Monday 21 May 2012

Why Weight Training is so Effective for Fat Loss

Once you have some experience with weight training and are strong enough to move some respectable weight, resistance training provides a fantastic form of exercise for fat loss. A first glance, this seems odd. Many people trying to lose fat mistakenly think that they should avoid weight training because after all, they want to get smaller - not bigger. They mistakenly think of resistance training is only for those who want to get big and strong. Here are a few specific benefits of resistance training for fat loss:
You boost your metabolism
Do you know someone who is really skinny, can eat whatever they want and never gain an ounce? If you have the opposite problem with your metabolism (e.g. you drive by McDonalds and gain fat just smelling the french fry grease), then you might have just muttered under your breath, "Yeah, I hate that guy/gal". While you may have been born with a sluggish metabolism, the good news is you can raise your metabolism with resistance training. 

Building a little lean muscle means that 24/7 your body is burning more fuel (i.e. calories)! For example, research shows that ever extra 0.45kg (just under 1 pound) of lean muscle you gain burns an extra 35 calories per day. So let's say you go and build about 5 pounds of lean muscle (trust me, 5lbs of lean muscle spread out over the whole body is not noticeable). That means that each day you burn an extra 175 calories. Over the course of 1 year that is an extra 63, 875 calories. Since there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, that 63, 875 calories equates to an extra 18.25 pounds of fat - and remember that is just to have the muscle there!

You become fuel inefficient
For years I have driven a Honda Civic because I’m cheap and it’s good on gas. However, what would happen if I took it to the shop and had them replace that little 4-cylinder motor with a big V8 engine? Besides the obvious increase in performance, my gas bill would go through the roof! With weight training, you make your body fuel inefficient and that is exactly what you want when you are trying to lose fat. Click  HERE for more information.
Your body on cardio: fuel efficient - not what you want for fat loss.

Your body on weights: high performance, fuel inefficient and great looks!
You increase insulin sensitivity 
Insulin is a very complicated hormone that does a lot of things in the body. However, in this context, know one simple thing about it: insulin gives the body the message, "store fat". If you want to lose fat, you want to keep your insulin levels low. Exercise - particularly resistance training - is great for increasing insulin sensitivity. The result of this is you need less insulin to control blood sugar levels. This helps you get leaner and reduces your risk of type II diabetes.

You positively impact your hormonal profile
One of the not-so-secret-secrets of professional bodybuilders is their use of drugs. Take the right drugs in the right amounts and you can manipulate your hormone levels and help your body burn fat and build muscle. However, train effectively with weights and you can naturally manipulate your hormone levels in your favor. High volume, moderate-rep resistance training with short rest intervals is great for increasing growth hormone (a powerful fat-burning hormone). Basic, heavy barbell exercises are great for increasing testosterone - which is great for building lean muscle and improving your testosterone-to-cortisol ratio. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is linked with abdominal obesity and wastes muscle tissue. Lots of cardio results in large increases in cortisol and an unfavorable  testosterone-to-cortisol ratio. 
Note: in the issue of full disclosure, it is important to know that although we have research to support these changes in hormone levels there is still a debate as to how much these hormonal changes impact noticeable changes in body composition. Personally, I believe there is something to this, but hopefully more research will clarify the issue. However as the wise legendary strength coach Dan John reminds us: we know this works, so don't over-stress about the "how".

You burn calories long after the training is done
Because resistance training is intense anaerobic work, you also burn extra calories during the recovery phase long after the training session is over. Check out my previous post on EPOC for more details.

You can see the real world evidence everywhere
If all this science, testimony and reason does not convince you, go to almost any gym in the world and notice where the lean people are: the majority of them are in the weight room, not the cardio theater. Remember, success leaves clues!

Reference for metabolism stat: 
Hoeger, W., Hoeger, S.,Locke, & M.,Lauzon, L. (2009). Principles and Labs for Fitness and Wellness (1st ed).  Scarborough, ON: Nelson Thomas Learning.

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