“Resistance training for fat loss?” you ask with incredulation, jaw dropped to the floor, dazed and astonished, knowing your life will never be the same. Or just mildly curious. Yes, I say, resistance training can be a very powerful tool for fat loss!
If you’re not including resistance training in your fat loss program, you’re missing out on an incredibly effective tool. There are two important reasons for this.
The more obvious reason is resistance training’s effect on maintaining or building lean muscle, which is absolutely essential for successful dieting and maintaining that progress. Weight training enables you to build up a larger degree of lean muscle mass, which then basically serves as your calorie burning powerhouse in the body. One of the biggest negatives to many dieting programs is that they neglect this, which is a large factor in the all too common rebound after many diets.
When you calculate your basal metabolic rate, which is how many calories you would burn if you lied in bed all day and did absolutely nothing except breath, one of the factors that go into this is your total body weight. The most accurate equations will also take into account lean body mass, which represents your muscles, bones, and organs.
Therefore, the more muscle you have on your body, the higher this rate will be and the better the calorie burning results you will obtain 24/7.
Since muscle tissue is fairly long-term (as long as there is some stimulus on the muscle and you are consuming enough protein it won’t be lost), this proves to be an effective long-run strategy for losing body fat.
The other reason to make resistance training a big part of your fat loss program, the one I’m going to elucidate upon here (I’ve been wanting to use the word “elucidate” in my blog forever), is the phenomenon of EPOCH, the acronym for Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption.
The short version is that EPOCH is known as the afterburn effect, with calories being burned and fat being torched for hours after you perform a training session involving resistance training. Yes, you can be annihilating fat stores while sitting there reading this blog! EPOCH is a measurably increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity intended to erase the body’s “oxygen deficit.”
The technical explanation is that in recovery, oxygen (EPOC) is used in the processes that restore the body to a resting state and adapt it to the exercise just performed. Post-exercise oxygen consumption replenishes the phosphagen system. New ATP is synthesized and some of this ATP donates phosphate groups to creatine until ATP and creatine levels are back to resting state levels again. Post-exercise oxygen is also used to oxidize lactic acid. Lactic acid is produced during exercise and is often the cause of post-exercise soreness. An increased amount of oxygen is necessary to convert the lactic acid back to pyruvic acid at these locations. EPOC is also used to fuel the body’s increased metabolism from the increase in body temperature which occurs during exercise. (3)
EPOC is accompanied by an elevated consumption of fuel. In response to exercise, fat stores are broken down and free fatty acids are released into the blood. In recovery, the direct oxidation of free fatty acids as fuel and the energy consuming re-conversion of FFAs back into fat stores both take place. (4)(5)(6)
How Does Resistance Training Compare to Traditional Cardio?
Anaerobic exercise in the form of high-intensity interval training was found in one study to result in greater loss of subcutaneous fat than a comparable aerobic training session, even though the subjects expended fewer than half as many calories during exercise (1). Another study, specifically designed to test whether the effect existed for more than 16 hours, conducted tests for 48 hours after the conclusion of the exercise and found measurable effects existed up to the 38-hour post-exercise measurement(2). While the effects progressively lessen over the course of this window, the cumulative results are incredible.
Resistance Training For Women
There is an unfortunate misperception that women should avoid lifting weights for fear of building a masculine physique or getting too bulky. This is simply not the case. The fact of the matter is that females do not have enough testosterone in their body to develop this degree of musculature naturally. Additionally, in order to build that type of muscle even with testosterone present, a targeted diet with a substantial amount of excess calories is needed. Generally, the biggest difference between fat loss and muscle building results in a program revolves around diet.
As many males will attest, building substantial amounts of muscle is a difficult process, and males will, in general, be able to generate about double the lean muscle gain from a given program than females. Gaining substantial amounts of muscle requires a diet and training program directly targeted to that goal. I could go on about this forever about this sad misperception, but the main point is that the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to understand how incorrect this fear of weight training truly is, and just how many benefits you’re missing if you don’t.
If you’re neglecting resistance training in your fat loss program, you’re leaving so much on the table. Here’s the short and sweet cliff note: Compound your fat loss results by adding weight training into your routine.
- Trembblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C. (1994). Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metablism, Metabolism. 43(7): 814-818.
- Schuenke MD, Mikat RP, McBride JM. Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Mar;86(5):411-7. Epub 2002 Jan 29. PubMed PMID: 11882927.
- Saladin, Kenneth (2012). Anatomy & Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function. New York: McGraw Hill. p. 425. ISBN 978-0-07-337825-1.
- Bahr R. Excess postexercise oxygen consumption–magnitude, mechanisms and practical implications. Acta Physiol Scand Suppl. 1992;605:1-70. PubMed PMID: 1605041.
- Bahr R, Høstmark AT, Newsholme EA, Grønnerød O, Sejersted OM. Effect of exercise on recovery changes in plasma levels of FFA, glycerol, glucose and catecholamines. Acta Physiol Scand. 1991 Sep;143(1):105-15. PubMed PMID: 1957696
- Bielinski R, Schutz Y, Jéquier E. Energy metabolism during the postexercise recovery in man. Am J Clin Nutr. 1985 Jul;42(1):69-82. PubMed PMID: 3893093.
- “Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 May 2014. Web. 06 June 2014.Reynolds, Jeff M., and Len Kravitz. “Resistance Training and EPOC.” Resistance Training and EPOC. Drlenkravitz.com, n.d. Web.