Let’s talk about fat-loss. More importantly, let’s talk about why an effective fat-loss program utilizes strength training with weights. Over the last few years, more and more women have started buying into the benefits of strength training for physique and weight management. We are not restricting ourselves to just cardio machines, and now our workouts are more efficient (and hopefully a bit less boring) than ever. For many, the primary focus of hitting the gym is to burn fat, and we’ve outlined some (scientifically backed) reasons weight training is the best tool for just that.
The first rule of fat loss: having muscle increases your resting metabolic rate (RMR)1,2. A crucial element of fat loss is simply having muscle mass; muscle mass burns fat for energy, and building muscle requires resistance training, not cardio. No matter what your trainer tells you, you won’t build any lean muscle by performing 40 minutes on the elliptical. Lean muscle is built through a consistent resistance training program that utilizes large muscle groups and compound movements (like squats, rows, and push-ups).
All gimmicks, infomercials and cheesy marketing schemes aside, it is possible to burn calories all day long without lifting a finger! During an intense workout, your body’s oxygen stores are depleted. Consequently, after a high-intensity workout, your body must work hard to build it’s oxygen stores back up. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or “The Afterburn Effect”, and it keeps your body at a heightened metabolic rate for up to 24 hours after a high-intensity workout3! What’s more, studies show high intensity resistance training results in a greater EPOC than steady-state cardio… so it’s time to prioritize the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight training workouts in your weekly routine4!
You’ve heard it before: the “muscle weighs more than fat” mantra. As tired as it sounds, the saying holds some truth; muscle is more dense than fat, therefore a pound of muscle takes up less volume in your body than a pound of fat. For this reason, we recommend GETTING OFF THE SCALE. As many women see when they begin a strength training, fat-loss regimen of weights and high intensity cardio, the number on the scale does not drop as quickly as they would like. In fact, your weight may immediately go higher. DON’T PANIC! What’s more important is that you are turning your body into a fat-burning machine by decreasing your fat stores and increasing your lean mass
There is a simple formula for weight loss: energy in must be less than energy out to lose weight. Many weight loss programs call for a calorie restricted diet. While a calorie restricted diet isn’t recommended for everyone, many do choose to participate. We’ve covered why having muscle is critical for fat loss, but did you know that on a calorie restricted diet, your body may compensate by consuming a heightened ratio of muscle than fat for energy? This is not a desirable effect, but thankfully studies show utilizing strength training programs will help your body maintain lean body weight while on a calorie retracted diet5. So no matter what type of diet your program calls for, always balance it with strength training at least 2-3 times per week.
There are thousands of weight loss and fat loss programs out there. Flip on the television and you’ll see an infomercial for new types of exercise equipment or the next big home-workout DVD guaranteed to help you shred down a jean size. Just remember, fat-loss comes from a balance of proper nutrition, strength training and cardiovascular training. Most importantly however, the idea of losing fat should not consume your life and control your happiness. We’ve found that with just a few days a week, short bouts of intense exercise (strength training and HIIT) coupled with a diet of lean proteins, healthy fats, well-timed carbs and plenty of vegetables is the easiest way to let your body know you love it, while feeling healthy and progressive in your physique.