a p r i l 2 0 1 6 A L I V E E A S T B A Y 19 experts that what we all need is more exercise and less food? The answer is: if you follow the formula of just cutting calories and doing repetitive type exercise, yes it’s true, you will lose weight. The problem is, most of it will be a loss of lean body mass—muscle, not fat. If you think about it, when all is said and done, your concern should not be how much you weigh, but how you feel and how you look. To understand how all of this works, it is important to have some basic understanding of human physiology, and in particular, metabolic function. The key thing to remember is that muscle is what burns most all of the calories in your body. In fact, per gram of body weight, at rest, muscle tissue burns about ten times as many calories as fat. In the long run then, the more important factor in determining the rate at which your body burns calories when it is at rest— what is known as your resting metabolic rate—is how much muscle it has. The more lean mass (muscle) that you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. More muscle means more calories are being burned while you are just sitting around, doing nothing. The problem with most diets and/or diet and exercise programs is that they simply focus on cutting calories alone or dieting along with non-resistance type, aerobic exercise. This does very little in the long run to affect resting metabolic rate because it does nothing to retain or increase your overall lean body mass. In fact, it almost always reduces your percentage of lean tissue, causing your resting metabolic rate to become lower. You end up having to cut calories even more just to stay even, because your body now requires fewer calories to survive. This is why long distance runners are generally thinner skinny, as opposed to sprinters, who are usually more muscular. The marathon runner is in excellent aerobic condition, but he has very little muscle mass. He may burn plenty of calories when he is running a race, but when he isn’t, he’d better eat like a bird or “love handles” will start growing with every extra bite of food. On the other hand, the sprinter, because of his high volume of muscle, burns an extraordinary number of calories while he is running, but he also burns many more calories than the long distance runner does when at rest. Generally speaking, he can afford to eat more all the time, without gaining an ounce. When a person loses weight by way of the diet and aerobic exercise route, they simply go from being a big fat person, to being a little fat person. Yes they weigh less, and yes, they have lost some fat, but they have lost more lean tissue too, which is counter-productive. They now have a lower resting metabolic rate, so they have to keep their calories drastically reduced. With fewer calories, they now have even less energy than before, so staying on their exercise program becomes more difficult. Their overall nutrition is usually compromised, so their immune system becomes likewise compromised. Now, they get sick more easily, and more often. The end result of all this is that even though the person now weighs less, they have become less healthy and feel bad. They then do what most people do when they feel bad: they start eating more! This is what causes the “yo-yo” effect that most people who have tried the more traditional weight loss methods are familiar with. They keep weight off for a while, than gain it back. Often, they end up worse off, and their percentage of body fat is even higher than before. This, then, is the reason why so many of us really are obese. What we have been sold by the fitness gurus in the infomercials and what we have been taught about fitness in most all of the weight loss programs, is either ineffective or completely wrong. The only way to effectively lose fat (not just weight) and keep it off is to reduce the percentage of body fat and increase our resting metabolic rate by retaining what muscle we have and adding whatever muscle tissue we can over time. And the only way to do this is to include progressive resistance anaerobic strength training (weight training) into our exercise regimen. If you want to lose fat and keep it off for good, add progressive resistance anaerobic weight training to your fitness routine; you’ll be amazed at what good old “pumping iron” will do to enhance your overall level of fitness. You’ll keep what lean muscle you have, add some new, and lose fat—and the best part is, you won’t have to eat like a bird to keep it off!
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