Why you SHOULD be lifting Weights in order to LOSE Weight

There are plenty of gym myths that support the idea that you shouldn’t lift weights if you don’t want to get big and bulky. There are also gym myths that say that a lot of cardio is all you need to lose weight. Let's dispel both of those myths right now.

Lifting weights isn’t just for people who want to get bigger and gain weight. It is also essential for people who want to slim down and lose weight. The primary function of weightlifting (and general strength training) is to stimulate muscle growth and increase muscle mass. However, even if your goal is weight-loss, building more muscle can be very beneficial for you in reaching that goal. Let’s break this down.

From a fitness standpoint, ignoring bones and internal organs, our bodies are primarily composed of muscle and fat and both of these play a large role in regulating our basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is essentially the amount of energy a person’s body uses in order to sustain all bodily functions and processes while at rest. This means that if a person were to sit and do nothing all day, they would burn a number of calories that is about equal to their BMR. BMR is usually what people are referring to when they say “I have a fast/slow metabolism.” A person with a higher/faster BMR will find it easier to stay lean due to the extra calories they are burning on a regular basis in contrast to a person with a lower/slower BMR who might find it more challenging to to stay lean because they don’t burn those extra calories. Now let’s talk about how muscle and fat influence BMR. 


Muscle is a much more metabolically active tissue than fat is, which means that it requires many more calories to maintain. On average, the body might burn 10-20 calories per day in order to maintain 1 pound of muscle in comparison to burning around 5 calories per day in order to maintain 1 pound of fat. This means that the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns maintaining it. Overtime, these calories add up, leading to quicker weight loss (assuming all other factors of an effective fitness program are present). Let’s say that person A has 20 more pounds of muscle than person B. Do the math ([10 calories per pound]x[20 pounds] = 200 calories) and person A ends up burning around 200 more calories per day than person B. Over the course of a week, those calories add up to a total 1400 calories (200 x 7 days). On a daily basis, the incremental differences in muscle mass between person A and person B may not seem like much by themselves, but over time building more muscle can lead to significantly more calories burned.

Now let’s connect the entire cycle. Weightlifting creates a stimulus for muscle growth and muscle growth increases basal metabolic rate. A higher basal metabolic rate increases daily calories burned and more calories burned helps lead to weight-loss! It’s important to remember that weightlifting is not the only factor in losing weight as proper nutrition and cardio are also important elements that make a huge difference. However, weightlifting* is something that can significantly improve your results if utilized correctly and I recommend implementing it in all fitness programs!

- Ahmad, Certified Personal Trainer

*By weightlifting, I mean both specifically lifting weights as well as general strength training.