When it comes to strength training to lose weight, there are a few questions afoot, if you're more used to pavement pounding cardio. Like: how many sessions is enough? What sort of time frames are you looking at? What should you be lifting?
To get the inside track, Women's Health UK's deputy editor went on a training mission with three-time Olympian and Roar Fitness personal trainer Sarah Lindsey.
Here's what happened.
Strength training for weight loss: what went down
When Sarah asked me to tell her about my eating habits, my default was to lie – or at least tweak the truth – like when the doctor asks how many units of alcohol you put away every week.
No one wants to admit to a former Olympian and the owner of an iron will that there comes a point most days when you cave to Pret’s chocolate corn cakes.
In a chance to work with three-time Olympian and Roar Fitness personal trainer Sarah Lindsey, I worked this week to increase my strength training to lose weight. I went from being 78kgs to 61kg in 12 weeks and by only working out three days a week.
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Weight lifting for weight loss: The lifestyle I followed
First things first, we had to break down my eating (and drinking habits). Even to someone who is a firm believer in nailing nutrition even before you pick up a dumbbell.
My usual breakfast and lunch were easy: fat-free yoghurt mixed with a scoop of chocolate protein powder, followed by a tuna and egg or chicken salad.
So far, so low-cal, which was forever my aim as I tend to eat more in the evenings.
My hunger would get the better of me later in the day, so I’d pick up a pack of the aforementioned chocolate corn cakes mid-afternoon and often eat one dinner while cooking another.
Living alone meant creamy pasta and one too many fajita wraps went undetected.
Lifting weights to lose weight: The diet change
Sarah’s focus was on me eating way more, but only the good stuff.
The switch to egg whites, fresh animal protein and vegetables, not sullied by added sugars or lots of ‘healthy’ fats, tested me. I mean, how many ways can you serve up chicken breast?
But actually, I found turkey mince to be a bit of a revelation – roll it into balls with some garlic and sage and you have, my friends, the best bit of your Christmas dinner to eat as a weekday lunch. Being more creative and batch cooking did get easier, although the constant search for Tupperware was the bane of my life.
Strength training for beginners: The change in my sweat sessions
Having forever been a cardio girl (I fully credit suburban Jazzercise classes for getting me through a break-up) I was terrified of lifting. I’d never thought to use strength training to lose weight.
I spent the first week downplaying my attempts in case Sarah had been forced to start me off on the tiny weights. I was definitely scared of using strength training to lose weight.
I’m still baffled that my results came from just three hours of strength training at Roar Fitness each week.
Our programme comprised one back and chest session, one legs and shoulders session and then a third of arm exercises to try to build my upper body in line with my bigger bottom half.
I was equally shocked that delayed onset muscle soreness never really hit (honestly), despite not ever having done much strength training to lose weight, but that might well be down to the magnesium salt baths I took a few times a week.
My strength training support system
For me, support is everything – and having a goal to work towards, especially one that involved other people made the process far easier.
Letting myself down comes easy, but knowing Sarah was putting her all into my strength training to lose weight (she’s a total pro, and now a friend) and the unwavering cheerleading my boyfriend provided every step of the way meant that should an early morning or doughnut craving get the better of me, I could see it off – because proving I could do this to myself and them was far more important.
Strength training for weight loss: The review
They bandy around 60 days as the time it takes to break a bad habit or form a healthy one – and I’m happy to say a preference to eat savoury at breakfast has stuck.
Eggs have become my go-to, paired with something that provides an additional hit of protein and fats, with low-fat dairy taking a backseat.
After strength training to lose weight, the shapeless size 12s in my wardrobe no longer fit, and those few key (size eight) pieces I was never prepared to ditch are back in outfit rotation.
Being a pear shape, I’m used to dropping weight from my upper body first, but I’m impressed by how I’ve torched excess – no doubt dangerous – fat from all over my body through my strength training to lose weight.
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved through my strength training to lose weight with Sarah in three months (the puritanical Brit in me worries that borders on arrogance and self-indulgence, but it’s true) and I’m thrilled I’ve managed to navigate holidays, weddings and peak stress without giving in and letting my health and body goals fall to last priority.
I’ve got body confidence and mindful habits fit for a Women’s Health staffer – bring on the next challenge.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health UK.