Jun2011 Volume 7‎ > ‎

Move June

5 Tips: Muscle Mass is an Ally - Even for Weight Loss

There are many out there whose sole goal in their health and wellness endeavor is weight loss. 
They usually would like to tone up along the way, but are terrified of beefing up and looking like they're on steroids with bulging muscles and veins.  Or, they are so focused on the number, that they are afraid the extra muscle mass will cause them to gain weight.  This seems to be a concern of just about everyone, so read on to dispel some of the myths that surround strength training and weight loss.  

  1. Will I gain weight if I strength train:   For most people, weight loss is about fat loss.  However, strength training is about muscle growth.  So what the scale says is ultimately about which of those two processes are happening faster.  If new muscle tissue is growing faster than fat tissue is lost, then a person may actually gain weight.  If fat is being lost faster than muscle tissue is being gained, then the person will lose weight.  But keep in mind, muscle tissue is more dense than fat tissue which means that although two people could be of equal weight, they may actually appear very and be physically very different.  The one with the increased lean muscle mass will have a more toned-type body, and trimmed waistline - two indications of better overall health!  Isn't that the ultimate goal? 
  2. Will I get large muscles if I strength train: It is hard work to build big muscles, it won't just happen by accident.  A large portion of muscle gain is related to calorie intake, and if calorie intake is below calorie expenditure, you will not get big muscles.  Although muscle mass may increase, to really build large muscles a significant calorie increase is required.  "Getting Ripped" also has nothing to do with muscle size per se, rather it has to do with how much subcutaneous fat is on top of the muscle.  Remove this fat, the muscle will show and you will be ripped.  Strength training by itself will not cause one to get ripped.
  3. The risks of not strength training while losing weight:  Here's the problem with weight gain and weight loss, chances are likely that while you were gaining the weight that you'd now like to lose, you weren't strength training, and therefore most of the weight gained is added fat, but when you lose weight, you lose BOTH fat AND muscle.  It is never good to decrease muscle mass for many reasons, and weight loss without some sort of strength training goal may lead to primarily losing valuable muscle rather than fat.
  4. Added benefits of strength training for weight loss:  There are multiple benefits of strength training including reduced risk of injury, increase bone density, and increase neuromuscular efficiency (ability of the muscles and brain to interact quickly) to name a few, but it is also beneficial for weight loss.  Not only do you burn calories during your strength workout (around 500-600 per hour depending on intensity), but an increase in muscle mass will also increase your resting metabolic rate.  Resting Metabolic Rate is the rate at which your body burns calories just to function aka running the vital organs.  A pound of muscle burns approximately 70 more calories per day than a pound of fat.  
    Which means if you manage to lose 1 pound of fat and gain 1 pound of muscle, you may not lose weight, but you look better and burn 70 more calories per day or 25,500 calories in year.  Since it takes 3500 calories to burn 1 pound of fat, that's a weight loss of 7 pounds per year compared to what you would have done. 7 pounds per year doesn't sound like much, but it generally gets put on much slower.  Most people don't even realize the 3-4 pounds per year that are being put on until 10-15 years down the road when the scale is reading 30-60 pounds heavier. 
  5. How to increase muscle mass:  It is imperative to incorporate at least 2 total body strength workouts in per week to your workout routine.  These workouts should be between 30-60 minutes long and the weights should be heavy enough to experience fatigue by the end of each set (approximately 10-20 reps) while ensuring you use of proper form to avoid injury.  Nutritionally it is important to eat a combination of carbs and protein (4:1 ratio generally recommended) immediately following the workout to ensure the muscles have the proper nutrition to repair themselves fully and maximize results.  In addition, eating breakfast shortly after waking helps to preserve muscle mass.  During sleep, the body has undergone several hours without nutritional input and tends to metabolize protein in the body aka muscle.  To stop the body from eating away at the muscle mass, you have to "break" your "fast" - "break" - "fast" - "breakfast".  It's the most important meal of the day and the sooner you can get it in, the more muscle you will preserve and the sooner you'll start the metabolic fire burning for the day.
Don't be afraid of weight training if you have a weight loss goal.  Not only will weight training not give you undesired results, but it is crucial to a successful and long term weight loss plan.  Added muscle mass is the gift that keeps on giving, so be sure to include it as part of your exercise routine no matter what your goals are.  If you're unsure of proper form and exercises that should be done, be sure to consult a professional who can help you craft a plan that will ensure you're reaching your goals.