WEIGHT-LOSS: Building muscle is the key to reducing bodyfat! (a.k.a. ...weight loss)

 


by STEFAN, BAppSci, IBLS-AIS, CSCS

In this article, I will discuss a fundamental principle that is imperative in losing weight or more specific body fat loss. I think that the fundamentals have been drowned in an enormous mass of information. Most of it is great and can definitely help but there is a major misconception about weight training and it's "weight gaining" effects.

We've been lead to believe that aerobic exercise is necessary for weight loss. Common prescription for weight loss is walking, running or other cardio type exercises. "You run to lose weight" is the common thinking. While this may work in some cases, research has shown that aerobic exercise alone is not sufficient for weight loss.
Wanna know why?

Because although you burn calories when training aerobically, you only burn a relatively small amount. For example in a 30 min jogging session you may burn around 200-300 calories depending on your body weight (especially muscle), age and other things. What you've just burned is the equivalent of a large apple and banana. But that's comparing it to fruits. Considering a Big Mac is around 500 Calories and a Hungry Jacks Vege Burger Supreme coming in at more than 600 Calories you can see how that's a relatively small amount.
Don't get me wrong, I'm in no way saying that aerobic exercise has no value. Aerobic exercise has been shown in numerous scientific studies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, prevent the onset of diabetes, prevent some cancers and many other health benefits. But aerobic exercise alone is not the most effective way to lose bodyfat or "lose weight". And again science has proven this.

This may be not only because of the relatively small amounts of calories burned but also due to the potential loss of muscle mass. Aerobic exercise, especially heavy exercise may increase your chances of burning muscle. This muscle burning effect is further enhanced when coupling aerobic exercise with a reduced calorie diet. This is a situation you want to avoid at all costs.

When aerobic exercise is performed your body burns both carbohydrate and fat. But when you increase the aerobic/cardio intensity your body also switches to burning more carbohydrates and less bodyfat proportionately. If not enough carbohydrates are consumed your body will switch to making carbohydrates from protein. That is called catabolism and results in losing muscle mass, which is the exact opposite of what you should be aiming for. Therefore, if you are already on a low calorie diet and you add aerobic exercise, you will further accelerate this catastrophe.

But wait, you say, wouldn't that lead to more weight loss and thus quicker and faster results?
While this may look good from a bathroom scale perspective, I assure you that this is detrimental to your ability to achieve permanent weight loss. That's because if you lose muscle, you lose your ability to burn calories. With less muscle, you burn less calories. It's that simple. People trying to lose weight should stop and think about that last statement.
And what happens when you now burn fewer calories?

You need to eat less compared to before your training program. This means that you are now more susceptible to gaining back your bodyfat and more. Oh yeah, and it doesn't do anything in helping you control appetite and in developing healthy eating habits.

Eating extra protein will not counteract this destruction because total dietary energy must be first increased to meet the body's energy needs. Fat, be in dietary or bodyfat, will not stop this muscle wasting because some tissues such as the brain need energy as glucose. While amino acids, which come from muscle protein can be metabolised to produce glucose, fats cannot. As a consequence, a person with more than adequate fat stores may suffer loss of muscle and other tissue if the diet is too restricted in calories.

The primary exercise prescription for those wanting permanent weight loss must be weight training or resistance training or strength training.

I know there are some out there, particularly women, who seem to think that their muscles grow like weeds and are afraid of becoming too big or masculine. While the men usually can't get enough and many unfortunately turn to anabolics. I can assure you that it's not easy to gain lean muscle. Losing bodyfat is the easy bit. Gaining muscle is the hard part. I laugh privately when a beginner comes to me and says that he doesn't want to get too big, like Arnold. To be like Arnold you have to be as great as Arnold: genetically and psychologically, mentally and of course follow his "supplementation" program.

Almost all the bodybuilders appearing in magazines these days are on or have used anabolic steroids. I would probably say that at least 85% of all bodybuilders in magazines today and if I include those taking prohormones the number could go as high as 95%. (Prohormones are biological substances one step away from testoserone or closely mimic it. These are deemed illegal in Australia, and in most sports organizations but are freely available in the US as sport supplements. They have been found to increase LDL or 'bad' cholesterol and other negative side effects which leads to cardiovascular problems.)

The ones that do it naturally would have had to work out optimally for at least 3 years with a sound diet before you can achieve anywhere near that. I'm not being negative I'm being real. But of course you do get the genetically gifted ones that gain considerable muscle after a year or two training naturally. For that to happen you must be on the right program for you. (And in case you're wondering, bodybuilding magazines and gyms are amongst the worst place for great resistance training programs.)
So, that's the men.

