When it comes to losing weight, we all want to use the most efficient and effective method. The question is, which method is it -is  aerobic or anaerobic exercise better for fat loss?

There is much debate over the best workouts for weight loss, and the best approach to take when it comes to overall fitness. With the internet a minefield of fitness resources, sometimes it can be overwhelming finding out whether you should be running, or lifting weights, or both, or neither!

Well, if you want to shed some pounds, it’s best to know what will get you results!

So, we’re going to look at aerobic vs anaerobic exercise, and tell you which is better for fat loss!

But first, let’s look at the differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

What is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic workouts are low to moderate intensity exercises that you generally sustain for longer periods of time.

During these workouts, your body is producing enough energy to exercise using oxygen alone.

People cycling together

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Coen van den Broek via Unsplash

Let’s take a look at some aerobic exercises!

Aerobic exercises are:

  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Rowing
  • Cycling

When you do these workouts, you are exerting yourself, but you aren’t (usually) gasping for breath.

This is because your body is taking in enough oxygen to sustain the level of activity you are completing. Aerobic exercises generally use slow-twitch muscle fibres that primarily run on oxygen for energy.

Of course, if you do have a particularly tough cardio workout – don’t forget to warm down! Use a foam roller to stretch out tight calves and legs!

So, is aerobic exercise good for fat loss?

Well, in certain ways, yes! Aerobic exercise is the best form of exercise for cardiovascular health, and it gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping!

However, steady-state cardio such as jogging and cycling when done regularly, and at the same place, can leave your body a bit complacent.

In actual fact, steady-state cardio usually burns less calories than you would imagine. If you have ever use a fitness app to track your distance and calorie burn during a run, you might be disappointed with the results!

It is certainly possible to burn a high number of calories and achieve fat loss through aerobic activities. But, you need to do these exercises for long periods of time.

It is definitely worth noting though, that cardio exercises such as running and cycling do create afterburn. Afterburn is where your body continues to burn calories after you have finished exercising. This means, that even when your heart rate has slowed down, you’re still burning more calories than at your normal resting state – amazing!

Let’s take a look at anaerobic exercises and see their impact on weight loss!

What is anaerobic exercise?

Anaerobic exercise is any exercise that is completed at high intensity for short periods of time.

Unlike aerobic exercises, anaerobic workouts use fast-twitch muscle fibres. These muscles can only run for short periods of time at maximum capacity, and use glucose stored in the muscles for energy.

Woman planking

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So, aerobic exercises require oxygen for energy; anaerobic exercises do not require oxygen for energy!

But what forms of exercises are anaerobic?

Let’s take a look!

Aerobic exercises are:

  • Sprints
  • Weightlifting
  • Squats
  • Isometrics (strength training without moving the muscles such as plank)
  • Plyometrics (training using jumping techniques)

As you can see, these forms of exercises are usually completed in sets and reps, or for short bursts of time – the opposite to aerobic.

Anaerobic exercises are popular because they are short, quick workouts. In fact, you can easily complete anaerobic exercises at home too! Take a look at the best anaerobic home workouts so you can start your fitness journey without the need for a gym!

So, is anaerobic exercise good for fat loss?

Well, again, yes in certain ways! Anaerobic exercise is based on short periods of intense workouts, so naturally in that time, your body will be working extremely hard!

During that time, because you are not taking in oxygen to fuel your muscles, your body is using fat reserves and glucose for energy.

Not only that, but when do exercises such as weightlifting, you are building muscle mass, and the higher muscle mass you have – the more calories you burn!

So, aerobic vs anaerobic – which is better exercise for fat loss?

Aerobic vs anaerobic for fat loss?

Well, as you can see, both aerobic and anaerobic exercises promote fat loss in different ways.

So, the answer as to whether aerobic or anaerobic workouts are better for fat loss? It’s both!

In actual fact, for effective, and efficient fat burning results, you need to be combining anaerobic and aerobic exercises into your workout routine!


Well, when you complete cardio workouts, such as running, your body will burn higher numbers of calories – i.e. fat – with a higher muscle mass. You will achieve higher muscle mass through anaerobic activities such as weightlifting and plyometric workouts.

Man about to lift weight

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Yes, you will burn fat with anaerobic exercises, and you may even burn more calories during an anaerobic workout. But it is still important to fit sessions of cardio into your weekly fitness plan. Cardio will build your endurance and keep your heart fit and healthy.

A good example of anaerobic and aerobic exercise combined to achieve a full workout, is circuit training. Both of these exercise techniques are used together in circuit training – and will almost always leave you sweating!

So, how often should you be completing aerobic and anaerobic workouts during the week?

Read on to find out!

Aerobic and anaerobic: how many per week?

To achieve fat loss and lose weight effectively, you should be completing high intensity workouts less, and low intensity workouts more. So, less anaerobic, and more aerobic!

But how often should you be doing each?

If you are at the beginning of your fitness journey, you can complete two sessions of aerobics per week, and one session of anaerobic per week.

However, as your endurance and fitness levels increase over time, this can safely be increased. The aim should be 3 to 4 aerobic sessions and 2 anaerobic workouts per week.

But remember, you need to give yourself adequate amounts of rest in between anaerobic activities, such as weightlifting and plyometrics. In fact, over-training is one of the most common causes of injuries – along with not giving your body a proper warm down.

As for aerobic exercises, such as running or cycling, you can still overexert yourself, so it is important to ensure your workout sessions are spaced out within the week.

So, the question was aerobic vs anaerobic for fat loss – and it turns out these two popular exercise styles are most effective when kept together!

Remember, if fat loss is your aim, then a nutritious and healthy diet will also be key to seeing results. You can still enjoy tasty treats and reach your weight loss goal, like these delicious acai berry bowls – healthy can still be tasty!

The articles on this site are not medical or certified advice, all content that has been created is simply our opinions,experiences and independent research. We strongly advise seeking professional,qualified expert advice from either your GP or a certified medical practitioner before making any changes to do with your health,diet, exercise or habits.