If you’re trying to lose weight, what sort of exercises are most beneficial? Most people would respond by saying cardio. It makes sense: cardio burns calories, and in order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you take in. If, on the other hand, you want to build muscle, the natural approach would be to do strength training.
However, this common misperception isn’t completely accurate: Weight training may actually be more effective for weight loss. Relying strictly on cardio for weight loss may not only slow your progress, but it could make it more difficult for you to achieve the body composition and physical appearance you’re striving for. Here’s why.
Weight training increases metabolism
One of the benefits of weight training is the continued calorie burn after your workout is completed. Studies have shown that following strength training, the resulting boost in metabolism can last as long as 36 hours. That means you’re burning more calories at rest, even while you’re sitting at your desk or watching TV. For example, if your current resting metabolic rate is 60 calories per hour, and after your workout, it increases to 70 calories per hour, you’re burning an extra 360 calories over the next 36 hours. If you’re doing weight training three days a week, that adds up to a lot more calories burned over the course of a month.
With a cardio workout, you might burn an extra 40 to 80 calories after a moderately paced session, depending on factors such as your weight and the duration of your workout.
Muscle burns more calories than fat
In addition to this immediate benefit, weight training also increases your metabolism over the long term by increasing your muscle mass. Even at rest, muscle burns more calories than fat. While 10 pounds of fat may burn 20 calories in a day spent at rest, 10 pounds of muscle would burn 50 calories. Therefore, the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you will burn, even when you aren’t exercising.
As long as you are consuming enough protein (and most people get more than enough) and there is some stimulus put on the muscle, you shouldn’t be losing any muscle mass. So building muscle can be a very effective long-term strategy for losing weight.
Weight training allows you to reshape your body
While cardio will help you lose weight, typically the tissue lost is a combination of fat and muscle, and you generally achieve a smaller version of your current self. With weight training, however, you have a better chance of losing strictly body fat, which, when combined with increased muscle mass, can help you target any areas of your body you wish to tone or reshape. This will lead to a more visually apparent physical transformation than just doing cardio alone.
It’s important to have realistic expectations of how much muscle you can build. Males can typically generate about 1-2 pounds of muscle in a month, while females can expect to gain about half that amount. So if you’ve just started weight training, don’t be surprised if you don’t notice results right away. Over time, your results will add up and make you even more resistant to weight gain in the future. For women, it’s also important to remember that weight training will not make you bulk up. Many women shy away from lifting weights due to a fear of becoming too bulky, but women do not naturally produce enough testosterone for this to be an issue.
Your genetics influence how you respond to exercise
Certain genetic variants also influence how your body responds to different forms of exercise, as well as how your body processes and stores fat. If your goal is weight loss, adopting a genetically appropriate diet and exercise plan may be the key to losing more weight and keeping it off long-term — in fact, studies show that people can lose up to 287 percent more excess weight when following a diet suited to their individual genetics. Learn more about DNA PREMIUM and how your individual genetic report can help you meet your health and wellness goals.