Should I Be Resistance Training?

‘Should I be resistance training?’ Yes. ‘What, even when I’m trying to lose weight?’ Yes, absolutely. And anyone who tells you otherwise is an idiot, unless it’s medically unsafe for you. I’ve raised this point many times already, but let me make it perfectly clear, when 99.9% of you talk about losing weight, what you actually mean is losing body fat. You want to lose body fat. Now what’s one of the best ways to lose weight? Well, it’s to lose most of your muscle mass. But what’s one of the worst ways to lose body fat? Well, it’s to lose most of your muscle mass. It cannot be overstated how useful improving, or at least maintaining, your muscle mass is when it comes to fat loss, and more importantly, keeping it off.

Ignoring the fact that when you exercise, you’re going to be burning calories anyway, which is going to help with any calorie deficit you’re trying to achieve. It’s not massive, but it’s going to help. You want to think about how you’re going to look after all that “weight” loss. Again, I’ve mentioned them before, but one of the best examples is the difference between long distance and short distance runners. Now I’m being quite unfair on long distance runners, because really they exercise a hell of a lot, but I’m more referring to both groups burning a lot of body fat, and where the focus of their diet and training is, and the results of that. The short distance runners tend to prioritise maintaining and often increasing their muscle mass, and the way their bodies look reflects that. Without a sensible calorie deficit, resistance training, and adequate protein, during a diet the body is breaking down your muscle mass as well your body fat, because it’s desperate for energy and your muscles are a great and accessible source of that energy, and you’re not using them enough to stop it.

Now it’s true that in a calorie deficit, it’s highly likely you lose some muscle mass anyway, but you can certainly reduce that damage as much as possible. But here’s the important difference between weight loss, and fat loss. If you’re exercising properly, if you’re resistance training, you’ll probably be building your muscles, so you might find that your weight doesn’t drastically change. However, your body shape will. You may not have lost much weight, but you’ve lost body fat. That’s why the focus on weight alone, is a dangerous one. Because it’s not necessarily a true measure of what you want. You need to try and encourage your body to break down and use your fat stores to make up that energy deficit. Again, I’ve mentioned them before, but look at professional rugby players, or American football players. Most of them are heavy, but it’s mostly muscle, and their body fat percentages usually are very low.

You cannot maintain or grow muscles without exercise, and that’s why it’s so important. You need to load your muscles, to ask them to change or adapt. But the benefits go beyond what you see in the mirror. Strength of body, joints, longevity in later life, helping stave off osteoporosis, even improving your mental health. So, how do you want to look and feel? Scrawny or toned? If you want there to be nothing of you, then keep yourself in a calorie deficit, and do little to no exercise, so your body has to eat up your muscle mass. If you want to look more toned or have a more defined physique, feel stronger and fitter, then make sure you’re doing resistance training, and getting enough protein in your diet. Your energy balance is key for fat loss, but exercise can help a whole lot with that. Be safe and sensible with it, and I’ll be back again next week.

Dan Miller

Body Fuel Personal Fitness Trainer