I’ve helped transformed bodies of hundreds of female professionals in companies such as Lyft, Uber, and Salesforce in the past 4 years.
The most common aethetic goal they have is fat loss and look overall more toned.
They tell me ‘I want to look toned but not bulky’.
And understand their concerns because I used to have them myself.
But after lifting weights for almost 20 years I can say thatstrength training is important for fat loss especially if you don’t want to spend hours in the gym and jump from diet to diet.
And in this article I explain why.
Cardio Versus Weight Training – Which Is Your Ideal Body?
Weight loss is subjective, you can either lose fat or lose muscle mass, and it still is considered ‘weight loss’.
But no one wants to gain fat. We want to get stronger and build lean muscle mass. And since muscle is denser than fat and takes up less space you can weigh the same yet look very different.
Strength training alters the body in different ways for everyone depending on your diet and intensity of your workouts you may gain, lose or maintain your weight.
With a regular weight lifting routine you’ll have more muscle, feel stronger, look leaner, and more firm than if you were just doing cardio.
One of the comparisons I like to make for a cardio body versus a weight lifting body is between sprinters and marathon runners.
Both are runners but run different distances.
A sprinter needs to generate explosive power and speed. Their workouts include being able to move heavy weights as fast as possible and they develop lean, densely-muscled bodies because of lifting.
A marathon runner focuses on a running program for endurance to build a more efficient cardiovascular system and they tend to develop a more lithe, gangly type of body.
Both are runners but their bodies developed differently based on how they trained.
If you’re wondering whether you should lift weights or not ask yourself what kind of body do you want?
Do you want a smaller version of yourself? Then do cardio.
Do you want a leaner, stronger, more toned version of yourself? Then include weight lifting in your routine.
My Transformation – Cardio Versus Lifting For Fat Loss
Many women overlook weight lifting as an essential to fat loss because they think cardio is enough to burn fat.
I made that mistake in my younger years.
When I first started I had no clue about strength training so what I did for exercise instead was just lots of cardio. I was part of a swimming and running team and put in 3 hours of daily practice and even more outside of practice.
I hadn’t made the connection between lifting and lean muscle development so as my sister would say I looked a little “scrawny and bony” back in the day.
Fast forward years after getting my Masters in Biochemistry and hiring multiple trainers I figured out how to use science to lift and eat properly so that I sculpt the body I want.
I am 15 lbs heavier, my bodyfat is the lowest it’s ever been and I have never been stronger.
In college I could maybe do 1 pullup but today I can do 13 consecutive ones and over 200 push ups. I still eat just as much as I did in my younger years but my body would not have been able to handle those calories.
Honestly, I would be carrying a tire around my waist right now if I wasn’t lifting because of my appetite and love of food.
Consistent weight lifting allowed me to eat because my muscles can burn it off.
Long Term Fat Loss Benefits From Strength Training
You can lose weight with doing just cardio and dieting but you become a smaller identical version of yourself and like in my case you can gain bodyfat.
Below is an image of a DEXA bodyfat scan. The yellow color indicates fat while red is muscle.
With lots of cardio and improper dieting can shift your body to the far left image gaining fat because of lost muscle.
Losing muscle mass lowers your metabolism.
This is why majority of women start gaining back the pounds they’ve lost when they go back to eating their regular diet. Their body’s metabolism has slowed down and the extra calories from eating means fat storage.
You Can Eat Cake Without It Sticking To Your Waistline
The average person gains about 3-5 pounds every year and as we get older we tend to become more sedentary which contributes to weight gain.
Inactivity compounded by age-related muscle loss causes us to naturally put on weight.
With strength training, you can stay the same size. In fact, lifting weights helps you to maintain your current lean muscle mass and build more as well.
For every pound of muscle you carry you will burn an additional 6-10 calories daily compared to burning 2-3 calories for a pound of fat. And lifting heavy weights is the quickest way to build strength while burning lots of calories leading to fat loss.
When you lift heavy your entire system has to gather up the resources, adapt to move the weight and recover from the effort. It’s taxing on your entire body. This is why when you lift you can afford to cheat here and there with your diet and not have the scale go up on Monday.
Weight lifting also comes with a greater afterburn effect than certain types of cardio because of muscle recovery, repair, and growth. As your strength goes up, you build and breakdown more muscle costing you more calories after your strength training workout.
Program Your Body For Fat Loss By Changing How Much You Eat
To lose fat eating healthy is not enough. Starting a diet that you only stick with for 6 weeks is not enough to lose fat.
Fat loss takes time and must be done under a caloric deficit, when you eat fewer calories than your body needs to function.
It’s that simple.
Check out the chart below to give you an idea of how long it’ll take you lose body fat from where you’re starting,
If you pull out the calculator and calculate how many weeks it’ll take you add an additional few weeks to your calculation because fat loss is never linear.
Life is not a systematic routine every day so you have to take account life – those happy hours, birthday dinners, work dinners, travel, weekend BBQs etc that will take you longer than expected to lose fat.
Use a calorie calculator, to figure out how many calories to eat for fat loss.
Don’t worry about meal timing, protein shakes, vitamin supplements, fat loss supplements and all the hype that companies are trying to sell you.
Focus on getting to know how many calories you’re burning on a daily basis and cut out 10% of those calories from your diet to start losing fat.
Want the exact details of how to customize your macros for you to expedite fat loss? Check out Nutrition 102 – Macros To Get Lean And Build Muscle.
How To Set Up A Strength Training Routine For Fat Loss
There are many effective fat loss programs out there but if your nutrition is not aligned with your fat loss goals then you need to work that out first because you can eat more calories faster than you can burn them.
You must make time and space for tracking your calories, meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking in order to tackle fat loss. Neglecting your nutrition will bring you subpar or no results and lots of frustration because you’re not seeing results.
Below is are two great beginner fat loss workouts for you start with,
What Does A Fat Loss Program Look Like?
Here’s an example of a standard week of workouts for women whose goal is fat loss.
You can switch the workouts around to your liking and add more or less cardio but make sure that you’re recovering properly and your diet is a caloric deficit to get the maximum results.
Sunday – Moderate Intensity Cardio
Monday – Workout A
Tuesday – Moderate Intensity Cardio
Wednesday – Workout B
Thursday – OFF
Friday – Workout A
Saturday – OFF