Strength training is one of the best ways to change your body and feel stronger — but is there a way to burn even more calories and get the most out of your workout? We consulted our expert, physiologist Nicole Aurigemma from the Penn State Muscle Biology Lab, to give us some pointers on how to get the most out of our weight and resistance training.
Here's the deal: first, coffee. Then, lift heavy, focus on legs, and grab that protein shake after. Get the details, then get those gains!
Drink a little coffee or tea before you hit the gym. "Both coffee and green tea contain bioactive compounds (coffee has caffeine and green tea has polyphenolic catechins like epigallocatechin gallate), which have been shown to increase metabolic rate and fat oxidation," Nicole told POPSUGAR "This leads to an overall increase in energy expenditure — meaning more calories are burned — at rest and after exercise."
Lift heavier and try new moves. "Your body adapts to exercise over time, which is why people may complain about exercise plateau," said Nicole. "Try and keep your body guessing through a variety of different exercises, and don't be afraid to lift more weight [heavier weights], providing an added challenge to your muscles." Try starting your reps with a heavier set of weights than you're used to; you can always switch to your drop set and work your way back up!
Don't Skip Legs
While it's important to balance your body and train all muscle groups, the largest muscle groups burn the most calories. Where are the largest muscle groups? The legs. Nicole told us because these muscles have more (and longer) muscle fibres, "they contain more energy-dependent contractile units," which means they use more calories. She suggested targeting these groups with "squats, lunges, and deadlifts," to use "more energy stores to fuel the movements, therefore burning more than if you targeted smaller muscle groups."
"Eating a protein-rich snack or smoothie after lifting not only provides your cells with the amino acids (aka building blocks) necessary to make more protein," (this is essential for keeping your muscles strong!) "but it also further stimulates protein synthesis." What is protein synthesis? Long story short, it's a cellular process that "increases the amount of metabolically active tissue," which in turn "uses more energy and thus burns more calories." End goal: achieved.
"It has been found that 20 grams of protein after resistance exercise training maximally stimulated protein synthesis rates," said Nicole."Not only does it aid in recovery of the muscles you have exercised, but it also leads to more energy-consuming muscle, burning more calories over time." Translation: get your protein shake in after your sweat-sesh to burn more calories.