Burning Fat with Strength Training

A new UNSW meta-analysis and systematic review has shown that a person can lose about 1.4% of their entire body fat just through strength training. This is similar to how much a person could lose through aerobics or cardio. Even when strength training is done solely on its own, it will still lead to favorable body fat loss without having to go running or dieting.

Until now the association between fat loss and strength training has not been clear. Previous research used a small sample size. This made it difficult to discover significant statistical results in addition to analyzing the different responses people had to an exercise program.

When looking at just one study it becomes difficult to see what the effect would be. However, when all the studies results are combined, it is easier for the researchers to get a better picture of what is going on.

The team looked at findings from 58 research papers which all utilized very accurate forms of measurement of body fat (more like body scans which differentiate lean mass from fat mass) to measure the results from programs of strength training. A total of 3,000 participants were included and none of them had any previous experience with weight training.

Each workout session averaged from 45 to 60 minutes and was performed on an average of 2.7 times each week with the program lasting about five months.

Following the training program, it was found that on average the participants lost 1.4% of their total body fat. And while the findings are encouraging for people who love strength training, the team still says the best approach for losing weight is a nutritious diet along with a routine that includes both strength training and aerobic/cardio. However, if cardio and aerobics aren’t for you, there is the option of strength training as well.

One reason people don’t think strength training lives up to cardio when it comes to fat loss is due to inexact methods of measuring body fat. Many people will focus on their total weight on a scale. But this measurement does not differentiate mass that is fat from everything else that the body is made of such as bone, muscles, and water.

Typically with aerobic training a person doesn’t gain muscle mass. We gain other functional and health benefits along with cardio respiratory fitness and fat loss. However, with strength training, a person loses fat and gains muscle mass which weighs more. Therefore, numbers on a weight scale don’t look as low as they would after aerobics training.

The researchers mainly focused on measuring the amount of a person’s body that is comprised of fat mass and how it changed after strength training. The measurement indicated loss of fat seems to be as effective as that with cardio and aerobics training despite the number on the weight scale.

With part of their study the researchers conducted a sub-analysis which compared how different methods of measuring fat could influence their findings. When more precise measurements like body scans were used, they tended towards showing lower overall body fat changes. Utilizing more precise body measurements gives a more realistic look at what changes in the body. Exercise studies in the future can be improved with the more accurate measurements.

If you have the desire to try strength training to change the way your body looks, then don’t focus on the number on the weight scale since it will not show all the results. Instead, consider whole body composition such as how your body will start to move and feel different and how your clothes fit. It is also helpful to use a scale that measures percent body fat in addition to weight.

To view the original scientific study click below:
The Effect of Resistance Training in Healthy Adults on Body Fat Percentage, Fat Mass and Visceral Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis