If fat loss and muscle definition are your goals, performing strength training exercises regularly is often an effective strategy. However, lifting weights on a regular basis isn't a guarantee you'll burn body fat or lose weight. Combine resistance training with an appropriate diet to help meet your weight management and body composition goals.
Combining strength-training exercises (such as weight lifting) with a reduced-calorie diet plan can help you shed unwanted body fat, especially in your midsection. A study published in 2013 in the American Journal of Hypertension reports that while weight training without dieting doesn't affect body composition, reducing your calorie intake combined with weightlifting helps reduce trunk fat and prevents loss of lean muscle mass that can occur while dieting.
Dieting and resistance training may help lower your blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for developing heart disease. A study published in 2012 in Nutricion Hospitalaria found that combining weight training with a reduced-calorie diet led to lower low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol and total cholesterol levels in obese study subjects with high blood cholesterol. Researchers who conducted this study found that lower protein intakes, consisting of less than 22 percent of total calories from protein, led to greater improvements in LDL values.
Resistance training generally doesn't lead to weight loss unless you combine it with a reduced-calorie diet. The studies published in 2013 in the American Journal of Hypertension and in 2012 in Nutricion Hospitalaria both found that combining reduced-calorie diets with resistance training aids in weight loss and reduces waist circumference. If weight loss is your goal, aim to reduce your food intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Though you might think lowering your caloric intake means a reduction in body mass and strength, adding resistance exercise to your plan can actually boost your strength even if you're losing weight. A study published in 2008 in Medicine and Science and Sports and Exercise found that older adults who followed a reduced-calorie diet and strength trained regularly increased their strength, despite a reduction in muscle mass that occurred during weight loss.
Improved Diabetic Control
If you're overweight or obese and have diabetes, a reduced-calorie weight-loss diet combined with exercise can help you get your blood sugar levels under control. Dieting, with or without resistance training, helps improve glycemic control and heart-disease risk factors in overweight and obese study subjects with type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in 2010 in Diabetes Care. Try cutting out sugary drinks like soda, sweets, and refined grains (such as white bread and white rice) to lower your caloric intake.
An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as TheNest.com and JillianMichaels.com.