Understanding Weight Loss

Understanding Weight Loss

Did you know that doing regular strength training is essential for successfully shedding weight and keeping it away? I’m referring to weight-lifting exercises. Weight-bearing exercises don’t have to be a massive, hulking exercise where you’re trying to resemble Schwarzenegger at the Mr. Universe pageant; it’s just about developing a basic strength training program.

So why is strength training vital for weight loss? Strength training is crucial because many athletes try to starve themselves to achieve weight loss. Many people think it’s all about burning calories. Regrettably, a lot of nutritionists and dieticians don’t really get what strength training is all about. They believe that it’s just about reducing calories: When calories come in, you get them out. If you eat food with more calories, body fat will increase. If you reduce your calories, you’ll be losing weight in no time.

While this might seem true, this strategy is just piece of the big picture. Certainly, you need to have a deficit of calories for weight loss, but do you know your body actually uses those calories? It’s actually the lean body mass (muscles beneath all that body fat) that burns calories all day, so you can actually consume more calories without increasing body weight!

How to turn around your overweight situation

Let’s assume you are quite overweight and have a high amount of body fat.  Beneath the body fat, you truly have a very powerful skeleton and tough muscles. Your body has developed those muscles to be able to carry all that excess body fat when you move. Even something as simple as getting up, strolling across the parking lot, taking a flight of stairs or raising your arms will require much more energy if you’re overweight, especially when you’re obese. So the larger your body, the more powerful your muscles must be to allow you to perform every day body functions.

Believe it or not, this could actually work in your favor – if you manage to maintain all of that bone density and muscle mass while you are shedding body fat, it could help you maintain a high metabolism that’s correlated with a lean body mass. But if you choose to starve yourself instead, you’re going to drop all the muscle structure your body has already built. It’s a common mistake a lot of overweight people make. They try losing body fat by starvation, and when the body fat disappears from their bodies, their muscle mass goes along with it. Why does the body get rid of the muscle mass also? Because, actually, it doesn’t require it.

The human body adapts current needs. The body is a very adaptive system. It will adjust itself to whatever pressure you put on it. Consequently, if you’re are a bigger person and you carry around more body fat, your body will try to adapt to that condition by building stronger muscles to carry your body weight. It’s a bit like doing leg presses every single time you get up from a chair. For example, if you weigh around 250 pounds, you’re doing 250-pound leg press every time you get up. Then if you managed to shed off 100 pounds of body fat, and arrive at 150 pounds, your body will not require the same mass of leg muscles to carry your new weight. It would then eliminate those extra leg muscles with catabolic effect.

While your body is reducing the muscle mass, your metabolic rate begins to slow down. Remember, it’s your lean body mass that actually burns the calories daily, even when you’re not doing anything. So, if you decrease that muscle mass by just letting it go away (and not working your muscles), your metabolic rate is going to reduce. Many people end up in a state that they’ve dropped the body fat and become lighter, but then it’s now so much easier to gain body fat. This is because they didn’t retain the muscle mass they once had, they’re no longer burning calories automatically, and if they begin to overeat again, they’ll simply start to pack on body fat again.

The Solution

Strength training while losing weight is ideal for retaining muscle strength. The solution to all your troubles is a strategy I want to focus on in this article – engaging in strength training while you work on losing body fat. If you are able to achieve this, then you can maintain that muscle mass you’ve already got under the body fat while you’re losing the fat. Strength training will also leave you with a better balance of lean body fat to body mass, which implies that you will become slimmer, but still retain the muscle strength and mass you had while you were overweight. There are many types of strength training exercises including weight lifting, using resistance bands, body weight or gravity workouts and plyometric training.

The Weight Lifting Myth

If you want to get rid of sufficient body fat using the strength training method, then your muscles may begin to reveal themselves – if you’re male. If you’re a lady, don’t fret. You’re actually not going to bulk up. Many ladies are wrongly afraid of doing strength training because they think that if they lift a few weights their bodies are going to transform into a very muscular frame overnight. They believe they’re going to get this unreal bulked up body if they ever tried lifting weights. Trust me, that isn’t true at all. Many women that do bodybuilding have trained consistently for years, sometimes decades; just to attain that level of muscle mass. It is impossible for you to do that in a few months. The female body is not built to gain heavy muscle mass, so don’t be worried that you’re going to bulk up. Ladies who are scared of doing strength training exercises because they believe it will make them get too muscular got it all wrong.

Ladies need strength training also. Let’s take a moment to destroy that myth right here. Assuming you’re a woman that has more body fat than you fancy. You’re faced with the decision, ‘Should I add strength training to my weight-loss program?’ Some ladies say, ‘I don’t want to, because it will bulk me up and I’ll just end up look fatter.’