Bodybuilding women on the other hands, especially those that appear in magazines are on a very tough diet and strength program and some even supplement with the illegal steroid: testosterone. Testosterone is a predominantly male hormone and is not plentiful in women. In fact males have around 18 times the testosterone of women. Without it, your body has a hard time building lean muscle mass. With all this talk of muscle you may be wondering what advantage will having more muscle bring apart from being stronger? Lets face it, when are you ever going to be required to lift a 50 kg object?

Apart from increasing strength, preventing osteoporosis (which two in three women will develop and 3 out of four guys) and other health related benefits which even go so far as to conditioning the heart and the respiratory system, building muscle is an essential part in controlling bodyfat. Yes, if you want to lose bodyfat and more specifically keep it off forever, you need to perform muscle building exercises such as weight or resistance training.
It does that by allowing your body to burn more calories, so that less excess calories remain to be stored, usually as bodyfat. You see muscle is a vital component in your body's furnace. Basically the more muscle you have, the more furnaces you have operating in burning energy or food. In fact putting on around 0.5 kg of muscle will allow you to eat an extra 300 calories per week without affecting your weight. This inevitably allows you to control bodyfat by allowing you to eat more and still stay lean. Yes, you'll be able to eat more, stay lean and feeling great.
No way you say?

Surveys from the Australian Bureau of Statistics* have confirmed this. They discovered that men with body mass index (BMI) see our calculator) in the acceptable range reported having the largest intakes of energy as well as most vitamins and minerals. Conversely obese males reported the smallest intakes of energy. Wow, how's that for radical thinking! So I know you love to eat, everybody does?
Still not convinced?

That's the reason 100 kg bodybuilders eat two chickens, one kilo of rice, twenty egg whites and seven rolls plus 2 protein shakes and that's just his desert, yet they're still leaner that you and even me. Clearly, muscle mass is proportional to metabolic rate. The more active muscle you have the more calories you burn throughout the day.

We've all heard of metabolism and metabolic rate. (This is the energy expenditure that the body undergoes continuously, even at rest. This energy is burned in order to keep your body functioning normally.) With that usually comes the misguided thinking that we were just born with a slow metabolism. When you increase muscle mass you increase metabolism. Since most of our day is spent at rest, on the couch or at a desk, by simply having more muscle, literally on you, you burn more calories compared to your less muscular self. More muscle, more calories burned. It's as simple as that.

Conversely, this also means that those with a high bodyfat level, have a lower metabolic rate and therefore burn less calories. They burn less calories while driving, sitting, walking, or whatever the activity. They burn less calories when compared to an identical individual, at the same weight but with lower bodyfat.
So as you can see it's a win-win proposition. GET MORE MUSCLE!!!

MORE MUSCLE = INCREASE METABOLISM = MORE CALORIES BURNED = INCREASE FOOD INTAKE = LESS BODYFAT

The metabolic rate increases as you achieve maturity but it's downhill from then. In fact by the age of 65, some 25% of peak force will be lost. This is almost all due to the loss of muscle mass as you age and a great contributor to this is inactivity. Thus if you reduce muscle, you reduce metabolic rate and we all know what happens next. Calorie accrual, leading to higher bodyfat levels and overall weight increases!

So, stop laying the blame squarely at your slow metabolism or your body type, and shift your focus to what can be done about it. The answer doesn't lie in a 30 min cardio session or in severely reducing calories (also known as the billion dollar industry of dieting). Stop looking to burn calories or severely reducing them. Instead help yourself in building a better body that allows you to eat more and stay lean, thus supporting your eating habits. Building muscle is perhaps the most fundamental component in staying lean. So please, use it!

Stefan Angheli
Editor healthfitness.com.au

 
   
 
   
     
 

"You run to lose weight" is the common thinking. While this may work in some cases, research has shown that aerobic exercise alone is not sufficient for weight loss.
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Aerobic exercise, especially heavy exercise may increase your chances of burning muscle. This muscle burning effect is further enhanced when coupling aerobic exercise with a reduced calorie diet. This is a situation you want to avoid at all costs.
     
 

When you increase muscle mass you increase metabolism. Since most of our day is spent at rest, on the couch or at a desk, by simply having more muscle, literally on you, you burn more calories compared to your less muscular self.
 
 
 
 

Stop looking to burn calories or severely reducing them. Instead help yourself in building a better body that allows you to eat more and stay lean, thus supporting your eating habits.
 
 
 
 
 
REFERENCE:
*· ABS Catalog 4805.0 National Nutrition Survey 1995
 
   

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