Do weight training if your goal is to lose fat and keep it off. If you only have time to do one form of exercise, choose to weight train and eat a high-protein diet to lose fat for the long term. If you have additional training time and want to add conditioning, walking, yoga, martial arts, or some other training mode, go for it, but don’t compromise your lifting.
An older research study shows that weight training in conjunction with a healthy diet will produce much more fat loss and improve body composition to a greater degree than doing intense aerobic exercise. This study compared the effect of having overweight men go on a calorie-restricted diet with no exercise, do a diet with 50 minutes of aerobic training 4 days a week, or do the diet with weight training 4 days a week.
Results showed that the weight training group lost an average 10 kg of fat, and a negligible 0.3 kg of lean mass, meaning that an incredible 97 percent of the body mass lost came from fat. That almost all the weight lost came from fat is EXTREMELY significant since only 69 percent of the weight lost in the diet-only group came from fat (they lost 3 kg of muscle as well), and only 78 percent of the weight lost in the aerobic training group was from fat (they lost 2 kg of muscle).
Muscle is SO important for body composition because it contributes to your body burning more calories at rest—also known as a higher metabolic rate. Maintaining muscle, as the men in the weight training group did, is critical because it helps keep that resting metabolism up over the long term so that you don’t regain weight that you have lost. The drop in metabolic rate is a major pitfall to keeping the fat off for people who diet or do aerobic exercise.
Another major benefit of weight training is increased strength and mobility, both of which were evident in the weight-training group in this study. The weight training group is the only one that gained strength in the upper body (20 percent increase) and lower body (32 percent increase). The weight training group also significantly increased maximum power ability, whereas both the diet the aerobic training group decreased power, with the greatest loss of power in the aerobic group. Less power means poorer coordination and a decreased ability to recover from a fall, putting you at greater risk of fracture.
Take away the following points to lose fat from training and keep it off:
- Do weight training to build muscle and increase your metabolic rate if your goal is fat loss.
- Avoid aerobic training because it will compromise power output and mobility in the long-term.
- If you want to add in conditioning, do intervals in which you go all out for a short period and then rest, repeating for a total of 20 to 25 minutes.
- Use multi-joint exercises through the full-range of motion.
- Use moderate to heavy weights with fewer repetitions (use a weight you can lift 6 to 8 times before reaching failure instead of one you can lift 12 or 15)