That’s a total myth; it’s entirely false.

If you have a high percentage of body fat, that fat is stored not just in the tissues (which are obvious – such as the hips and midsection, your legs, arms and so on) it’s also deposited intra-muscularly, that is, within your body muscles. It’s kind of like getting beef from a cow. If you dissect a muscle from a cow, you’ll find some fat inside that muscle. That’s the same type of fat that’s stored in our muscles when we have a huge amount of body fat.

That intra-muscular fat actually takes quite a lot of space in your muscles, so it makes the muscles look larger because of the fat inside. When you begin to lose body fat, even if you’re involved in strength training, the intramuscular fat will begin to disappear. So although your muscle mass starts to expand – which, again, is quite difficult for women to attain – your true muscle size is apparently going to be less when you have a lower amount of body fat. The total increase in your muscle size is going to be close to zero except you begin to do strength training exercise on a daily basis for up to a year or two. Then you could actually start to put on some more real muscle.

Tips for Muscle Gain

Never lose muscle that you’ve already built. Now, with the crazy myths busted, let’s get back to our main subject, which is how strength training can help to preserve the muscle mass and strength you have already. This is why strength training is so crucial: It’s quite easy for your body to drop useless muscle mass. So if you don’t use your muscles for a period of time, your body will get rid of it in the next few months. Yes. Just like that!

For you to gain those muscles back and preserve them – that takes a considerable effort! That could translate to a couple of months to years of consistent strength training. Also, it is much more difficult for your body to employ anabolic reactions (biological processes needed for building muscle mass) than for it to catabolize, or get rid of the useless muscles.

You may be thinking that you could just starve yourself in order to lose weight and get your body mass down to the minimum, then later you start to engage in strength training, but you can be assured that it will be a much more tedious process to put on lean body mass than it was to reduce what you had in the first place. Increasing your lean body mass could be an enormous challenge.

Common Misconceptions

It’s so interesting to see that when most people talk about losing weight, they simply throw the term around casually without really knowing what it means. Many people say ‘I want to lose 50 pounds,’ but they don’t actually mean what they say.

What most people actually mean by ‘losing weight’ is that they want to get rid of body fat. An arm amputation will cause someone to ‘lose weight’, but I’m guessing that’s not what you have in mind!

Now we have established the fact that many people want to lose is not body weight, but body fat. So careful what you wish for, and don’t use that bathroom scale as a yardstick of your progress. There are many reasons why starving yourself is not the best approach for sustainable weight loss.

The truth is that if you decide to simply starve yourself and then successfully shed lean body mass, then it counts as having achieved weight loss. However, you have done yourself no good at all, because in doing so you’ve actually reduced your metabolic rate instead of speeding it up. So it’s actually possible that your bathroom scale is telling you, ‘Look, you’ve dropped another 5 pounds! But it could actually be 4 pounds of fat and 1 pound of muscle, and that’s not a very great shape to be in. You may want to lose pounds of fat without shedding all your muscle mass in the process.

Don’t forget Glycogen!

Remember, the level of glycogen stored in your body is the fuel that drives physical activity. One important point to note is that your body begins to burn through its glycogen (energy or body fuel) stores after you begin limiting your calorie intake. Always put this into consideration whenever you check your weight using a bathroom scale. Glycogen is essentially body fuel stored in your body for use at a later time. It combines sugars (carbs) with water molecules and secures them in the organs and tissues of your body; much like a battery holds a charge, waiting to be used at a later time.

What happens when you burn glycogen

There’s a lot of water and energy locked up in those calories you consume and all that water has mass and weight. So when you begin to restrict your calorie intake, the first thing your body gets rid of is that extra store of energy, extra glycogen. When the glycogen gets burned up, it causes you to shed water. This is why there is ‘Water weight’ and real weight. So, you may look at what your bathroom scale reads and think, wow, I lost 5 pounds! but actually, you might not have lost any body fat at all!

It was actually just ‘water weight’ you shed because your body burned up the excess glycogen. So, what actually happens to people when their glycogen levels get to zero?

Answer: They become very hungry. At this point, many people might start feeling like they’re in a confused state due to the starvation, and then they start overeating again. Consequently, their glycogen storage fills up again, and in no time the 5 pounds is back. This is the reason why many complain that they hardly eat, but they can’t seem to lose weight. Their strategy was wrong all along!

Last Words

You might be dying to lose considerable body fat, but be careful what you wish for and go about it the right way – by doing strength training exercises concurrent with your weight loss program. There are many ways to lose body fat while improving your overall health.


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