As a certified personal trainer, one of the challenges faced in dealing with new female clients (and some guys) is getting them to overcome their fear of lifting weights. I always ask, what’s so scary about lifting weights?
I usually get two answers:
1. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
2. “I just want to tone, lose fat, and not get to “muscle-y”. That’s why I always do cardio to burn fat.”
Once I hear reason #2, I immediately school them on the benefits of strength training to lose fat.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training involves using added resistance such as dumbbells/barbells, resistance bands, kettlebells, your body weight, and any other form of resistance that challenges your muscles to work harder than they normally do. The resistance you’re lifting has to be heavier than what you do on an everyday basis. For example, you can’t expect to get results lifting 3 lbs dumbbells if you’re used to lifting a 10lbs baby every day. You need to overload the muscle.
Muscle Increases Your Metabolism Which Leads To More Fat Burn
To burn fat, you need to burn more calories than you take in. Your metabolism plays a huge role in how effective your body is in burning calories.
Without getting to scientific, your Total Metabolic Rate (a.k.a. total energy expenditure) is made up of the following equation:
Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) = Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) + Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA) + Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF)
Resting metabolic rate (RMR): refers to the energy (calories) required to keep your body functioning properly. Yes, your body uses up a large amount of calories just to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, etc. Your RMR is about 60-80% of your total metabolic rate.
When you increase your lean muscle mass you also increase your RMR. Thus the more lean muscle mass your body has, the more calories you will burn at rest and on the move. Lets look at this example.
Tammy is 135 lbs with 20% body fat
Lisa is 135 lbs with 40% body fat
If they went for a 5 km walk together, Tammy would burn more calories. The reason? Even though they are walking at the same speed and are the same weight, Tammy’s body is comprised of more muscle. It takes more calories to move muscle than it does to move stored body fat.
By just adding 1 lbs of muscle, your body can burn an additional 50 calories per day. There are 3,500 calories in a lbs of fat.
So imagine the additional fat burning capabilities you will have if you add 5 lbs of muscle to your body!
You would burn an additional 91,250 calories per year (250 calories/day * 365 days).
Keeping all things equal, this would burn an additional 26 lbs of fat (91,250 calories / 3,500 calories per lbs of fat) per year!
Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA): refers to how active you are and the effect of your activity levels on your metabolism. The more active you are the more your total metabolism will increase. These activities include anything that involves moving your body, including lifting weights, playing sports, or even mowing your lawn. Strength training also increases your metabolism by elevating the amount of calories burned within the TEA variable. The harder you train, the more calories you will burn.
Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF): refers to the amount of calories burned just by eating and digesting food.
Based on the three variables in this formula discussed above, you can understand why everyone’s metabolic rate is different.
The After-Burn of Strength Training
Both cardio and strength training can increase your metabolism. However the difference is how long and how much these forms of exercise can boost your metabolism that truly impacts the amount of fat loss. When you perform multiple sets of strength training and lift until you can’t lift another rep (failure), the energy burned after your workout (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption – EPOC) can be elevated for an additional 24-36 hours. Referred to as the “after-burn”, your increased metabolism can help burn more calories within this time period, thus leading to more fat loss.
What About The Females That Don’t Want To Get Too “Muscle-y”?
If you think by lifting weights you’re going to look like a professional female bodybuilder, think again. It takes a lot of testosterone to build huge muscles and females don’t naturally produce enough of it to get that look. Many of those professional female bodybuilders with big muscles are known to be supplementing with added testosterone.
To conclude, ensure you’re including strength training in your fitness program. A good balance of cardio and strength training will help raise your metabolism and burn and keep the fat away.
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