When it comes to weight loss, many people's first instinct is to ramp up their cardio. While cardiovascular exercise is important for heart health and burns calories, it's not the whole picture when it comes to optimal weight loss. In fact, incorporating weight training into your fitness routine can significantly enhance your weight loss efforts. Here's why.
Muscle and Metabolism
The key to understanding why weight training is crucial for weight loss lies in the relationship between muscle and metabolism. Your metabolism refers to the number of calories your body needs to perform essential functions like breathing, circulating blood, and cell production. This is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it burns calories even when you're at rest. In fact, per pound, muscle burns approximately 6 calories a day at rest, while fat burns only 2 calories. This might not seem like a significant difference, but it adds up over time and increases your BMR, and can help you to lose weight. Therefore, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day, even when you're not exercising.
Weight Training and Muscle Growth
Weight training is the most effective way to build muscle mass. When you lift weights, you create microscopic damage to your muscle fibers. Your body repairs this damage by fusing the damaged fibers together, which increases the size and strength of the muscles. This process of muscle repair and growth burns calories and boosts your metabolism.
Moreover, weight training has been shown to burn calories for hours after the workout is over, a phenomenon known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or the "afterburn effect". This is another way weight training contributes to increased calorie burn and weight loss.
Balancing Cardio and Weight Training
While cardio exercises burn more calories during the workout itself, their impact on your metabolism is short-lived. Once you stop the cardio activity, your calorie burn quickly returns to baseline. On the other hand, the metabolic boost from weight training lasts much longer due to muscle repair and growth processes and the afterburn effect.
This doesn't mean you should ditch cardio altogether. Cardiovascular exercise is crucial for heart health and endurance. However, for optimal weight loss, it's important to balance cardio with weight training. A combination of both will lead to increased calorie burn, a higher BMR due to increased muscle mass, and ultimately, more effective weight loss.
Gain Muscle, Lose Weight
If your goal is weight loss, don't underestimate the power of the weights section at the gym. Weight training increases muscle mass, which boosts your metabolism and increases the total number of calories you burn each day. So, next time you're planning your workout, remember to include weight training in your routine. Your body (and your metabolism) will thank you.
If you need help getting started with a weight training program, we invite you to chat with one of our coaches for free. You'll share with a coach what your goals are, and leave with a free exercise plan and meal plan. Simply click the chat icon on the bottom right of the page and we'll be ready to help.