Anaerobic vs. Aerobic: What is the Difference and Which One Works Best?

Do you workout faithfully every week, completing the same exercises but not really sure what gains you’re supposed to be making? A common issue is a lack of understanding what the difference is between anaerobic vs. aerobic exercise.

Of course, knowing the difference is only the first step; you also need to understand which the winner is in the battle of anaerobic vs. aerobic.

Understand The Terms

The first step is to know what the two words actually mean:

  • anaerobic vs aerobicAnaerobic – This is exercise without oxygen. In effect, this means that you can’t get enough oxygen into your body through your normal breathing patterns. In short, you’ll be getting seriously out of breathe when doing anaerobic exercise.
  • Aerobic – This simply means with oxygen. In effect, this is exercise that won’t leave you short of breath; your body should be capable of doing aerobic exercises with the oxygen you usually breathe in.

Fuel For Life

Aerobic exercise occurs at a low intensity. You should still be able to talk while performing aerobic exercise.

Aerobic exercise can be completed with the oxygen your body receives in normal breathing. There is no need for additional energy to be made available from an alternate energy source.

aerobic chartYou’ll often find aerobic charts in gyms that show you where your heart rate should be to burn fat. The charts are typically based on your age and weight.

To figure out your own aerobic rate, subtract your age from the number 220. Then multiply this by 60% (for moderate exercise). Example: 220-46 years old = 174 x .6 = 104.4

Aerobic exercises will generally burn fat and carbohydrates; this is why this is often referred to as the fat burning zone.

In contrast, anaerobic exercise is much more intensive. Because you’ll be gasping for breath, you won’t have sufficient oxygen to burn the fat in your body and create enough energy. Instead, you’ll burn carbs, amino acids (these are the foundations of your protein) and lactic acid.

However, the anaerobic vs. aerobic battle doesn't end here. While aerobic acid will help you to burn fat in your body, there are other considerations.

Longer Term Gains

Aerobic exercise doesn't leave you out of breath. Aerobic exercise burns fat, but once you've finished exercising, the effects end and you can carry on with your normal activities.

man running anaerobic vs aerobicHowever, when you use anaerobic exercise, you’ll find that there is a process known as lifting which starts to take effect. In the battle of anaerobic vs. aerobic, this is an important consideration.

When you've finished high-intensity exercise your heart rate and breathing may return to normal, but your metabolism will have been increased, and this increase can last for several hours. During this time you’ll be entering an aerobic state, effectively burning fat while you’re at rest and recover.

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic: Which Is Better?

This will leave you wondering which is better and which one should you be doing; anaerobic vs. aerobic?

anaerobic vs aerobicThe great news is that you should be doing both! Aerobic and anaerobic exercise both offer exceptional benefits.

But before you decide which one you should be doing based on the benefits, you should consider the answer to the anaerobic vs. aerobic based o what type of exercise you prefer.

As both types offer benefits, you’ll find it is easier to build and stick to a habit when you enjoy something. This means if you love sprinting and weightlifting then choose anaerobic workouts.

You can always try this 24-minute workout or sign up to the FF30X to get some exercise ideas.

There is no right or wrong; just the one that you prefer.

Muscle Building

However, it is worth noting that anaerobic workouts are typically exercises that help build muscle.  You can find lots of advice regarding this type of exercise when you sign up to the FF30X.

barbell with weights anaerobic vs aerobicIncreasing muscle mass is the best way to build your physique.

Of course, you can boost your fat burning skills between weightlifting workouts as you’re supposed to leave 48 hours between working the same muscle group.

This means you could complete both types via a mixture of weightlifting, walking, jogging or other exercises 6 times a week.

Doing both will ensure you receive the maximum health benefits.

It is also worth noting that aerobic exercise can boost the immune system and help to reduce the risk of developing some diseases; such as cancer. This type of exercise can also help to improve your cognitive function, as well as your endurance and your cardiac health.

It is still possible to burn fat and build lean muscle with aerobic exercise, but the best way to build muscle is through anaerobic exercise.

The Solution To Anaerobic Vs. Aerobic

You need to do both! Anaerobic exercises boost your muscle and bone strength while aerobic will help you to burn fat and improve your general health. That means they are both winners in the anaerobic vs. aerobic battle.

The only real question is how much you do of each. The answer to this will depend on whether your preference is to lose weight or build muscle. You should also consider which type of activity you prefer doing.

Don’t forget the easy way to define the different types of exercise is whether you get out of breath or not. If you can still talk, then you’re doing low-intensity aerobic exercise.

You should also join the FF30X today; you’ll get access to the free 24-minute workout and a host of other exercises and healthy eating tips. But, more importantly, you’ll have discovered the answer to the anaerobic vs. aerobic battle while getting the support of thousands of other men; all of whom are looking to achieve the same goal as you. They are there to support and help you become the man you want to be.

Your new friend & health coach,

stuart-headshotStuart Carter
Head Training Staff, The Fit Father Project

Brotherhood Nickname: “The Fit Brit”
Bragging Rights: 16 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide', Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.

If you’re interested in a proven and completely laid out “done-for-you” weight loss meal plan & workout routine – designed for you as a busy man…

ff30xI’d recommend you read the program overview letter for our Fit Father 30-Day Program (FF30X).

Inside FF30X, you'll receive:

  • The simple & delicious Fit Father Meal Plan
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Read the FF30X Program overview letter here to see how our plan can help you lose weight – without the complication & restriction of normal diets.


*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on anaerobic vs aerobic exercises.