Weight Loss and Strength Training: The Truth

It's a common misconception among women: strength training will leave you bulky and hinder weight loss. But the truth? Strength training will help you lose weight and can give your body definition that old fashioned cardio just can't provide.

Here’s the thing, strength training may not give you the heart-pounding, sweat-dripping satisfaction of, say, spin, or a long run. Long-term, however, building lean muscle is a necessary component of weight-loss.

Strength Training for Weight Loss: Science Weighs In

Have you ever heard the phrase "the more muscle you have, the more fat you'll burn"? Well, it's true! Here's the science behind that statement. Your body expends energy (calories) just to maintain muscle. What does that mean for you? Having more lean muscle leads to your body burning more calories at rest. 

Your Scale Lies

Sadly, fitness is often quantified by a number on a scale. Don't get me wrong, the scale is a tool for tracking weight loss, but for many people (especially women), it's become an indicator of fitness level, success, and even happiness. Not cool.

When I started swapping out cardio for strength training. I lost weight, at first. However, about six months in I actually gained weight. I got a little freaked out. I mean, I had grown up in a society that believes weight has everything to do with your health and fitness. I had failed, right? Lies.

Take five pounds of muscle and five pounds of fat, place them both side by side, and the fat will be significantly larger even while weighing exactly the same as the muscle. Fat cells are large, while muscle fibers are small and dense. After I calmed myself the heck down I realized the obvious: my jeans were still fitting great. In fact, they were a little loose. What's the takeaway: Your fitness is not a number on a scale. Weight gain, in this case, was actually a good thing. 

Using Strength Training for Weight Loss

Fact: You have to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight, and even though strength training will help you keep that up long-term, it’s still important to chip away at calories, daily. If weight loss is your goal, a good mix of cardio and strength training is the best plan. If you can find a HIIT workout, such as TABATA, that mixes weights with cardio, even better.

If you choose to double up, start with cardio. Why? Cardio often depletes your body of the energy needed to strength train, setting you up for injury. For best results, get cardio in first or alternate your strength training and cardio workout days.

Now YOU weigh in: what's your workout of choice, cardio or strength training? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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