Do you want to lose weight? Or do you want to lose fat?
“I want to lose weight first. Then I’ll start using weights to tone and sculpt.” These are actual words recently spoken to me by a sweet friend of mine. Let me offer some tips on this:
A balanced program of strength and conditioning includes both cardiovascular and resistance exercises. The core benefits of resistance training (this often includes working with weights), are: increase in muscle fiber size and strength (the shape and function of your arms, legs and core), increase in tensile strength in tendons (which attach muscles to bones) and ligaments (which attach bones to bones), and increased bone mineral density (Resistance training makes your bones stronger. Did you know?).
Muscles use more calories to function when they’re bigger and healthier. Even during sleep, resting skeletal muscles are responsible for greater than 25% of our body’s calorie use. The more lean muscular tissue a body has, the more calories those muscles use, even during rest.
As our bodies age, we lose on average .5lbs of muscle each year after age 30, when peak physical performance is generally reached. The connection between greater percentages of lean muscle mass and higher resting metabolism is clear. The 5 pounds per decade muscle loss experienced by non-strength training adults leads to a 3% per decade reduction in resting metabolic rate (Wayne Westcott, PhD). Gradual decrease in metabolism results in gradual increase in body fat, typical in aging bodies. The same energy intake isn’t needed to fuel muscles that have been allowed to atrophy (though we continue to eat the same), so the surplus energy previously needed and used to move the muscles is stored as fat. On the other hand, strength training raises resting metabolic rate and results in more calories burned on a daily basis.
It bears repeating here: If you’re dieting, the scale is your friend. BUT if you’re increasing your healthy lifestyle by including wise menu choices and added exercise (strength and conditioning), then the scale may not be your true friend. Muscle and bone weigh more than fat. If you want to lose fat, I admonish you to build bones and muscles through resistance training, and increase your overall activity level (didn’t want to say cardio). Ask your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about limitations.
If you want to lose weight, just diet. You’ll lose some fat. You’ll lose water weight. And you WILL lose muscle. Muscle is heavy. The scale will tell you what you want it to tell you. But is that really all you want?
Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org Sally Windham is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor.