Many people want to lose fat—so will weight training help them do it?
Lifting weights is a great way to burn fat, but here’s something else to consider first:
Many people want to lose fat so they look toned and their muscles are more visible. The look they’re going for usually requires fat loss as well as a little muscle building. You build muscle through weight training. So if you have aesthetic goals, weight training is going to be a great tool for you.
Now don’t get me wrong: 30 minutes of cardiovascular training—running, cycling, rowing, swimming etc.—will burn more calories than 30 minutes of weight training.
For example, an online calorie-burning calculator estimates that a 180-lb. person will burn 410 calories through 30 minutes of cycling at 60-70% of their max heart rate. The same calculator estimates that the same person would burn 246 calories through 30 minutes of vigorous weight training.
So conditioning activities are definitely part of a fat-loss plan and we make sure we prescribe them to clients who want to reduce body fat.
But here are two important things to remember about weight training.
Weight Training Builds Muscle
Muscle is “expensive” to maintain. That means a muscular 150-lb. person will burn more calories at rest than a 150-lb. person who has very little muscle. Fat doesn’t burn a lot of energy, but muscle does. So if you add a little muscle to your frame, you’ll increase your “resting metabolism.” That means you’ll burn more calories simply by being alive.
The number of extra calories burned over the course of a day isn’t extreme, but it’s still significant. Researcher Christopher Wharton estimated 10 lb. of muscle would use up 50 calories on a day without training, while 10 lb. of fat would use just 20.
The numbers add up fast: If two people weigh the exact same but one has 30 lb. more muscle, that person will burn 90 calories more during the day than the person without the muscle.
So adding muscle means you’ll burn more calories without doing anything—that’s a huge deal when it comes to losing fat.
And here’s another important consideration: If you don’t use resistance training during a weight-loss program, there’s a risk that you might lose muscle, too. Almost no one wants to lose hard-earned muscle, so resistance training is important to help preserve as much lean tissue as possible while you drop fat.
You Burn Calories After Weight Training—Not Just During
This is especially true if you work out with intensity.
When you train your body hard, it burns calories as you move. But it continues to burn calories after you stop because your body is working to refuel and recover from training stress. You might hear someone use the term “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” (EPOC). In simple terms, it means your metabolism is elevated as your body works to recover.
This recovery process burns calories and it can continue for up to 16 to 38 hours after training. Some studies suggest that period can be even longer. So a gym session is really an investment and you’ll reap additional rewards over the next day or so.
Some styles of weight training generate greater effects after the workout than others and conditioning activities can also generate a post-exercise calorie burn. It all comes down to the exact activities and the intensity at which they’re performed.
Work With a Coach
Figuring out the perfect plan for fat loss can be challenging for the average person, but an experienced coach can help you out.
At our gym, we meet with clients to find out their goals and then prescribe the best plan to achieve them. If your goal is fat loss, you’ll probably receive a program that involves a mix of weight training and conditioning to ensure you move forward as fast as possible.
We’ll also tell you how often you need to train, how long workouts should be and what intensity level is right for you. Finally, we’ll monitor your results and adjust the plan regularly so you’re always getting closer to your goals.
But rest assured that the ultimate fat-loss plan will include some resistance training. It’s a key activity if you want to increase muscle tone and reduce your body-fat percentage.
So does lifting weights help you lose fat? Absolutely—but it’s just one piece of the puzzle.