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Weight Lifting & Weight Loss
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Weight Lifting & Weight Loss

Why strength training for fat loss?

Unfortunately there is still a common misconception that hours of cardio alone is the ideal method for fat loss and overall weight loss. When most people hear that cardio burns more calories than strength training in that short amount of time, that is all they need to hear to jump on the treadmill over the weights rack. This could not be further from the truth. Here we cover how strength lifting helps fat loss and the all round benefits.

Many people believe that a cardio burns more than strength training. Depending on the duration and intensity of your workout it is true that cardio can burn more calories in the time you are working out. The body continues to burn calories after any workout session however the length of this extra calorie burn is determined by the type and intensity of the workout.

Studies have shown that after cardio the body generally burns calories at an increased rate for around 30 - 60 minutes (1). Compared to weight training that can burn calories at an increased rate for days. With strength training even though you could feel as if you’re not working as hard because you’re not sweating as much, this extra calorie burn post workout will help you to lose fat long term compared to short term. Even better, strength training builds muscle compared to muscle that builds very little. More muscle means a higher basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories your body burns at rest to perform vital functions (2). The more muscle you have on your body, the higher this rate will be which equates to even more calories burned at rest (3). Which means your body burns through more calories even when you’re not working out, sounds too good to be true.

In more scientific terms Growth hormone (GH) and testosterone (T) are the main anabolic or muscle building hormones in our bodies. When the amount of these hormones rise so does strength the muscular size. They are also both lipolytic which means they encourage the body to burn fat stores as fuel. Weight training can increase a small rise of both GH and T, where as cardio does not. Strength training can also assist the body’s insulin sensitivity which means that the body will use carbohydrates and nutrients selectively to repair damage muscle cells instead of storing them as fat cells.

Weight training also allows your to reshape your body composition. Cardio does assist with fat loss however it only breaks down your existing tissue and is typically a combination of fat and muscle. If you don’t have the existing muscle mass built this can leave you with a soft look. If you have been lifting heavy weights and building lean muscle tissue this generally gives you a more defined look.

So does this mean you should exclude cardio altogether? Cardio does provide some health

benefits including a bigger influence on cardiovascular health, lower resting heart rate as well as blood pressure (4). However doing only cardio means you will not be building muscle mass and in turn not burning as many calories at rest which will help you lose fat long term. So if fat loss is your goal, strength training will help you get there.

References -

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11882927
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-200636030-00005
  3. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00421-001-0568-y?LI=true
  4. Statement on exercise: benefits and recommendations for physical activity programs for all Americans-a statement for health professionals by the Committee on Exercise and Cardiac Rehabilitation of the Council on Clinical Cardiology, American Heart Association

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