If you have been reading my blog for awhile, or have worked with me personally, you already know that I believe weight training is the key to losing fat and maintaining a healthy weight.
For a long time, the prevailing theory has been that adding extra muscle makes all the difference to your metabolism. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. However, in most cases, it is not enough to explain the increases in resting metabolism.
I recently read some research that may help explain why weight training is so important. In the ACSM’s Certified News, Dr. Wayne Westcott recently published an article that helped break it down in a new way.
He described a recent study that theorizes the answer is not so much how much muscle you have but the act of participating in a regular weight training program to maintain and grow muscle, remodeling it so to speak. The study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, included 16 participants. The participants performed a resistance training program of eight sets of 6 repetitions of 8 basic exercises.
After the training session, the resting energy expenditure of the participants was measured at 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours. The participants averaged an 8% elevation in resting energy expenditure over the 72 hour period.
So what does this mean? Well, if you look at it logically the participants couldn’t have gained enough muscle mass in a 72 hour period to justify an 8% increase in metabolism. What they were experiencing during that time, however, was the remodeling of muscles tissue. Weight training causes microscopic tears in the muscle. The body works to repair those tears and it is this process that actually causes the muscle to get stronger and grow.
Based on the team’s findings, they believe that it is this healing and remodeling process that causes the boost in resting energy expenditure. The body needs more energy to repair and strengthen the tissue. So it’s not so much how much muscle you add to your frame, but the routine of regular strength training that increases your metabolism.
I find this research fascinating and encouraging. For those of us who struggle to add mass (most females), this means that weight training is still extremely beneficial. A regular weight routine that is challenging will help keep fat at bay, preserve lean mass from the aging process and keep us healthy, even if we don’t increase lean mass substantially.
Moral of the story, keep picking up those weights! Change your routine every 4-6 weeks to keep it challenging and make sure you weight train at least 2 times a week to keep your metabolism humming.