By Michael Ormsbee, PhD, Florida State University
Edited by Kate Findley and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily
Most people engage in aerobic exercises such as jogging to lose body fat. However, you should strongly consider adding resistance training, or weight lifting, to your routine if you want to make a big impact. Professor Ormsbee explains.
Why Resistance Training?
Adding lean mass from resistance training is important for fat loss specifically. For one, it will add lean muscle mass, which is metabolically active.
This means that it requires more energy to be maintained than fat mass and thus uses a few more calories than other tissues. Therefore, the greater amount of muscle mass on your body, the greater energy demands overall, which equals more calories expended each day just for body maintenance.
Resistance training also increases lipolysis or fat mobilization.
“In fact, our research group published a few research papers on this in the Journal of Applied Physiology,” Professor Ormsbee said. “We found that resistance training alone was effective for increased lipolysis from belly fat in healthy young men and in both sedentary lean and obese men.”
Resistance training also increases EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, just like aerobic exercise, but maybe even more. For example, after 45 minutes of cycling at 70% of maximum intensity, metabolism stayed high for another 14 hours—burning about 190 calories over a control group. Similarly, traditional resistance training with four sets of eight exercises done for 8–12 repetitions has been shown to burn about 100 extra calories over the 22 hours following resistance exercise.
However, the authors of this study also found that if the resistance exercise was completed at a much higher intensity, this time using heavy weight to complete exhaustion for six repetitions, with only 20 seconds of rest between sets, the calorie burn was 23% greater than the traditional group. The high-intensity group burned 452 calories over the same 22-hour period.
Best of all, most of the extra burn was from fat. These studies were done with men, but the authors suggested that when body mass is equated, no difference between men and women exists.
“So, combining the fat burning effects of aerobic and resistance exercise seems to offer the maximal benefits for fat loss, as described in several recent studies from my lab and others,” Professor Ormsbee said.
The combination also looks to be more favorable than aerobic exercise alone in combating certain types of chronic disease, including muscle wasting, osteoporosis, and perhaps even type 2 diabetes.
Effectively Burning Fat
When using aerobic and resistance exercise for fat loss, how can we determine if we are successful? How quickly or slowly should we expect to lose fat based on these described principles?
First, keep in mind that your rate of fat loss will be different from others depending on your age, your gender, and how much fat you have to lose, as well as your unique physiology. In general, fat loss should be gradual.
According to Professor Ormsbee, a small amount should be lost every week, which will add up to big gains over time. It took a while to put the fat on your body; give it time to come off your body, too.
“To me, the most important factor is how you answer these questions: ‘Are you feeling good?'” Professor Ormsbee stated. “And, ‘Is your energy level good?’ These are real-world questions, and if they are not a resounding yes, then something in your life has to change. Once you see some results, you may want to work with a professional to continue to make progress in your workouts and nutrition and to continue to meet your body composition goals.”
Thus, if you really want to change your body composition, important considerations include how much fat you burn, how many calories you use, and the bigger picture—like over a week, a month, or a year. To do this, you probably need to be exercising vigorously at least a few times a week.
Recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the more vigorous activity you do, the lower your mortality. Keep in mind, though, that you still need to incorporate rest days or days where you simply take a walk and stretch or hike with a friend in order to recover from your hard exercise sessions.
Just remember to tailor your program to target fat loss and your own needs, with fat loss success defined as you feeling the best you’ve ever felt and achieving gradual fat loss over the long-term. Implementing both aerobic endurance exercise and resistance exercise allows for changes that will last a lifetime.
Try this: Replace one of your longer, slower exercise sessions with short, high-intensity intervals each week.
This article was edited by Kate Findley, Writer for Wondrium Daily, and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for Wondrium Daily.
Michael Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University. He received his MS in Exercise Physiology from South Dakota State University and his PhD in Bioenergetics from East Carolina University.