While I touched on this topic when I asked what kind of weight do you want to lose, I thought it warranted some deeper discussion. After all, fighting the idea that cardio is the king of exercise is almost as tough as fighting the dogma that saturated fat is bad.
Next to eating the right foods (like eating plenty of healthy fat), doing the right type of exercise is a very important key to losing fat weight.
How Building Lean Muscle Fights Fat
I’m not going to repeat the overemphasized notion that muscle burns more calories than fat, and that’s why having more muscle helps you lose weight. While this is very true, the science behind the benefits of building muscle goes way deeper than that.
Strength training stimulates the production of your natural growth hormone. First, let’s be clear on this one: injecting yourself with synthetic hormones to lose fat is not healthy. Supplementing with hormones you don’t need is a surefire way to trigger some major imbalances in your body. I repeat: definitely not healthy.
However, generating circumstances that stimulate the natural production of beneficial hormones is not only safe but highly beneficial. The kind of exercise that builds muscle also encourages your body to produce healthy levels of growth hormone.
What does growth hormone do?
- Improves body composition (muscle and fat in the right proportions and in the right places).
- Aids in tissue recovery and healing.
- Provides natural energy.
- Improves bone strength.
- Improves reproductive function (i.e. libido).
P.S. Sleep is another great way to stimulate the natural production of growth hormone. So get some more quality sleep!
Strength training improves insulin sensitivity. Research (such as this study or this one) demonstrates that weight-bearing exercise has a positive effect on insulin sensitivity. When your body exhibits proper insulin response, you are much less likely to store excess fat. You will also experience less blood sugar swings that trigger cravings for carbs and sugar. Plus, you get the added benefit of warding off insulin-related conditions like metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Lean muscle mass looks better. Muscle tones and shapes your body so you look leaner and more fit. Even if you’re having trouble losing fat, building lean muscle can still improve the way you look by defining your shape in a more attractive way.
As an added bonus, building strong muscles will also improve your posture, which can dramatically improve the way you look. Slumping is not attractive. Having muscles that help you stand tall and proud definitely is.
Weight-bearing exercise strengthens your bones and joints. What does this have to do with fighting fat? More than you might think. Strong bones and joints allow you to achieve a higher level of fitness. As they say, you are only as strong as your weakest link. So if your bones and joints are prone to injury, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to getting in shape.
How often should you do strength training?
A basic formula is 2-3 times per week for 30-60 minutes. Aim to build strength and endurance over time. Giving yourself plenty of recovery time is an important part of building lean muscle mass, so don’t over-train–it’s just plain counter-productive. On the same note, don’t overdo the cardio either. Too much cardio stimulates the breakdown of muscle and other vital lean body tissues (like bones and organs). If you’ve got a damaged metabolism, skip the cardio until your health is in a better place. If you’re healthy, 30-60 minutes of cardio twice a week is more than enough.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.