I think a lot of people are intimidated when they first join a gym. They walk in the door and they simply don’t know where to start. Do you use the machines? The dumbbells? Barbells? How heavy should they be? Should they just do cardio?
I’m just guessing here based on my own experience, but I would be willing to bet that most people settle on using machines for weight training, and on cardio. Some people make the huge mistake of only doing cardiovascular exercise.
Weight training is essential for long-term fat loss results.
Our bodies consume calories for energy. Different tissue types require different amounts of energy for maintenance. Fat, for example, uses about two calories per day, per pound. In contrast, one pound of muscle will consume approximately six calories per day!
In other words, muscle burns three times as many calories as fat does. I am sure you have figured out now that the more muscle you have, the more calories you can consume without gaining weight.
Why is this important?
Well, the phrase “use it or lose it” comes to mind, and it applies to your muscles unfortunately. When you introduce a calorie deficit to your body, whether through exercise or diet, or a combination of both, your body will immediately begin turn to stored fuel for nutrients. Ideally, this stored fuel would come entirely in the form of fat. But the body also looks for ways to make itself more efficient, and if it detects that you have more muscle mass than you need, it will begin to use them as a fuel source as well.
This is why so many people who successfully use diet and cardiovascular exercise to lose weight, gain it all back and then some. In the process or losing weight, they have not only lost fat, but also muscle. The end result is a slower metabolism then when they started!
Strength training helps to prevent the loss of muscle mass.
The good news is that when you use your muscles, your body knows it, and will respond accordingly. Depending on many factors, you body will either gain muscle, or at least maintain it. As you gain muscle, your metabolism increases, and as your metabolism increases, you have the potential to burn more fat.
If you maintain your muscle mass during fat loss, you will be far less likely to gain regain you excess fat later on.
Weight loss should not be your goal anyway.
The scale is the absolute worst tool you can use to measure fitness. Firstly, your weight can fluctuate by several pounds in a single day, depending on what you’ve eaten, how much water you have drunk, or even when you last went to the bathroom. It’s terribly inaccurate, and even if it was, weight loss is a useless way to measure fitness anyway.
The problem is that the scale does not know the difference between fat, muscle and water. Losing two pounds of fat is good. Losing two pounds of muscle is bad. Losing two pounds of water means you just woke up, or you’ve exercised, or it’s hot outside.
Your goal should be fat loss, not weight loss. It is entirely possible, and healthy to lose fat without losing weight, and this is done primarily through strength training.