Resistance Training and Metabolism

Resistance Training and Metabolism

by Kristin Williams, PT, DPT

As I near the golden age of 50 in just a few short months, I find myself more and more interested in resistance training and its benefits. As a matter of fact I just joined a gym for the first time in well over a decade and the weight room is the main reason! I love that LYT has been focusing on the benefits of resistance training this month and one benefit that I’ve always heard about but never really understood the “why” behind was how it improves one’s metabolism. Knowing that menopause is right around the corner has me concerned about how my metabolism may be impacted. Full disclosure is that I’ve always been blessed with a high metabolism, but I’m concerned and expect that one day that will change. So I decided to do a little research on how resistance training and metabolism. 

The first question that one could ask is what exactly is metabolism? Simply stated, it’s the chemical reactions in the body’s cells that change the food we eat into energy, which we need to move, breathe and think. Thousands of metabolic reactions are happening at the same time to keep our cells healthy and working. The resting metabolic rate is the rate at which a person’s body burns energy in the form of calories while at rest. This can be affected by a person’s genetic makeup, health issues, and by body composition, which is where resistance training comes into play. 

When we exercise, we are breaking down and rebuilding muscle. Research has shown that resistance training creates a higher degree of muscle damage than aerobic training, and the muscle protein repair/synthesis process is an energy-demanding metabolic process. Estimates suggest that every pound of muscle burns roughly six calories per day at rest. While this may not seem like a lot, it’s three times as many calories as a pound of fat, which burns roughly two calories. So since lean muscle is more metabolically active than fat, a body with more muscle mass will burn more energy (calories) even at rest. This equates to an increase in the resting metabolic rate. Unfortunately for us, starting as early as age 30 the body begins to slowly lose muscle mass. Women lose up to 15% of the total body muscle per decade by the age of 50. So not only are we losing strength, but our metabolism is slowing due to the decrease in muscle as well. 

In addition to changing body composition by increasing the amount of lean muscle, resistance training has been shown to increase the excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) as compared to steady-state aerobic training, like walking or jogging. Also known as oxygen debt, EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to return the body to its resting metabolic rate and explains how your body continues to burn energy after you’ve finished your workout. Similar to how a car has to cool down after it has been running, the body continues to burn calories at rest for a period of time after you exercise. Yet another metabolic perk for resistance training!  

However, not all resistance training modes are created equal when it comes to metabolic benefits. Higher exercise intensities produce higher EPOC values. Performing compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, pull-ups, etc, which recruit the most amount of muscle, and doing them at higher intensities such as HIIT (or plyometric LYT classes), are all great options for higher EPOC values. The same is true for lifting weights to stimulate the most muscle growth for increased metabolism. Finding the resistance that is heavy enough for you to perform only 8-12 reps per set with proper form will increase muscle size as compared to muscular endurance. Increased muscle mass yields increased metabolism…I think we see a pattern here.

I don’t know about you, but I’m properly convinced to stay on my LYT mat doing my online classes which are full of compound bodyweight resistance training movements for the long haul. I’m also convinced that maintaining muscle mass as I age is a good step towards maintaining if not increasing my metabolism as well. If you haven’t checked out our Monthly Challenge called “Get Pumped”, you should! It’s full of resistance training coupled with our traditional LYT method blueprint. A definite win-win situation!



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