When you exercise, your body needs to burn off energy in the form of calories. Calories are burned off from fat and carbohydrate reserves, but how much of each you use depends on your level of intensity and the duration of your workout. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercises burn fat, but they burn it at different rates, so which type of exercise you do depends on your personal fitness goals.
Aerobic Versus Anaerobic Exercise
Aerobic and anaerobic are fancy words used to signify which energy-producing system your body is using to fuel you during a workout. During aerobic exercise, oxygen is your main energy source. Anaerobic workouts involve faster, more explosive movements that require immediate energy reserves. Because of this, anaerobic workouts tend to burn more calories from carbohydrates relative to fat, while aerobic workouts do the opposite.
Calories and Weight Loss
Burning fat during a workout has a nice ring to it, but in reality it doesn't matter where your calories come from. As long as you're burning a higher number of calories than you take in during the day, you'll lose weight. To lose one pound, you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories, which isn't going to happen in your average jaunt on the treadmill. This is why balancing a training regimen with proper diet and nutrition is essential to finding your ideal weight on the scale.
There is a pervading myth in the fitness industry that lower-intensity aerobic exercises keep you in an ideal fat-burning zone, while anaerobic exercises focus your metabolism on carbs. Although it is true that aerobic exercises burn more fat relative to carbs, high-intensity anaerobic exercises burn more total calories from both sources. Additionally, anaerobic workouts put your body into a period of postexercise oxygen consumption, where you continue to burn calories at an accelerated rate for hours after you get home from the gym.
The Bottom Line
One of the intangibles associated with anaerobic workouts is that they trigger the release of a specific group of hormones that promote muscle growth and fat oxidation. While anaerobic workouts seem to be the ideal method of both burning calories and building muscle, they are intense in nature and shouldn't be done on consecutive days. Ideally, you should strike a balance between aerobic and anaerobic to develop a rounded workout routine.