Diets don't work: Why strength training and lean muscle is the key to weight loss
Our Diets don't work blog is by Ascot-based personal trainer Adam Atkinson. He will be offering health and fitness advice on our websites each month.
When starting an exercise routine most people will start with traditional cardio-vascular exercise; they will try some jogging, walking, cycling or perhaps some gym work on a cross trainer or rower.
This form of exercise is important and will have lots of health benefits, not least making you fitter, but it is only a part of the health and weight loss equation.
Strength training is at least, if not more important; especially for losing weight and keeping it off. It is also one of the most neglected parts of exercise, especially for those just starting out.
Your muscles are needed for every movement that you do, from blinking to standing up to running. They are even using energy as you watch TV. Your weight is defined by energy in vs energy out, so lean muscle (and strength training) is a really useful tool to burn more energy. They play a vital role in weight loss and maintenance.
Your muscles are, as mentioned above, functioning continuously, therefore the more we have and the more toned they are, the more fuel we will need all day, every day. Although cardio-vascular exercise will burn lots of calories when you are doing it and for a short time afterwards (depending on the intensity of exercise), it won’t increase calorie output all the time. Strength training, however, will! Increasing the tone and amount of muscle we have is like replacing a 1.2 litre engine in a car with a 2 litre. And that 2 litre is going all the time. It needs more fuel. Combined with sensible eating lean muscle will lead weight loss that stays off.
Correspondingly, loss of lean muscle will depress the metabolic rate – the amount of fuel we need to function. This explains why crash diets look great on the scales but don’t last. Although you will lose fat, you will also lose muscle. There is weight loss, but as you have lost both fat and muscle, after the diet you now need less calories than before, so a return to normal eating will lead to unavoidable weight gain.
We also lose lean muscle as we age; from the age of 30 this can be up to 1lb a year. This explains why it gets harder to maintain weight as we get older. Our engine (lean muscle) is getting smaller, so we actually need less fuel!
The good news is that unlike most symptoms of ageing, you can keep or even increase lean muscle as you get older through strength training. And as a lady you don’t have to be muscly, just toned and strong. A recent study into strength training by the University of Pittsburgh showed that adults in their 70s and 80s who did strength training had nearly the same muscle mass as someone in their 40s.
Strength training also has lots of other benefits, increasing bone density, keeping knees strong and your back healthy.
You don't even need a gym or lots of expensive kit. Simple bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and pull ups can be effective in keeping and building lean muscle.
Read Adam's other blog posts:
Adam Atkinson www.dietsdontwork.co.uk
07830 148300/0800 0407526 firstname.lastname@example.org