This is a two-part series that covers the difference between fat loss and weight loss. Start here to read Part I.
Lean muscle is very important to weight loss. When I work with clients who struggle with weight, I also notice they are experiencing problems with their metabolism.
Their body is slow to burn calories, not just while exercising but also during the normal, every day activities such as sitting at the computer, driving a car, reading a book, or watching TV. These are all things that we do on a daily basis that don’t burn many calories, however with an optimal metabolism, the body will burn calories even in a resting state. The key here is having a proper metabolism but many people don’t and this leads to weight gains.
Lean muscle is a major factor in the metabolism equation. Lean muscle will burn more calories because it is a functioning tissue. It requires energy, and stores energy to work properly. Improving your metabolism takes time, it will require consistent effort, but with time you will start to feel your body becoming more energized and this energy leads to a higher caloric burn.
[Related Reading: War On Fat]
When working to lose weight and burn fat, there are a few pit falls to avoid:
At times people may try to decrease their calorie intake, which is a good idea, however there is a fine line in how much to lower your intake per day. If you under-eat, you risk utilizing your lean muscle for energy rather than your body fat. If you start to burn lean muscle for fuel, your metabolism will begin to go down, which means your ability to burn calories at rest will diminish.
A good rule of thumb to follow when decreasing your daily caloric intake is to never consume fewer than 1,200 calories for women or 1,500 for men. As your metabolism starts to increase you may even need to add calories to your daily intake to continue to lose weight. Think of your body as an engine, and without the proper fuel it cannot run properly. Your body actually requires energy to burn fat, which it gets from the calories in your food. Too many calories, however, is what leads to fat and unwanted weight gains.
A perfect way to keep your metabolism revved up is eating every 2-3 hours. When your body is fueled every few hours your metabolism will increase as it continually works to digest your food. Eating often keeps your body using energy (burning calories) breaking down the intake, and it does not get sluggish because of lack of food, or from overeating.
For frequent eating, a good format to follow is: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and then dinner. Snacks are small meals like a piece of fruit combined with a protein like cottage cheese, or 10-15 almonds.
The secret to long-term fat loss is to retain and then increase your lean muscle mass. As such, every weight loss program requires an exercise program. Even though food is a controlling factor to your success, exercise will provide that boost in metabolism that you need, and not just for a few hours but also for the long term.
Your exercise program should include aerobic exercise as well as anaerobic exercise. The anaerobic exercise part includes strength training. Utilizing the muscle will help to speed up your metabolism. You should be strength training 2-3 times per week. These sessions may only need to be 30-45 minutes per session, as long as your rest periods are no more than 1 minute.
Focus on large muscle groups like your legs, chest, back, and core. Two or three exercises per muscle group is a great place to start. Give yourself a day of recovery, if you are doing a full body program. If your routine splits your body into upper and lower workouts, you can do back-to-back days, because the upper body is recovering on the days you target your lower body.
Lastly, be sure to have a balance in your weight loss program by lowering your caloric intake to create a deficit and then add a proper exercise program to help build lean muscle mass. The two approaches will help you to lose weight the right way, and keep it off for years to come. One approach without the other will usually lead to short term success that only results in future frustration.
Wayne Larsen, Director of Fitness, Premier Fitness Camp
Wayne holds a Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sports Science from the University of Utah. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is a Certified Coach of the American Sports Education Program (ASEP). He is CPR, AED certified.
Through the years as a personal trainer, he has worked with hundreds of clients, each with different goals and levels of fitness. Wayne is passionate about helping others enjoy fitness to get the most out of life. He is living proof that a positive attitude empowers us to accomplish anything we desire.