Do you want to lose weight? Is it smart to go to the gym? Is this the most effective method for losing weight?
Looking for the best method to reduce your body fat percentage? What works better: cardio, strength training or a low-calorie diet?
To what extent does strength training help?
As you can see in the fictional image below, the sports world still links the gym to weight loss. “Easy to lose weight with fitness.” Great marketing, but it’s not that easy. How does this work? How effective is strength training?
Unfortunately, there are no schedules or separate training methods to lose weight very quickly. Sport is not the magic solution to losing weight. Strength training has a limited influence. Below, you can read to what extent.
Easy maintenance of muscle mass
The advantage of strength training is that you protect your muscle mass during a period of negative energy balance. If you combine this with a high-protein diet, you see that participants in various studies retain more muscle mass than those who follow a diet alone. Do you want to lose weight? Do strength training at least twice a week and eat 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
You burn a little bit of extra calories
Another advantage of strength training is that you burn calories with exercise. However, the calories you burn are usually less with strength training (~200-700 kcal per workout) compared to cardio training (~500-2000 kcal per workout). Research indicates that the expected weight loss is minimal due to strength training, and there is insufficient evidence that strength training is very effective in preventing a relapse.
Unfortunately, strength training is not the only method where this is disappointing. We know from research that 80-85% of people relapse after a weight loss attempt. Partly for this reason, a new study will soon be launched by Maastricht University.
Compensation as a result of sports
Another good thing to know: these calories are often replenished quickly. We also call this compensating calories. Furthermore, you often see that active athletes are less active during their non-sporting hours. We also call this NEAT compensation (more about this in this podcast: Does exercising make you lazy? ). Maybe you recognize this yourself? You’ve just spent two hours on a racing bike, and then you flop down on the couch, and you can’t get off for the first few hours.
As indicated above, sports and nutrition are connected. Your body has all kinds of compensation patterns to regain your homeostasis. And this also means that you have to keep a close eye on how many calories you consume in a day. You don’t necessarily have to keep track of your nutrition in our app. You can also change one or two eating habits. Consider, for example, serving a little less in the evening or leaving that glass of wine in the evening. Small eating habits often make the difference, at least if you can maintain them over a longer period.
Exercising gives you a positive feeling
Another point that is often forgotten is that exercise or a long walk is good for your mind. You feel better about yourself, you meet people, and it gives you energy. This can create a vicious circle that also leads to you making other healthy choices. This is one of the most important positive elements that is often forgotten.
Finally, strength training has all kinds of other benefits, such as better sports performance, lower risk of falls and better insulin sensitivity. You can find more about this in this article with all the benefits of strength training.
More muscle mass and a faster metabolism?
Another frequently heard idea is that muscle mass ensures that you use many more calories. Unfortunately, this is much less than you often read in the media. One kilogram of fat mass burns approximately 4 kcal per day. One kilogram of muscle mass burns an estimated 13-22 kcal per day. Do you have 5 kilograms of extra muscle mass? Then that is a quarter of a chocolate bar per day due to the extra gains.
But wait: muscle mass also means you use more energy during exercise. Yes, as an athlete with relatively more muscle mass, you also use more energy because your body is heavier. Just think about a muscular bodybuilder versus a marathon runner. If, in theory, they have the same technique and fat percentage, the bodybuilder would have more difficulty moving forward due to the extra muscle mass and burn more calories at the end of the line. How much is this difference? We don’t know this exactly, but the expectation is that this may explain another 50-200 kilocalorie difference in energy consumption during an endurance run of one hour for very muscular athletes.
Another idea is that the afterburn during strength training is extremely high. Is this correct? Some research has been done on this subject in recent decades. Unfortunately, little good research has been done to clarify this. A recent study shows that in both strength and cardio training (33 kcal per half hour), resting metabolism is slightly increased compared to those who do not exercise (30 kcal per half hour). As you read, it is 6 kcal per hour. In other words, the afterburn for both cardio and strength training is estimated at 72 kcal per day. This is probably the result of increased body temperature, alertness and processes of (muscle) recovery. Future research should repeat this in other populations to gain more clarity about this.
Positive effect on certain hormones
Furthermore, there are indications that exercise, especially more intensive forms such as interval training and circuit training, can have a positive effect on people with obesity through the hormone ghrelin, which regulates the feeling of hunger and leptin, which regulates satiety. Future research with more subjects should provide more clarity on the extent to which exercise contributes to healthier hormone levels.
Conclusion: whether or not strength training to lose weight?
Strength training can certainly contribute to maintaining or building muscle mass, but it is not the magical panacea to losing all your kilos. This remains the mix of your environment, predisposition, habit change, knowledge, healthy food and exercise.