Most experts agree that weight training is more suitable for burning fat than cardio training because every kg of muscle mass increases the daily basal metabolic rate by 100kcal. The two most popular sports are running and football, but which one is better for losing weight?

Most football players don't play football because they want to lose weight. Football is a teamsports and thus focuses on playing with friends and having fun with a group in a competitive environment. You are part of a team with everyone wearing the same football kit which makes it easier for many people to get motivated. Running on the other hand is a little bit different: weight loss is one of the main reasons why people want to get into the habit of running regularly. But is running really the right choice?

The Small Difference - Comparable Conditions

Running is not necessarily running while playing football is not necessarily playing football. A top runner running 90 minutes straight will burn considerably more calories than some football goal keeper during a match. That's why both sports can only be compared when the conditions are similar. Let's take a sports enthusiast called Stephen. He is 25 years old, weighs 75kg and is in good physical condition. In his free time he likes jogging and playing football.

Football: Playful Interval Training

Stephen is a midfielder in a club and this position requires him to run a lot at difference paces in intervals: many jogging phases mixed with several short but fast sprints. During half time he gets to have a 15 minute break. At the end of the game he has covered a distance of about 10km. The exact amount of burnt calories cannot be determined because football players have to take off watches etc. which might harm their team mates or their opponents during the game.

Everytime Stephen sprints he pushes his pulse beyond the anaerobic threshold. That's why a football player in essence completes a 90 minute interval training after every game. Due to the high strain the player burns calories even after the game has ended. He burns fat hours after he has stopped working out.

Endurance Run: Regular Pace And Regular Pulse

It's easier to measure the calories burnt during a 90 minute endurance run. Let's assume that Stephen runs at an average speed of 10km/h. That means that it in the given time he will run 15km and burn approximately 1100kcal. So Stephen would run a longer distance in 90 minutes than he would during a football game.

However, does Stephen burn more fat when running? Not necessarily, because Stephen is in good physical condition and his pulse stays below the aerobic-anaerobic threshold during this constant strain. This means that he won't burn calories after he finished the exercise to the same extent he does when playing football. In order to achieve this “burn after running” effect he'd have to run for much longer or alternatively, he could incorporate interval training into his run. This burns up to 30 per cent more fat than just one long endurance run.

Study Shows: Breaks During Interval Training Are Good for You

The idea that exercise is best when done without any breaks is faulty. Scientists at the University of Tokyo have found out that one burns more fat when jogging 30 minutes twice with a ten minute break in-between. During the last 15 minutes the concentration of free fatty acids and glycerine increases in the blood stream while the insulin level sinks. All these signs indicate effective fatburning. That's why a footballer who isn't being replaced burns more fat in the second half.


At the end of the day it depends on what motivates you. Exercise is good for you no matter what but the key is to stick with it. If you are the type that has trouble motivating himself on his own then a teamsports is a much better choice than solitary running. If you prefer running to playing a team sports you should try and incorporate running intervals into your exercise to optimise the fat burning process.