The number the scales show you when you step on them probably matters a great deal to some of you. Here’s why it shouldn’t:
You hear the word a lot especially if you train regularly with the intention of achieving a lean body composition. Do you actually know what it means? Your metabolism is all the chemical processes inside your cells that are necessary for the maintenance of life. While you probably associate the word metabolism with calorie burning it is much more than that; from providing the building blocks to make certain hormones to breaking down food to give you energy your metabolism doesn’t just burn energy but creates it. Inside every cell in your body are small structures called mitochondria, and they represent your main metabolic machinery. They are the powerhouses of your body, turning the calories that you eat into energy. That’s why many people think of calorie burning when they hear the word metabolism. The mitochondria literally take food and burn it up to produce energy.
To lose fat, get lean and healthy you need to increase the rate at which your metabolism works. Believe it or not you burn most of your calories each day just by existing. It’s known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and it is the calories you burn to fuel your breathing, blinking, thinking, digesting etc, far exceeding the amount of calories you burn from exercising in any given day.
Think about it.
It’s unlikely that you have the time or inclination to spend more than an hour a day exercising. (I’m aware this is a generalisation but this is aimed at those of you looking to change body composition and not run a marathon next week.) That leaves 23 other hours in the day when you are burning calories at a constant rate. By increasing this base rate of calorie burn over 23 hours by as little as 5 kcals per hour means you can burn up to 115 calories more EVERY day while doing nothing extra. Multiply this by 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year and you get the picture. An EXTRA 41,860 kcals per year. Considering 1 pound of body fat is thought to contain 3500 kcals you can expect to see a significant drop in fat from a relatively small change.
So, you know you need to increase your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). How?
Your BMR is dictated by the amount of muscle you have in your body. More muscle = Higher BMR = Lower body fat. Not hard, is it? Build lean muscle by working against an external force whether it’s a spring, dumbbell, kettle bell or your own body weight. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Up to 8 per cent more calories per hour according to one study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. As explained above a seemingly small 8 per cent increase will make a massive difference over time. Another study found adding just 1 pound of new muscle to your frame could potentially burn up to 50 kcals more each hour.
But I don’t want to get bulky.
Do you take an artificial anabolic steroid hormone? Do you eat thousands and thousands of surplus calories every day? No? Then you won’t get bulky. You will get lean, defined and efficient at burning fat. Contrary to popular belief, muscle does not weigh more than fat. Muscle is more DENSE than fat which means it takes up less space in your body. This is how your clothes feel loser, your body fat drops and yet your scale weight stays the same or goes up. Two women who both weigh 60kg are going to look aesthetically VERY different if one lady is 45kg muscle/15kg fat and the other is 35kg muscle/25kg fat. Very different. Yet their scales will show them the same number.
Do your utmost to preserve and build your muscle especially as you age. Place resistance based training above all other training if lean body composition is your goal. Imagine you were to stand on a set of scales in front of a mirror and those scales said you weighed 120kg. Yet when you looked up in the mirror you saw you had the figure you always wanted you would not care what those scales had said.
Berardi, John (2006-09-05). The Metabolism Advantage: An 8-Week Program to Rev Up Your Body’s Fat-Burning Machine-At Any Age (Kindle Location 284). Rodale Books. Kindle Edition.
National Strength and Conditioning Association; Thomas R. EdD Baechle; CSCS (2011-05-01). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (Kindle Location 3447). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.
Jump up ^ Rickman AD et al. The CALERIE Study: Design and methods of an innovative 25% caloric restriction intervention Contemp Clin Trials. 2011 November; 32(6): 874–881