Lift Weights To Lose Weight - err burn the fat

Sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true. As a Los Angeles personal trainer I often hear people (starlets) saying they are afraid to lift weights  because they don’t want to gain weight or look bigger. The error is in their perception, they couldn’t be father from the truth and here’s why…

Generally when we say we want to lose weight what we really mean is we want to lose fat, the loose fleshy stuff hanging from arms and thighs or spilling over into a muffin top. Be honest can you pinch some? If not, why read on you’re already a god or goddess. For everyone else, that doughy stuff between your fingers are the glad bags of the body. That’s right, fat is essentially stored energy in the form of fatty acids that can also contain fat soluble chemicals some even toxic.

Basically human fat comes in two kinds, visceral fat (the stuff around your organs) and subcutaneous fat (the stuff you’re pinching). Now let me just say in fats defense, that not all fat is bad. It’s necessary for insulation, protecting the body from shock, cell membrane integrity, and that previously mentioned stored energy; you know, in case you get stranded with no food. So, unless you’re planning on getting stranded for a really long, long time, maybe we should lose some of it.

Young woman lifting weights - Ultimate Health - Studio City Personal Trainer Hollywood, CA

To burn off fat safely, effectively and with long term results we should tackle it three ways, 1) diet (that’s obvious), 2) cardio ( burn it now) and 3) resistance exercise ( that’s right weight training). If you lose weight alone from diet as much as 25% of weight loss can come from lean body mass; that’s a significant hit to your metabolism. That means it would take less calories to gain the weight back and when you do the majority will come back as fat, meaning you’d be fatter even at the same weight. Conversely, weight training can increase lean body mass, increasing bone density (that’s good), strengthen connective tissue (also good), and building muscle mass. Now consider that muscle is 20% denser than fat. So if you lost 5 lbs. of fat and gained 5 lbs. of muscle though you’d weigh the same, you would look smaller and all with no jiggle.

Update 3/26/15:

Many experts over the years have claimed a pound of muscle burns about 50 calories a day in metabolism.  Add 2 pounds of it and that muscle would burn off 10 pounds of fat in a year. Not too shabby now is it? Too bad it's not true. Several studies peg that number between 6-10 calories with the most often quoted at 6.5. Fat on the other hand burns about 2 calories. The take away here is that you can't build yourself thin. 

There are however, other great reasons to do resistance training in addition to the ones already stated that will aid your fight against fat. Firstly, resistance training increases testosterone levels which in turn increases lean body mass, increases energy, helps you heal faster and lowers estrogen. Estrogen increases fat accumulation around the abdomen and chest; a good reason to lower it. Then there is cortisol. When cortisol levels are are high or chronically elevated it can lead to insulin resistance which means still more abdominal fat accumulation. Resistance training lowers stress which lowers cortisol.

Resistance training means the weight you lose is not muscle mass, not water, but fat, real fat which no diet alone can assure. Add to this that you are strengthening connective tissue, increasing vigor, and tightening up and you have a great reason to participate. Whether you are looking to lose fat or just get in better shape resistance training should be a part of your routine on day one.  So, what are you waiting for?   

Resistance training can be weights, resistance bands or even body weight exercises. Resistance exercise should be performed 3 times per week for at least 30 minutes per session.