Your Personal Trainer: Lift Weights, Lose Weight

I was recently approached and asked, “You look so good and in good shape, what is the best exercise for weight loss?”

Well, that might not be exactly what was being said, but that’s how I heard it. However, I responded by asking them to guess the best exercise for weight loss, especially fat burning.

Her responses included running, jogging, swimming, aerobics, and cycling. When I replied that my only form of exercise (besides occasional walks) was resistance training (weight training), they looked at me like a dog watching a card trick! (They were confused.)

They assumed that lifting weights would increase muscle size and strength, but not result in major fat loss.

Well, I’ve told you, and I’m telling you, you can (and should) lift weights to lose fat. Keyword science …

Although cardio workouts typically burn more calories during actual exercise (depending on duration and intensity), research has shown that you burn more calories in the hours after a strength training session compared to a cardio workout, according to In fact, the calorie-burning benefits of lifting weights can keep you burning calories for hours or even days afterward.

There are serious reports that resting metabolism remains elevated for up to 38 hours after strength training, while no such increase has been reported with cardio.

So what’s up?

When we do sport, our muscles need more energy than when we are at rest. This energy comes from our muscles’ ability to break down fat and carbohydrates with the help of oxygen. So during exercise, we breathe faster and our heart works harder to pump more oxygen, fat, and carbohydrates into our exercising muscles.

What is less obvious, however, is that after exercise, oxygen uptake actually remains elevated to restore muscles to their resting state by breaking down stored fats and carbohydrates.

This phenomenon is known as “Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption” (EPOC) – although commonly known as the “afterburn effect”. It describes how long oxygen uptake remains elevated after a workout to help muscles recover.

With most types of exercise, more intense exercise increases the number of calories you burn afterwards.

According to an article recently published in Shape Magazine, 11 Major Health and Fitness Benefits of Lifting Weights (October 2019), “You can burn more calories on your hour-long cardio class than you would lift weights for an hour, but a one in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who lifted weights burned an average of 100 more calories in the 24 hours after they finished their workout.

Another study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Metabolism found that after 100 minutes of strength training, young women increased their basal metabolic rate by 4.2 percent 16 hours after exercising.

And the effect is amplified as you increase the weight, as explained in a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Women who lifted more weight with fewer repetitions (85 percent of their maximum 8 repetition load) burned almost twice as many calories in the two hours after exercising than when they did more repetitions with a lighter weight.

In recent studies of overweight or obese adults (aged 60+), the combination of a low-calorie diet and strength training resulted in greater fat loss than a combination of a low-calorie diet and walking exercise, according to a published study from 2017. in obesity magazine.

In the meantime, the adults who did strength training maintained muscle mass while losing fat. This suggests that strength training helps people lose belly fat better than cardio, because while aerobic exercise burns both fat and muscle, lifting weights burns almost all of fat.

Just one hour of training three days a week will boost fat burning. Not a fan of breakfast in the morning? Exercising in the morning can shed up to 20 percent more body fat. The key: eat breakfast after your workout (burn your fat, not your food).

Weight training can also be effective for long-term weight control. This is because muscle size plays an important role in determining Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), which is how many calories your body needs to function at rest. Resting metabolic rate accounts for 60-75% of total energy expenditure in non-exercising people, and fat is the body’s preferred source of energy at rest.

Increasing muscle size through resistance training increases RMR, which increases or sustains fat loss over time.

For women who are worried about “piling up”, don’t. A pound of fat takes up 28% more space than a pound of muscle. The more your weight comes from muscle (rather than fat), the smaller you will get. Body weight often increases with strength training, but clothes size decreases.

Women have significantly less testosterone than men, so it would take a lot of time, effort, and calories for most women to gain muscle. For men, you will massage where there is muscle and break down where there is fat. And our good looks? Well, you and I just have to hear what we want to hear.

If you enjoyed reading it, please visit for more fitness information, download my free workout e-book, listen to my latest podcast on Spotify, and visit the Healthy Recipes page.

Do you have a fitness question? Send them to me, your personal trainer, at and write ‘Ramona Sentinel’ in the subject line.

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