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Strength training: an effective way to burn fat

by Philippe Baudoin © Copyright

Burn fat by gaining weight!

Strength training can be a more effective way for burning fat than cardio training. It is not just a matter of developing muscles. By increasing base metabolism it helps the body consume more calories even at rest. When combined with cardio training, weight training is an excellent way to eliminate fat even when sleeping.

Metabolism and fat burning

A wrong understanding

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Many people think strength training is only for developing muscles and does not allow to burn fat. This is incorrect. Strength training, by developing muscle mass, increases base metabolism and therefore helps eliminate fat in the long term. As muscles are heavier than fat, you may slightly put on weight but at the same time get slimer ! Read also our article Strength training: many benefits.


Metabolism is the set of transformations that take place within the cells of our bod :

  • To produce energy from nutrients (catabolism)
  • To synthesize molecules that our cells need to live (anabolism)

In general metabolism, expressed in kilocalories, can be seen as the total energy spent by a person within 24 hours.

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) or resting metabolism is the minimal amount of energy, in calories, that our body needs to function at rest. i.e the energy spent to maintain vital functions in our organism at complete rest: maintaining brain, body temperature, cell renewing, muscle activity. Basal metabolism depends on several parameters: gender, height, weight and age. For example, the BMR of a 35 year old male weighing 70 kg and measuring 1 m 70 is approximately 1640 kcal. That of a woman of the same age weighing 60 kilos and measuring 1 m 65 is 1370 kcal.

When you eat fewer calories than what your body spends then your body takes energy from fat storage (triglycerides stored in the skin and around the organs) and from sugars (glycogen stored in the muscles and liver). This leads to weight loss. This does not mean you should fast to lose weight or that you can eat any type of food : if you do not eat enough or if you do sports without a sufficient and balanced caloric intake, your body may have to dip into muscle mass. Yet, the loss of muscle fibers is an irreversible process after the age of 25 years.

More calories spent by increasing metabolism

Burning more calories is a matter of increasing metabolism. This can be done several ways. For example, eating consumes energy and therefore increases energy expenditure. Temperature has the same effect: a cold shower forces the body to burn calories to maintain its internal temperature. Physical activity, cardio training for example, greatly increases metabolism, not only during the event but several hours later. You can find more information about this topic in our article how to effectively increase metabolism to burn fat.

The same applies at rest: if you increase your basal metabolic rate, you will spend more calories during inactivity, such as sleep!

Strength training increases resting metabolism

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Strength training develops muscle mass. The gain in weight helps to increase basal metabolism. Moreover, during recovery, the muscle spends energy to rebuild, therefore increasing metabolism even more. Finally, the more you build muscles, the more they will consume energy. This is true both during physical activity (endurance sports) and rest (basal metabolism).

To illustrate this principle, let us take the example of a car. Our muscles are comparable to the engine. Glycogen and fat can be considered as petrol. The petrol consumption of the car depends on two parameters: the size of the engine (cylinder) and its activity (regime). The car will consume more at high speed or on a slope. The same principle applies to endurance sports: the faster you run or harder you workout, the more you spend calories. Now, increasing the size of the engine (changing to a larger cylinder) will cause the car to spend more petrol because its engine is greedier. Similarly, developing muscles helps the body spend more calories, therefore more fat, during physical activity but also at rest!

Cardio or strength training ? Lose fat while you sleep !

Endurance sports increase metabolism during workout time and only during a few hours after.

The effects of running for instance last up to 24 hours. During high intensity efforts such as interval training workouts, metabolism can stay higher for up to 72 hours after the workout! During this time, more fat is burnt including during sleep.

In comparison, a weight training session allows to spend less calories but its effect on metabolism is more durable. As muscle mass increases with days and muscles spend energy rebuilding, the base metabolic rate increases. Basically the body spends more energy at rest. In the long term, more fat is burnt.

Combining regular weight training and cardiovascular workouts allows to significantly increase basal metabolism so that more fat is burnt during and after the workouts and even during sleep!

Fat is the main source of energy used by the body at rest and during low intensity workouts (more than 80% of the energy spent comes from fat stores). Increasing the resting metabolism therefore helps eliminating fat.

How to build muscles ?

Building muscles consists in increasing muscle mass. After the age of 25 the number of muscle fibers decreases. It is therefore on the volume of fibers that the work must be done. By performing appropriate workouts it is possible to gain between 10 and 15% muscle mass.

To develop muscle mass, 3 conditions are needed. You need:

  • A specific training program made of sets and repetitions with heavy loads
  • A nutritional program rich in protein
  • Rest

Electric muscle stimulation is also a convenient and effective way to build muscles. It is particularly effective to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles.

Training program

Books and Internet talk a lot about how to build muscles and give dedicated programs and workouts. We give here some basic tips. You can find workouts and photos on Akelys website.

Lifting weights or using the body as a weight will help you build muscles:

  • Make several sets of repetitions of the same movement.
  • Do 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions maximum.
  • If you are able to perform more than 20 repetitions of the same exercise, it means that the weight is not high enough. Increase it.
  • Plan short breaks between sets (1 to 2 minutes maximum).
  • Plan 2 to 3 sessions per week of 20 to 30 minutes each.


In order to gain muscle mass effectively, muscles needs protein. They also need carbohydrates as a source of energy and lipids for cell construction.

The balance between proteins, carbohydrates and fats is different than that of a conventional diet. More protein is needed and less fat and carbohydrates. Protein should represent 40% of the daily calorie intake versus 15% in a standard meal. To make your life easier, you can find weight gainers that you can eat as a meal . They contain the right balance between protein, carbohydrates and fats. We recommend Protéine Max Definition at Anastore, a shop that proposes products with no artificial sweetener or flavoring, no GMOs and very few additives).

Diagram muscle gain versus standard meal
Differences between a standard meal and a meal to gain muscle mass

Please note that this particular diet should be limited in time (4 to 6 weeks maximum) and only be conducted in the specific context of a mass uptake diet. A massive protein intake can disturb the body, cause bloating and stomach pain. Consult a specialist before undertaking such a diet.

Also make sure you nutrition brings the daily amount of calories you need and contain the nutrients needed by your body (vitamins, fibers, etc.). Drink a lot and do not skip meals, especially breakfast which helps the body resume activity and prevents your body to consume muscle mass.


Consider 24 to 48 hours of rest between 2 workout sessions so to allow your muscles to recover. It is indeed when resting that muscles grow. During the workouts, muscle fibers suffer micro-tears. The muscle rebuilds and strengthens during the inactivity, such to become stronger than before the effort.

Do not perform weight training and cardio sessions on the same day.

Equipment and fitness products

You will find fitness and strength equipment at our partners:

Compute your basic metabolic rate

Sex: ManWoman
Weigh: kg (eg. : 70)
Size: cm (eg. : 175)
Age: ans (eg. : 35)
Your base metabolic rate is kcal per day.
Philippe Baudoin
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Photo credit : Adobe Stock. This article contains commercial links.