You can’t change your genes, but you just might be able to change how they work in your body. And in the case of those that play a role in fat loss, pumping iron could be key.
In addition to affecting the genes in your muscles, resistance training also influences the genes in your fat, says a new study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. After subjecting participants to eight weeks of heavy resistance training, researchers found that the expression of two genes found in fat tissue decreased by around 20%. Participants also had a boost in muscle mass and fat burning, as well as a drop in the protein adiponectin, which plays a role in fat breakdown.
Great! But…what exactly does gene expression mean, anyway? It’s actually pretty simple. Similar to how you’d consider the occasion and number of guests to plan the menu for a party, genes use information to create proteins that determine an organism’s characteristics. In this case, it appears that certain genes might be paying attention to the type of exercise that you do—and use that information to decide whether your body should burn fat or store it.
Researchers aren’t sure why, though. “We didn’t expect that the gene expression would decrease following resistance training, so it’s hard to explain the findings,” says lead study author Malin Alvehus, PhD. What they do know? The combination of strength training and cardio seems to encourage the body to use fat as fuel more than cardio alone. “So I think it can be a good idea to add resistance training to your exercise regimen to burn more fat and facilitate fat loss,” Alvehus says.