You want an extra 5 to 10 pounds of new muscle.
But you’re also overweight and need to lose fat.
Is it better to focus on losing fat or building muscle first?
If you’re an overweight beginner, losing fat and building muscle aren’t mutually exclusive. With the right type of diet and training program, you can do both at the same time.
In fact, training programs designed to boost muscle growth just so happen to be an extremely effective way to lose fat.
Here’s a quote from University of Wisconsin research team, who found that a short 31-minute workout comprising just three exercises (the bench press, power clean, and squat) increased the rate at which fat was burned for almost two days after the workout was over.
“Data from our current study supports our initial hypothesis that maximized post-exercise metabolic costs would occur as a result of resistance programs designed to enhance muscle hypertrophy.”
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In other words, the type of training that gives you the biggest post-exercise boost in metabolism is also the type of training that will make your muscles bigger.
Lifting weights also burns more calories during the workout itself than you’ve been led to believe.
Traditionally, energy expenditure during exercise has been estimated by calculating the amount of oxygen you use. However, this method isn’t particularly accurate when it comes to intense intermittent exercise, such as strength training.
“Weight training must be considered as an example where oxygen uptake may not properly interpret energy expenditure,” writes Christopher Scott, a Professor at the University of Southern Maine.
“The occlusion of blood flow during intense muscular contraction, breath holding, the presence presence of an oxygen deficit due to the brevity of weight training exercises, and the absence of a physiological steady state all reveal the incomplete ability of oxygen uptake to quantify energy expenditure during a heavy set of arm curls, leg press, or bench press, for example.”
As exercise intensity increases, both the anaerobic and post-exercise recovery (EPOC) components make an increasingly larger contribution to calorie expenditure. Leaving out either of these components, as many studies do, results in an incomplete estimate of the number of calories burned.
Scott has measured blood lactate levels during strength training and used them to estimate anaerobic calorie expenditure.
Depending on a few variables (such as the size of the muscle you’re training, the amount of weight you’re lifting and how many reps you’re doing) he estimates that blood lactate contributions to a single set range from 3 to 12 additional calories burned.
In fact, some researchers have put the energy cost of certain types of resistance training as high as 40 calories per minute.
What this all means is that resistance training is a far more powerful tool when it comes to fat loss than most people realize.
So if you’re an overweight beginner and you’re not sure whether to focus on losing fat or building muscle, go for the former. Combining strength training and a calorie deficit will allow you to lose fat and build some muscle at the same time.
If you’re overweight and you’re not a beginner, I’d also recommend that you focus on fat loss. A lean and mean 175 pounds will always look a lot more impressive than a soft and pudgy 200 pounds.
Your routine should be based on exercises with a high metabolic demand. I’m talking about squats, deadlifts, rows, chin-ups (or pulldowns) and presses (bench press and overhead press), using a weight that limits you to between 5 and 15 repetitions per set. This type of workout will help you gain muscle while at the same time maximizing calorie expenditure.
You can’t train this way on a daily basis. That’s why I recommend combining strength training with some kind of low-intensity activity, such as a brisk walk first thing in the morning.
Walking or cycling at a low intensity won’t interfere with your performance in the gym, which is not the case with more intense forms of exercise, such as HIIT.
Strength training is one of the best ways to change your body composition, and should be done from day one of a fat loss program.
FREE: The Flat Belly Cheat Sheet
If you want less flab and more muscle when you look down at your abs (or where they should be), check out The Flat Belly Cheat Sheet.
It's a quick guide, which you can read online or keep as a PDF, that tells you exactly how to lose your gut and get back in shape. To get a FREE copy of the cheat sheet sent to you, please enter your email address in the box below, and hit the “send it now” button.
- Muscle Evo – a training program for people who want to build muscle and get strong while minimizing fat gain.
- MX4 – a joint-friendly training program for gaining muscle as fast as humanly possible.
- Gutless – a simple, straightforward, science-backed nutrition system for getting rid of fat.