Resistance training helps build up muscle mass. With increased muscle mass, one tends to burn more calories at rest. But does this mean resistance training is an effective way to lose weight?

Resistance training vs. aerobic exercises

Actually, the energy expended during resistance training is not as great as the energy expended during prolonged (at least 30 minutes) low to moderate intensity aerobic exercises, says Mr Png Eng Keat, a physiotherapist at the Department of Physiotherapy, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group.

“Resistance training alone is never recommended for weight loss and neither should it be the cornerstone of a weight loss programme,” he adds. Between aerobic exercises and resistance training, aerobics are more effective for burning off fat.

But still, muscular people burn off more calories, right?

Does increasing muscle mass help in weight loss?

The idea that increasing muscle mass is enough to burn more calories is a myth, says Mr Png. While it is true that increasing muscle mass boosts the resting metabolic rate, the energy expended at rest per kg of muscle mass is low – between 17 to 33 kcal per day, which is only about 175 kcal on average per week.

Besides, resistance training usually has a stee​per learning curve than aerobic training for beginners, which means it may take longer to attain the proper intensity of training. Once that is achieved, muscle gain may start at a growth rate of about 200 to 400 g of muscle mass per week.

In short, for a beginner who wants to lose weight, increasing muscle mass in order to burn more calories alone would not produce results, explains Mr Png.

How much should you exercise?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends a healthy caloric deficit of 500 to 1,000 kcal per day in order to lose weight. To lose 0.5 to 1 kg per week -- a safe limit for weight loss – you need a deficit of 3,500 to 7,000 kcal per week.

According to the ACSM, prolonged low to moderate intensity aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, jogging or cycling are good for weight loss. It recommends about 200 to 300 minutes per week of such physical activity for long-term weight loss.

Although resistance training shouldn’t be the focus of a weight-loss exercise plan, some elements should be incorporated to maintain or increase muscle mass in individuals, recommends Mr Png. Besides, muscles contribute to joint protection while one engages in weight bearing aerobic exercise.

Read on for tips on​ how to determine your fat burning zone and ​stay fit.

​Ref: P16​