Weights for Strength Training, High Fiber and Belly Fat

Q: How do I know how much weight to use for strength training?
Q: Is it true that high-fiber diets reduce belly fat?

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: How do I know how much weight to use for strength training?

A: That’s an important question. Strength training (also called weight or resistance training) strengthens muscles and bones, improves insulin function and is vital for true fitness. Some studies suggest that many beginners start with weights too light to see benefits, which may explain why they might not stick with it. On the other hand, weights that are too heavy are not safe. Whether we use free weights, Nautilus-type machines or elastic bands, fitness experts say that we should work with a weight or resistance that we can lift at least eight times using proper form while maintaining normal breathing. When we can lift it more than 12 times (or perhaps more than 15 times for older or more frail people advised to use lighter weights lifted more times), it’s time to switch to weights five to ten percent heavier. For overall safety and best results, proper form is extremely important, so make sure you are learning your technique from someone properly trained.

Q: Is it true that high-fiber diets reduce belly fat?

A: Eating plenty of high-fiber vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans may help avoid excess body fat, including belly fat, but research has not yet clearly shown whether all methods of increasing dietary fiber (including fiber supplements) necessarily reduce abdominal fat. Waistline fat includes the pinchable fat deposited just under the skin and “visceral fat” that nestles deep around abdominal organs and seems most strongly related to risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. People who eat more whole grains are more likely to have a healthy weight and waistline than are those with diets high in refined grains. Some studies also link eating more refined grains (like white bread) with greater yearly increases in weight and waist. Replacing refined grains and sweets with whole grains could lead to smaller surges in blood sugar and reduced insulin levels. In theory, these lower insulin levels could shift metabolic processes to favor fat burning instead of fat storage, but research has not yet proven such an effect. If foods high in fiber fill you up faster so that you consume fewer calories, this could certainly help lose belly fat. For this to work, of course, you need to pay attention to hunger signals and stop eating when you start to feel nearly full.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $91 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.


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