Can Lifting Weights Burn Fat?

Diet & Fitness


Early January is prime time for visits to the gym. The combination of holiday parties, family events and high calorie foods provides ample motivation to get to the gym and begin to lose weight. While there is universal agreement that cardiovascular exercise is a great way to lose weight quickly and efficiently, both aerobic exercisers and weight lifters debate whether weight lifting actually burns a meaningful amount of calories.

Popularity of Weight Training

The gym industry has seen a definite move from pure cardiovascular exercise to weight lifting and strength training. During the past decade, the number of gym attendees who lift weights has increased by a staggering 76 percent, and weight lifting has become one of America’s most popular exercise trends.

When Fat is Burned

Higher metabolic activity burns fat. Obviously, metabolism increases during exercise and fat is subsequently burned. Even after intense cardiovascular exercise, fat continues to burn as the metabolism stays elevated. Weight training also raises metabolic levels, but what is not commonly known is that these levels remain elevated longer after weight training. Some intense weight lifters have documented that their metabolism levels have remained elevated even days after an initial workout.

Keep the Burn Going

 Weight Lifting photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Weight Lifting photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Gym attendees need to maximize the fat burning effect of exercise, and that can be accomplished by a combination of cardiovascular and strength training activities. During strength training, microscopic muscle tissues are actually torn, and a recuperation period is necessary. This is why weight lifters do not exercise the same body parts on consecutive days. During the recuperation period, muscle metabolism is still at a higher level as the body attempts to repair damaged fibers. At this point, cardiovascular exercise should be added. Low stress cardio after high stress strength training is a great way to keep body metabolism at a high level.

Don’t Lose That Muscle Mass

Another important reason to combine weight lifting with cardio activities is that too much pure cardio can cause a loss of muscle mass. High levels of muscle mass help keep metabolism elevated, and strength training is the only way to prevent a loss of that valuable muscle tissue.

The Answer

Weight lifting alone can burn fat and weight lifters can many times see a greatly elevated heart rate after intense lifting. Cardio devotees will almost always see an elevated heart rate, but they need to add strength training to avoid muscle loss. The best answer for consistent weight loss is a combined regimen of intense strength training along with consistent cardiovascular exercise.


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