My friend and client bought a book last week that piqued her interest. “Get Stronger, Feel Younger”. It is essentially about the natural process of muscle loss as we age and how strength training will reverse the affects and make us stronger and feel younger. Not only does she focus on strength training during her sessions with me, but the simple fact that this book caught her attention and was intrigued enough to purchase and read it during her own free time absolutely thrilled me. I am reassured that all my talking of lifting, muscle building, not worrying so much of calorie counting was not meaningless and wasted chatter. There is still a large majority of women out there that leave weight training up to the men or professional male/female body builders. Not all, but many. I hope to change some minds with this blog.
Years ago before I began weight training, I was using 5 pound dumbbells and my own body weight as resistance. Indeed I have nothing against using body weight as resistance, as I still do so with many of my workouts. But I yearned to lift and I wanted to lift heavy. Any friend (essentially male) I came in contact with that lifted weights, my number one question was, how do you develop the triceps? I never really got a straight forward answer. It wasn't until I started dating my current boyfriend did I learn to lift and lift correctly. He taught me correct form and the main exercises for arm development which was my weak spot. He didn't treat me like a frail female who was merely interested in weight training for one day. He realized that fitness was my lifestyle and he helped me take it to the next level. Muscle anatomy fascinated me and not only did I take it to the next level, I researched further and made it a profession.
Clearly not everyone's goal is hypertrophy (increase in the size of muscle and becoming larger). And this article is not about the art of body building. Today I speak of the simple truth of age and muscle loss and how it contributes to weight gain. As we get older, our bodies start to lose muscle. The average sedentary adult will lose 5 to 7 pounds of muscle in every 10 years. Having muscle is what contributes to a high resting metabolic rate. With a high metabolism, you are constantly burning calories even at rest. If we are not replenishing our muscle tissues, then as we get older, our metabolism will slow down meaning more calories end up as stored fat which is what contributes to weight gain.
With strength training, we are rebuilding the muscle tissues and recharging our metabolism. Cardio vascular activities can burn hundreds of calories in that hour you are exercising. However, you are burning the calories only at that moment in time, whereas when you are weight training and building lean muscle, you are burning calories all day long and even as you sleep. If you are looking to lose fat and build lean muscle, it is best to add strength training to your workout regimen. Strength training can be in the form of dumbbells, bar bells, exercise machines, bands, TRX, planking drills, kettlebells, ropes, swiss balls, etc. Anything that offers some kind of resistance and/or requires a splurge of powerful energy that call for fast twitch muscle fibers is strength training. Bigger muscles will burn more calories than smaller muscles. To build more muscle, lifting weights is the way to go. Combine with cardio you will lose fat quicker and the muscles you build will help you burn calories all day long and continue burning at rest. You do not need to to reach a desired goal in weight first to begin building muscle or "tone up". That is a misconception. Fat and muscle are two different tissues. You can work on losing fat while gaining lean muscle at the same time. It will not happen overnight, but with consistency, it will happen.
Losing weight too fast by starvation or calorie restricted fad dieting are both unhealthy and ineffective. We hear it too many times, people spending hundreds of dollars on diet programs that do not work. You may lose weight quickly but then most likely gain it back and even gain more weight. Why does this happen? Because losing weight too fast by consuming inadequate food amount will cause muscle loss resulting in a slower metabolism. And if you are exercising and not getting enough macronutrients, you will not have enough sufficient energy to carry you through a workout. Plus calories burned will be from lean muscle tissues as oppose to stored fat, losing even more muscle. Once you go back to normal eating, your metabolism has lowered and you gain weight quicker. Eating properly and fueling your body with the essential nutrients, staying active and strength training is the key to lifelong health and permanent weight loss.
My friend and client buys a book on getting stronger at Five and Below for $3.00 and the clear answer is all right there. She no longer worries so much about calorie restricted dieting because she has taken up running and lifting. She knows that in a year's time the knowledge she's gained about proper nutrition and exercise, and the muscle she has built through training has increased her BMR and she will have more energy, lose weight healthily and feel younger.
Exercise benefits our body, mind and soul...strength training and muscle building can be our 'fountain of youth'.
Be Your Own Fit would like to thank Jay Epstein, Laura Panicaro, Victoria Panicaro and Maximum Fitness for their contribution.
Irma Ilao is a certified fitness trainer, a fitness nutritionist, a fitness and health blogger at Be Your Own Fit, and a professional photographer. All photos are credit to Irma Ilao Photography.