.

Should I Do More Cardio Or More Strength Training?

Now why does this all matter? Like, I like strength training and running just the same, and maybe, you know, it really comes down to, like if, you know, with the calories if you're strength training, maybe, you don't wanna burn as many calories.

Because you're trying to put on muscle mass, you know, and then with the running, you know, maybe you're looking to get a little skinnier and a little faster, so different strokes for different folks, that's what I was trying to say.

But it depends now what's your goals are you may focus more on the steady state cardio or you may focus more on the snake training. Snake training? Good Lord, I need to go to sleep. The strength training.

So I'm gonna end it while I'm ahead, and I'm gonna say, again, both, you know, steady state cardio and strength training are extremely beneficial. And even when you train together with the strength training, cardio, called concurrent training, that's even more beneficial for endurance type athletes.


So, I'm done. If you want more videos, articles etc. on endurance training, nutrition and supplementation, head on over to the EndurElite YouTube channel or head on over to the EndurElite blog at www.edurelite.com. Get social with us on Instagram and Facebook. And until next time, my endurance friends, stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and stay informed.

About the author:

Matt Mosman (MS, CISSN, CSCS) is a research scientist, endurance athlete, and the founder and Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite. Matt holds his B.S. in Exercise Science from Creighton University and his M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of California.  Matt and his family reside in Spearfish South Dakota, where they enjoy running, mountain biking, camping, and all the outdoor adventures Spearfish has to offer.

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