In my experience, the primary reason that the average person starts to train is to lose body fat. Though most of us understand that more exercise and a good diet is the key to doing this, few understand what exact steps need to be taken for optimal success. This article will take a look at the training side, specifically how resistance training will lead to less body fat if done right and combined with good dietary principles.
First, we need to know why we carry around extra body fat in the first place. Fat is the body’s storage form of energy. Anytime we eat more calories than we need, the body will save any excess in the form of fat. If we want to lose extra pudge, our goal is to encourage the body to draw from these extra stores of energy.
How do we do this? On the nutrition side we aim to eat less calories than our body needs to function. Over time, this leads to our body using stored energy to compensate. This means body fat, but can also mean muscle (another form of stored energy, if needed). We want to maximize fat burn and minimize muscle burn, here is where resistance training comes in.
When we lift weights our body releases hormones. Think of hormones as messengers that talk to our body’s tissues, telling them to do certain things. The type of hormones released during resistance training are those that tell our muscles to develop and become stronger. If these messages are being sent on a consistent basis our body will hold on to muscle when it's in a “caloric hole”. This means more fat being burned. Furthermore, muscle is very active and keeps our metabolism high through activity and maintenance.
This is a short and simple explanation of why someone wanting to burn body fat should resistance train. We should view fat loss as a changing of our body’s tissue makeup through the development of lean mass, which will lead to higher rates of fat burn. It's also important to note that as somebody loses body fat with resistance training, they will have a leaner and more “fit” appearance than someone who has lost weight through dieting only or dieting plus cardio. In fact, the latter person likely lost a more balanced amount of lean mass along with fat through their efforts. For long-term change, we want as much lean mass as possible to keep metabolism high and our body looking fit.