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Does Lifting Weights Burn Fat?

By Kate Richey ; Updated July 18, 2017

Fat is the primary fuel used during aerobic lipolysis. This particular energy system is employed during activities that are long in duration and cardiovascular in nature, such as marathons. Although weightlifting indirectly contributes to fat loss, it is not a primary method. The most effective way to lose body fat is to participate in a daily fitness routine of both cardiovascular and strengthening exercises.

Current Recommendations

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. In addition to your cardiovascular routine, it is also recommended that you engage in a minimum of two to three days of strength-training exercises per week. Greater health benefits can be realized by participating in 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardiovascular exercise weekly.

Muscle Contribution

Resistance exercises use carbohydrates as fuel more efficiently than fats. This is largely because strengthening exercises are generally shorter in duration and cause a less drastic increase in heart rate. However, increasing your lean muscle mass can contribute to fat loss. Lean muscle, even at rest, burns more calories than body fat. Therefore, by increasing the amount of lean muscle that you carry you decrease your amount of body fat.

Determine Your Goal

If weight loss is your overall fitness goal, a combination of cardiovascular training and resistance training coupled with a healthy diet is your best course of action. Often, weight training alone will cause an increase in body weight because of an increase in lean muscle tissue. Activities such as walking, running, cycling and dancing burn a greater number of calories because your heart is required to work harder. This increased workload can be attributed to the simultaneous activation of multiple muscle groups. Generally, resistance training isolates each muscle group.

Weight-Loss Formula

To lose weight you must consistently burn more calories than you consume. One pound of fat is approximately 3,500 calories. To lose 1 pound of fat per week, you would need to create a daily caloric deficit of about 500 calories. To gear your body toward weight loss, reduce your portion sizes, focus your diet on healthy food choices and engage in a daily fitness routine of cardio and strengthening exercises.

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