Resistance Training, A Key To Losing Fat.
Resistance training is an efficient form of exercise for weight management. Period. End of story. It is my go-to prescription for clients looking to tone, build muscle, and lose fat. Yet, with the benefits resistance training offers for weight management why do beginner fitness clients opt for aerobic exercises (cardio) instead, spending hour after hour on treadmills and elliptical machines.
Let’s dispel the common myth and jump into the science behind the benefits of resistance training for fat loss. First the myth…
Let’s shed some insight into the least regarded exercise regimen among the beginner weight-loss client. Speaking from my professional experience as a physical trainer, one of the most frequently asked questions is: What type of training is best for weight loss? When I relay resistance training as the answer I’m often met with a look of apprehension. Most in the female demographic seem to have a misconception that resistance training leads to a masculine appearance. A comment to which I would jokingly reply: “Do you mean that resistance training will make you grow a mustache?“
To sum, resistance training converts your body’s energy needs using fat deposits as the source. Reducing your caloric intake and/or the consumption of weight loss products alone can not offer similar results. Why? Stand-alone “dieting” often results in the loss of vital muscle mass along with the targeted fat deposits.
Body Composition Test
Physical trainers have a responsibility to educate the community, in particular, beginner weight-loss clients. With that said, let’s first clarify that resistance training helps with fat loss, not weight loss. Prior to starting any resistance training, it is recommended to first conduct a body composition test. BMI weight scales and calipers are tools that register the ratio of lean body mass to fat body mass. After continuous resistance training, it will be evident that lean body weight has increased, and total fat has a dramatic decrease. Keep in mind that after a couple of weeks of resistance training there will be an increase in total body weight. I know what you’re thinking: “I’m trying to lose weight not gain weight!”
Regular weight scales register overall body weight and do not differentiate between muscle and fat tissue. It’s a common mistake to misinterpret the number on the scale and/or blame resistance training as being ineffective towards your fitness goals. This circles back to the importance of conducting a body composition test to measure increased muscle and fat loss. Next, we’ll delve into the science that outlines the benefits and effectiveness of resistance training.
Resistance Training, Weighing In On The Benefits (Pun Intended)
To best describe how resistance training works towards lean body development and reducing fat I’ll use the analogy of a cup of water. Let’s think of your muscle energy stores as a full cup of water. During exercise, your muscle energy stores deplete, in other words, your cup becomes empty. It now becomes a priority for your body to replace these empty energy stores. Let’s fill your cup with water, the “water” in this analogy is triglycerides and glycerol.
Here’s the scientific breakdown; While in recovery, your muscles refill the empty stores by converting extra muscular fat (triglycerides) into energy and it uses fat (glycerol) in the process. Fatty acids from the triglyceride conversion provide the fuel to fill muscle energy stores. Now let’s take the cup of water analogy one step further by adding a gallon of water into the equation. Let’s now take that gallon of water and fill your empty cup. The gallon of water represents your body fat (adipose tissues). Extracted from adipose tissue are fatty acids and glycerol which in turn repletes muscle energy stores.
Resistance training causes fat to be released during the recovery process. Traveling through the bloodstream these fat deposits are now absorbed by the worked muscles as energy for recovery. Now that we touched on the science behind the benefits of resistance training let’s delve into why an increase in body weight would occur, a topic I mentioned that earlier.
An increase in lean and total body weight occurs as a result of an increase in energy stored (glycogen) in the muscles. Muscles are more compact and dense in comparison to extramuscular fat (triglycerides). Body fat (adipose tissues) is less dense therefore it occupies more space on your body than muscle. Take for example if we compare:
A. toned abdominals
B. a pudgy set of abs.
Which of the two takes up more surface are? If you chose B you are correct!
Muscle fibers are nourished, energy stores are replenished, and fat decreases. Resistance training contributes to increased lean muscle, strength, loss in body fat and also increases metabolism. So does this mean you’ll go to the gym and bench press two hundred pounds till your arms fall off? This is where the importance of having a certified personal trainer comes into play.
There is a correct and an incorrect approach. High repetition, low intensity, long duration, using basic compound movements are the best curriculum for a beginner and/or fat loss client. The selected exercises must maximize the target muscles to ensure energy store depletion. Doing so will result in more fat being used to replete muscle energy stores. Engaging in continuous resistance training ensures weight management, fat loss, and muscle maintenance.
Remember the goal is to lose fat, not muscle. Participating in a reduced caloric intake and/or the consumption of weight loss products without resistance training can result in the body cannibalizing muscles for energy.