When most people think of fat loss, lifting weights is not what comes to mind first. In fact, I’m not sure that lifting at all comes to most people’s minds who are looking to lose weight. All they can focus on is calories, and we’ve been taught that running a lot and doing circuits is all you need to lose weight. There is some truth to this but I’d like to clear up the gray areas and tell you exactly what you need to know.
Resistance vs Cardio
Cardio burns more calories vs lifting in a given hour session. Well, technically it does. If you really think about it we spend more time resting for our next set than actual time moving weight. But I digress. Even if cardio burns more calories in that given session, there are a couple things it’s still not doing.
1. Cardio doesn’t build muscle - Sure your goal may not be to build muscle but you definitely wouldn’t want whatever muscle you DO have to come off instead of your fat stores right? Doing too much cardio, and no focus on weights along with being in a caloric deficit puts you at risk for this. When it comes to running, the body wants to get efficient. It makes more sense for your physiology to burn through calorically expensive muscle over stored fat (energy reserves) over a long time period.
2. Cardio doesn’t burn any calories after your run - With the exception of HIIT training, whatever you burn during your cardio session is it. So sure, you may burn more calories per session than lifting, but because you are breaking down muscle tissue during your lifting session, your body is spending the rest of the day in repair using up fuels (calories) to build you bigger and better than last time.
Stop Worrying About Bulk!
People don’t associate lifting with fat loss, because they’re too busy it’s going to make them look like Ronnie Coleman. Let me tell you something. All those bro’s you see in the gym? They’ll spend their ENTIRE lives trying to get “too big”. Most of them will never achieve it. So if all these men can’t even get too bulky when it's ALL they focus on, what makes you think you are different?
Even if that were the case, muscle doesn’t just pack itself on overnight. You don’t wake up one day and go “wow I’m huge!” We add muscle gradually, and over time if you feel like you’ve hit the max point you are comfortable with gaining mass, you can just maintain from here on out! That’s a dream scenario.
Just remember, having more muscle makes you more insulin sensitive, and thus will always make you more likely to burn through your calories rather than store it as fat compared to if you just did cardio. So why not throw in 1-2 days?
Resistance Training Increases Your Metabolism
Cardio doesn’t. In fact, as mentioned before, cardio makes your metabolism more efficient. That means you are burning less and less calories in that same session the more you adapt to it. Our bodies are very good at adapting to a stimulus over time.
The reason this doesn’t happen with lifting is because you are progressively giving a heavier and heavier stimulus that requires the addition of more muscle in order to withstand. You don’t need bigger muscles to adapt to cardio. The addition of more muscle means you burn more calories at rest. Yup! It’s metabolically costly to keep so much muscle on your frame. The more muscle you have the more calories you need just to maintain it. Isn’t this the ideal scenario we all want? MORE calories to eat?
Lastly...How You Look
At the end of the day, we’re aiming for fat loss because we want to look good right? If you have no muscle on your frame, you’ll more than likely get that skinny fat look that no one likes. Adding resistance training helps build shape to the muscle so you get what they used to call that “toned” look (which by the way, there is no such thing as training for tone. It’s literally just heavy resistance training which builds muscle over time, combined with an eventual diet so that by the end of it you have lost the fat, and have some muscle underneath, you have now effectively created the toned look).
Add 1-2 days of full body workouts (if you aren’t training already), and focus on getting stronger and better with your form each week.