Why Strength Training is Crucial to Your Weight Loss.
I’ve been a professional personal trainer in Rochester NY for more than 15 years. And before that, I was a championship body builder. So here is one personal training tip I’d like to share with you: strength training is crucial for successfully losing weight and keeping it off.
I’m talking about weight-bearing exercise. It doesn’t have to be a 3-hour, hulking workout – like I used to do back in my bodybuilding days. I’m just talking about some basic strength training – something I do with all my clients who want to lose weight.
Why is strength training important for losing weight? Because most folks – especially women – try to starve themselves into weight loss. They think the key to shedding weight is to shed calories from their diet. Even many personal trainers don’t really understand the importance of strength training. They also think that it’s just about calories and aerobic exercise. Calories in, calories out.
Sure, if you have a calorie deficit, you’ll definitely lose weight… and if you eat extra calories, you will add unwanted body fat. While that’s true, it’s only part of the picture. You need a calorie deficit to lose weight, but how does your body actually use calories? It’s your lean body mass – that muscle mass underneath your body fat – that burns calories 24/7, allowing you to actually eat more calories while still losing weight!
To show my point – imagine you’re obese and have a high percentage of body fat. Beneath that fat you actually have a very strong skeleton and strong muscles. How come? Well, your body has built up those muscles so that it can carry all of that extra weight when you move your body. Just the very act of getting out of a chair, walking through a store, going up a flight of stairs or lifting your arms requires more effort when you’re overweight. So – ironically – the fatter you are, the stronger your muscles need to be just to allow you to do basic, everyday things. Of course, most people don’t realize they’re muscles are stronger because their muscles are being hidden by fat.
But having gained weight and strengthened your muscles can actually work to your advantage — if you manage to keep all of that muscle mass and bone density in place while you’re losing body fat. The reason is simple. You’ll maintain the high metabolism that’s associated with that lean body mass even while you are dropping body fat. On the other hand, if you starve yourself, you’re going to lose much of the muscle mass you already have. And in doing so, you’ll slow down your metabolism. It’s a mistake a lot of folks make. They try to lose body fat by starving themselves, and as the body fat vanishes from their body, their muscle mass also disappears. Why would the body get rid of muscle mass? Because, frankly, it doesn’t need it to carry all that extra weight.
Here’s what I mean. Your body is an adaptive system. So if you’re a heavier person, then your body will adapt by creating stronger muscles to lift your body. It’s almost like doing a leg press every time you get up out of the chair. If you weigh 300 lbs you’re doing a 300 lb leg press. Now if you were to drop 150 lbs of body fat and end up at 150 lbs, your body wouldn’t need the same amount of leg muscle to lift you. It would eliminate those leg muscles through catabolic action.
The bad part is this. While your body rids itself of muscle mass, your metabolism slows down. Remember, it’s the lean body mass that’s burning calories day in and day out, even when your body is at rest or even sleeping. If you reduce that muscle mass by allowing it to go away (by not challenging your muscles), then your metabolism will grind to a stop. A lot of people end up at a place where they’ve lost the body fat and they’re lighter, but it’s suddenly so much easier to put on body fat. They don’t have the muscle mass they once did, they’re not automatically burning calories, and if they overeat just a little bit, they’ll start packing on the body fat again.
In next week’s MaxFit blog, I’ll tell you how to keep (and ADD!) vital muscle mass while you’re losing body fat. In the meantime, if you have any fitness questions for me – or if you’re simply looking for a personal trainer in the Rochester or Penfield area, please feel free to give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org