Strength Training and Weight Loss


Weight loss requires a careful balance of calories in vs. calories out. It takes a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose one pound, but not all calories are created equal. It’s important to fuel your body with nutritious foods. With proper diet and nutrition, in addition to exercise, weight loss can be achieved and sustained! However, a common misconception is that in order to lose weight, you should perform lots of cardio and avoid strength training (lifting weights). This couldn’t be further from the truth, and here are three reasons why.

  1. Muscle burns more fat. A common practice with many individuals looking to lose weight is to do way too much cardio. Running on the treadmill for an hour every day is certainly going to burn some calories. However, when your body sustains that level of energy expenditure for longer periods of time, you can quickly reach a plateau. This is because your body is made to use certain types of cells for energy during a workout, but when those cells are depleted, the body will begin to essentially cannibalize itself by using important muscle cells for energy to complete the workout. The same principle applies to nutrition; those who starve themselves with low-calorie diets are actually slowing their metabolism down, causing the body to store fat and water weight. The combination of low-calorie diets and high bouts of cardio are why some people appear to be ‘skinny fat’, with a slim appearance but little to no muscle tone. A well-designed strength training program and shorter, high intensity intervals can elevate your excess post exercise oxygen consumption and metabolism for up to 38 hours after the workout. In other words, you continue burning calories long after you leave the gym.
  2. Strength training reduces joint pain and osteoporosis, and increases bone density and muscle mass. By stressing your bones with weight-bearing loads, bone density increases and will as a result lead to less fractures and breaks in older adults. Reduced back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes are all added benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. Lean muscle mass naturally diminishes as you age, so it’s even more important for seniors to implement a strength training regimen.
  3. Your body will appear to be leaner and more toned, but don’t be surprised if the scale doesn’t move much. When body fat is lost, muscle becomes more visible, creating a leaner and more toned appearance. Be careful not to obsess over the scale. You may gain 10 pounds of muscle that helps to burn off 10 pounds of fat. Your body fat is much lower, but your weight may be the same. Muscle is around 18% more dense than fat, but is likewise much more compact. Your clothes may fit more loosely even if the scale is measuring the same. It’s important to measure your progress through calculated assessments, such as using calipers for skin-fold measurements or girth measurements. Instead of saying you want to lose weight, your mentality should be that you want to lose body fat.

Resistance training should include a carefully planned program based on your desired goals. Someone looking to gain muscle mass will implement a much different program than someone looking to create a lean, sinewy physique. It’s important that you consult a personal trainer if you are not sure where to start. And as always, consult your physician before starting any exercise regimen, especially if it involves lifting heavy loads and you have any pre-existing conditions such as hernias, hypertension or any joint problems.

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