There is always a debate between which form of cardio burns more fat. In this article we are going to look at a study which pitted running against cycling to see which one is better to help you speed up your weight loss. The study which was performed by scientists at the British University of Birmingham concluded that at the same level of intensity, you will burn more fat running than cycling. (1)


THE STUDY: RUNNING VS CYCLING

The experiment saw 12 reasonably well trained men run on a treadmill and cycle on a cyclometer with a gradually increased intensity of exertion. The scientists then measured the amount of fat the men burned for each.
To measure the intensity of endurance exercise, oxygen expenditure is recorded. By performing at roughly 60% of VO2 max (maximum amount of oxygen you can take in) you will be able to continue exercise for an extended duration. At this level, fat is burned optimally. As you start to exceed these levels, your body starts to burn more glycogen and protein for energy and less fat.

The diagram below shows the amount of fat burnt by the subjects when running and cycling with a similar intensity.

Not just that, lactic acid level of the subjects also increased faster with cycling than with running. The upper diagram shows results from cycling and the bottom diagram shows the results from running.

Because running uses more muscles and muscle fibers than cycling, this means of cardiovascular training will burn more fat. That being said, cycling places a greater physical demand on the muscle fibers that you do use. It is for this reason that you burn more glucose when you cycle and why lactic acid concentration rises.


RUNNING VS CYCLING: PHYSIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES

As said above, running uses more muscle fibers where cycling places more stress on specific muscle fibers. According to researchers there are several physiological differences between running and cycling and another important one involved in calorie burning is that heart rates are different between the two  for both maximal and sub-maximal intensities, according to researchers the delta efficiency is higher in running. (3)


RUNNING VS CYCLING: DELTA EFFICIENCY

Researchers went and tested the delta efficiency between running and cycling and found that the delta efficiency of running is 45.5% while the delta efficiency of cycling is 25.7%. This could be due to the fact that runners need to involve their upper bodies (arms, shoulder, back) into the mix. (4)


RUNNING AND WEIGHT LOSS

In one study researchers concluded that running can help you lose weight whether you change your diet or not. (2) Individuals who altered their diet and who ran 5 kilometers and more per week for a year ended up losing on average 5.6 kilograms of fat mass. In another group individuals stuck to their normal diet and ran approx. 5 kilometers per week for a year and ended up losing 3.8 kilograms of fat mass. This is quite a lot of fat to lose without having to change ones diet, however, more weight can be lost if you opt for healthier and whole foods.


CONCLUSION

Both these activities help to increase cardiovascular function, and both can help strengthen and build your leg muscles, both can also help maintain weight loss depending on how you do them, however, cycling can be more beneficial for very overweight and obese individuals as it places less stress on your joints and bones. If you are keen on starting to run rather than cycle make sure to start slow in order to get your body to adapt to new stress load. (5)



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