Thursday, February 3, 2011

Does weight training help you burn fat?

In one word, absolutely. I was in the gym the other day and someone asked me if I watch my food religiously. I said, no, although I am a bit conscious about what I eat but I am not anal about watching every calorie that I consume. I do indulge every once in a while, but for the most part, I try to make a healthy choice. He then asked me if I eat rice. I said YES. I make it a point to eat rice at least once a day (since I am currently going through a Muscle Gain phase). So he was shocked and asked how is it I can eat rice once a day, do mainly weight training and yet look so slim. He does loads of cardio everyday in the gym and found it difficult to lose that unwanted fat. From his understanding, if you only do weights and eat normally, you will become big like weight lifters and not slim and fit. Yeah you will be strong, but no way will you look slim and fit. The only way to lose weight is to do cardio and lots of it. Oh and not to mention, he believed that you must be extremely careful with your food. Now, nothing wrong with that concept. It’s a good one, but at the same time it’s not the only way for you to lose fat.

There seems to be this common misconception that you can only lose weight with cardio and weight training makes you BIG and bulky. The more you lift, the bigger you become and if you lift heavy, you have to be fat. I have to explain this concept with a lot of my new clients, coz they expect me to take them through a pure cardio session when they want to lose weight. When I introduce weights, the first question is always – “Are you sure we should be touching dumbbells if we wanna lose weight?” or the other classic one is “I am not interested in building muscle, I just want to lose weight”. No, you want to lose FAT but inevitably, you will need to preserve whatever muscle you have or probably even build a little more. You want to look slim, and having a little more muscle helps you with that goal. You can look super slim and have some extra muscle mass at the same time.

Anyway, back to my buddy in the gym. So I explained that weight training does help you to burn fat. A really heavy weight lifting session can burn more calories than a slow paced cardio session in the gym. When I lift, I lift real heavy and most of my sessions are done in supersets. Does it get my heart pumping, YES. Am I using massive amounts of energy to complete my task, YES. So if you are using energy, you are using up calories… YES. If you are using up calories, is that an effective fat loss strategy? Absolutely. Most people don’t realize that a heavy weight training session uses an immense amount of energy and like I said, can easily be more effective than a cardio session.

The other benefit of weight training is, that it helps you to build muscle tissue. The more muscle you have, the more calories you are going to burn even while at rest. This is because muscle is active tissues that need to be constantly fed just to stay alive. Because it needs to be constantly fed, you will require that extra amount of calories to keep and maintain those hard earned muscles. If we were to take 2 identical people who had identical activity levels each day and identical diet, but one person had more muscle mass than the other person - the person with more muscle mass will require more calories than the guy who has less muscle. So because of this, maintaining muscle mass is extremely important, even if you ONLY want to lose weight to fit into that dress, you want to maintain whatever muscle you have. Muscle is healthy mass and healthy tissue. Fat is bad. So don’t lump them both together.

So can you lose fat by just doing 100% weight training? Absolutely. You can have an extremely low body fat % if you eat right and do just weight training. No harm in doing some cardio to help you reach those goals, but if you did NIL you would still be OK.

PS: Today is the first day of the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese Calendar, so let me take the opportunity to wish everyone Gong Xi Fa Chai and may the year of the Rabbit bring you and abundance of health wealth and happiness. I am currently in Singapore celebrating CNY with my family so I shall give all of you an update once I am back in KL.


Aizan Suhaira said...

You should always have a good mix of weight training and cardio if you want to lose fat.

Of course, watching what you eat is integral in a fat loss regime. That goes without saying.

Weight training definitely requires more energy output compared to doing cardio only. Hence someone who concentrates more on weight training definitely needs more calories.

So I believe that weight training does not facilitate fat loss. It's just harder to gain fat when you're weight training simply because the work is more taxing compared to cardio sessions.

p/s one great thing about being a hardgainer on a mass gain mission: I get to eat whatever I want and end up gaining muscle rather than fat. How cool is that?

Rajan said...

Aizan: Actually, whenever you use up more calories than you consume, you will burn fat. Hence, weight training does actually facilitate fat loss while at the same time make it more difficult to gain fat. So its 2 in 1 deal.... wonder why more people don't do it.

Hard gainers like yourself are definitely the envy of many. hehehehe. So enjoy it.

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