Want to lose weight....lift weights.
As a trainer you get asked a lot of questions. They are often the same questions. This one is a popular one….
What exercise is most beneficial for weight loss. Cardio or weights?
My, sometimes, surprising answer is both but emphasize weights.
We all know the many benefits of weight training. Improved bone density and glucose utilization, an elevated metabolic rate (hint this helps with weight loss!) and insulin sensitivity, increased strength, not to mention a boost to your mental health.
We know there are benefits to lifting weights but rarely do we think weight training is a must for weight loss. Usually the question is – doesn’t cardio burn more calories? Or when I need to lose weight I just start running. Then I’ll lose the weight I need to.
Neither one of these objections is wrong. Let’s just be clear, we don’t just want weight loss, we want fat loss. This matters. This is where weight training comes in.
Cardiovascular training does help with losing weight. It helps when you are tracking calories to give a little boost if you want to eat more in a day. It helps to reduce the scale faster. It is beneficial to weight loss. (Along with other things).
However, weight training is not as obvious in how it helps with fat loss.
After all, if you are tracking your calories you know that an hour of strength training will burn fewer calories toward your daily goal than an hour of cardiovascular training.
How weight training speeds up your weight loss.....
Let’s compare what happens when you weight train and why LONG TERM weight training is a must..
1. You burn calories during your workout AND after.
There is a period of time after your workout, about 3-4 hours, that your body continues to burn calories. This is not often reflected when recording calories. (Clients I am not saying to add more calories when you track!)
Several studies have shown that there is a prolonged elevation in your post exercise metabolic rate and even fat oxidation (ie. fat burned) following resistance training. When you do cardio there is a slight elevation after but not as long comparatively. (1,2)
2. Muscle tissue is metabolically active.
What does this mean? Well it means that it burns calories. Calories are a measure of heat and your body is, well, a heat burning machine.
So, if you are lifting consistently, you are building muscle. In turn you are burning more calories. It is theorized that muscle burns between 30-50 calories per pound.
This means that adding more lean tissue( i.e. muscle) will help you to burn more calories even at rest. This also points out why long term lifting weights not only does all the other amazing things stated above but also helps with…. You guessed it, fat loss.
3. Do you want your body to have shape? Or tone? Or definition?
These are all things I often get asked especially for my female clients. (Don’t worry gals, weights do not make you bulky!)
Cardio is great for cardiovascular health and really it is beneficial so don’t think I’m saying to not do cardio! But what I am saying is if you want to have muscle tone or some shape to your body you want to lift weights. We have all heard of those people that are skinny fat. They look like they are at a great weight but in fact they are carrying around more fat than muscle.
This means you miss out on all of those great benefits of weight training as well as create other health issues. I used to work with a trainer that would tell her clients, when the scale was not moving but their body fat was decreasing, that their sand was shifting. I always thought this was a good analogy.
Sometimes you may not see the scale go down when you lift weights, especially right away, but your sand begins to shift. You will notice muscles in your arms or glutes. You’ll notice pants feeling differently. This is what weight training does. It shifts your sand into a great shape.
4. Your muscles may actually be communicating with your fat cells during exercise!
This is a weird one. In a recent NYT article they highlighted a study that shows that muscle cells may be communicating with fat cells to essentially break down and burn fat. For over 60 years we have known that there may be “cross talk” between tissues in the body. They are now specifically looking at how muscle is communicating with other parts of the body during exercise. And it kind of looks like muscle is the boss of fat!
5. Weight training only helps with your cardiovascular training.
I know it may seem I think weight training is superior but in reality you need to do both. The stronger you are the faster you will run. I also whole heartedly believe that weight training when done right along with mobilizations and stretching can prevent injury. This means you can run longer and faster. And if you are not a runner? It means you will have less aches and pains.
No fat loss/weight loss article would be complete without the obvious. Diet.
The most important aspect to weight loss is your diet. Hands down.
You can walk all you want and lift for hours at a time but unless you are paying attention to what you are eating you will never make the progress you want to make.
Calorie deficit is the only way to lose weight. There are plenty of diets out there and no matter if you are on intermittent fasting, Weight Watchers or just counting calories they all come down to the same thing. Less calories in. While the breakdown of caloric intake into their specific macros matters as well, that is a discussion for another time.
Today, what I want you to take away is that weight training is a must for long term fat loss!
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