We within the Better Body Group regularly endorse the use of resistance training for fat loss above any other method of training, and if I had to create a fat loss hierarchy it would look like this: Nutrition > Weights/Resistance training (e.g. squats) > HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) (e.g. sled) >>> Steady State/Endurance training (e.g. jogging, cycling, cross trainer) > Wine and cheese tasting
An hour’s worth of jogging would result in a similar calorie output to an hour’s worth of resistance training and interval training. So WHY? I hear you cry, can’t I just go for a jog and look like Jessica Ennis? Well don’t despair I’m about to tell you… numerous studies have shown that better fat loss is achieved through resistance training and/or intervals than endurance training.
There are a number of reasons why resistance training in particular and also HIIT are more effective for fat loss:
• Increased fat oxidation – in layman’s terms this means an increase in the enzymes responsible taking the fat present in the bloodstream and muscles and using it for energy. Exercise that rapidly depletes muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) is the main cause for an increase in fat oxidation. High repetition resistance training (10-15 reps) does this best, while endurance training does not deplete muscle carbohydrate very rapidly at all.
• Maintain or build muscle mass – before all you ladies start worrying, no you aren’t about to look like Jodie Marsh, in fact men have about 10x more testosterone than women and even then most find it difficult to gain muscle mass. By doing resistance training you can maintain the muscle mass you have and focus on losing body fat. Endurance training may lead to a decrease in muscle mass, reducing metabolic rate and calories burnt at rest.
• Increased Metabolism & Fat Burning hormone output – the hormonal response to any kind of high-intensity training is significantly different than in response to low-intensity training. Resistance training and HIIT produce large amounts of hormones such as growth hormone, adrenaline and noradrenaline all of which are essential for mobilising your fat stores in the 48 hours after training. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are actually the primary hormones for mobilising fat from the fat cells for you to use for energy, so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that exercise that produces those hormones in large quantities (resistance training) will cause more fat loss than exercise that doesn’t (e.g. jogging).
• Some anecdotal findings – one of the most glaring flaws in the research is the effect of interval training on hunger/appetite, after all a heavy dose of prowler/sled doesn’t exactly leave you feeling like eating a big meal, or stomaching anything for that matter. Whilst long endurance efforts often leave people feeling starving and ready to destroy McDonalds.
Joe Birch, Blackheath and Sevenoaks personal trainer.