Anaerobic vs Aerobic

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Anaerobic and aerobic. Most of us have heard these terms, but not everyone understands the difference. One thing is for certain, while you may not understand the difference in their meaning, you can usually distinguish the difference between the 2 types of workouts.

To put it simply, anaerobic exercise is physical exertion in short bursts to build strength, such as weightlifting. Aerobic exercise is physical exercise, typically of a medium intensity and longer duration, intended to improve the body’s cardiovascular system, otherwise known as cardio!

Sounds simple enough, and it is. But here is where it gets a little tricky. Anaerobic exercise can lead to aerobic benefits and aerobic exercises can lead to anaerobic benefits.


Anaerobic is a word that signifies “without or lacking oxygen. Anaerobic exercises are fundamentally strenuous activities that are actualized with the end goal of fortifying and strengthening muscle.

Anaerobic exercise is utilized for many reasons:

  • bone fortifying and strengthening
  • the avoidance of physical decay
  • promote strength, speed and power
  • develop fast twitch muscle fibers
  • develop stronger muscles
  • improve your capacity to withstand the buildup of lactic acid, improving endurance and recovery time
  • improve your VO2 max. VO2 max is the highest amount of oxygen that you can consume during exercise, therefore improving your cardio-vascular endurance

Anaerobic exercises are short lasting, high-intensity activity where the demand for oxygen exceeds the oxygen supply available, and relies on energy sources that are stored in the muscles.


Aerobic literally means ‘with oxygen’. Aerobic exercise, also know as cardio, usually performed at a moderate level, stimulates the heart rate and breathing rate.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise:

  • increase the efficiency of respiration
  • improve blood volume and distribution
  • improve cardiovascular efficiency
  • increase stroke volume – the amount of blood pumped from the ventricle during each contraction of the heart

During aerobic exercise, the body is breaking down glucose to produce energy. Once the glucose is used up, the body will start to metabolize fat for energy. Breaking down fat for energy is a slow process and does not produce as much energy. In other words, at some point you are going to hit a wall.

Anaerobic vs Aerobic

The $64,000 question that is asked time and time again, which form of exercise is better?

Candidly, there is not a decisive answer to this question as the science is still being tested, but we can offer one some insight. The answer comes down to how your body stores and uses fuel.

Initially your body will burn carbohydrates for fuel. Once the carbohydrates or glycogen is used up, your body will start to burn fat for fuel. Lastly, your body will resort to burning protein for fuel, in other words your muscle. The body doesn’t like to use protein as fuel but if all the other sources of energy are used and you continue to push the need for fuel, your body will turn to protein as energy.

Anaerobic exercise is in short bursts allowing your body to replenish the energy source which preserves and builds your muscle. Aerobic exercise is moderately paced but lasts for longer durations and the body doesn’t have time to recover and refuel your energy. As you continue to push, your body may resort to using your protein as energy.

So, which is better for you? Well, it depends on your body, your goal and your diet. Keep in mind that as your body becomes stronger and more conditioned your needs change.

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