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The Lie The Scale Tells You

    Strength training for weight loss

    Obsessing over weight can be both distracting and misleading. For example, a well-rounded fat-loss program should include strength training. Adding muscle helps burn more calories at rest, and it changes hormone profiles in a favorable direction for fat loss. Muscle is also more compact than fat, so you can lean out, improving appearance and well-being. However, because muscle is more dense than fat, numbers on the scale may decrease slower than trendy “lose weight fast” programs. Nonetheless, the value of fat loss in conjunction with gaining muscle is a more sustainable and permanent solution for overall weight loss.

    The Allure of Losing Weight Fast

    American culture is constantly telling us that we should lose weight quickly. We’re bombarded with advertisements for programs to “Lose 20 lbs in 30 days!” Or promised pills and supplements to shred fat fast. Most people know the pitfalls of yo-yo dieting. However, there is still a fascination with the idea of a quick and magical solution for weight loss.

    Americans spend $70 billion annually on weight loss, most of which is spent on supplements and diet programs. Unfortunately, supplements have little and probably nothing to do with losing weight. The most critical component of weight loss is creating a sustainable calorie deficit over time. Additionally, optimizing hormones for fat loss can be achieved through strength training to increase muscle mass. 

    The Problem With Fast Weight Loss

    Most people who lose weight fast with fad programs regain the weight within a few years. Rapid weight loss causes a cascade of hormonal changes and a significant slowdown in metabolism, making it difficult to maintain. Keep in mind these are long-term consequences that aren’t recognized right away. Some examples include an increase in ghrelin and cortisol, which lead to a drastic increase in appetite and fat storage in the abdominal area. Decreases in leptin and thyroid hormones lead to fatigue, hunger, and slower metabolism. Finally, extreme dietary changes can eventually lead to insulin resistance, making long-term weight management more challenging. 

    As you can see, it’s not that people who lose weight fast get lazy or lose willpower. The physiological consequences of losing weight too quickly make it much harder to keep it off for good.

    How Muscle Helps You Lose Fat

    As you’ve just seen, rapid weight loss and extreme calorie restriction are followed by a slow process of catastrophic changes in hormones, appetite, and metabolism. On the other hand, steady weight loss while adding muscle through strength training creates advantageous hormonal and metabolic changes. Here are a few benefits of adding muscle through strength training.

    1. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat and, therefore, burns more calories at rest. Resistance training can help you burn calories outside of the gym!
    2. Blood sugar regulation and improved insulin sensitivity reduce the likelihood of storing excess glucose as fat and help maintain steady energy levels.
    3. Stimulation and release of Growth Hormone support fat metabolism and muscle growth, improving body composition and enhancing fat loss.
    4. Lower cortisol levels over time decrease fat accumulation and reduce stress-related eating, supporting better fat loss outcomes.
    5. Releases proteins (e.g., Irisin) into the blood, which play a role in converting white fat (stores energy) into brown fat (burns energy), which can help in weight management and metabolic health.

    The benefits of strength training extend beyond fat loss. Increased muscle mass enhances overall physical and mental resilience. Muscle-building exercises release proteins that improve mental health by reducing anxiety and depression symptoms. Additionally, higher muscle mass is linked to a lower risk of premature death, making strength training valuable for longevity.

    The Deception of Body Weight and BMI

    The advantages of increasing muscle through strength training should now be clear. However, muscle is denser than fat. This difference in density explains why someone can look leaner and more toned yet lose weight slowly. Relying on weight alone to determine overall health or progress with a weight loss program can be insufficient.

    Unfortunately, typical general health screens often rely on BMI (Body Mass Index) to assess a person’s weight loss success. BMI is simply the ratio of a person’s weight to their height. A significant criticism of BMI is that it does not differentiate between muscle and fat. As a result, muscular individuals might be classified as overweight or obese, while those with low muscle mass but higher fat content could be considered normal.

    Measuring body composition, including visceral fat, is a more comprehensive indicator of health and a better option for monitoring progress. Body composition refers to the percentages of fat, bone, water, and muscle in the human body. Assessing weight, muscle mass, subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat collectively provides a much deeper understanding of overall health.

    Systems Are Better Than Goals For Sustainable Weight Loss

    Losing weight safely and keeping it off for good may take time. It’s helpful to tune out the distractions of media influences and stick to the basics of creating a sustainable calorie deficit and adding strength training 2-3 days/week.

    The Problem with Goals

    Goals are necessary to set a direction. However, relying on goals alone to make progress can be detrimental. One of two things can happen with goals.

    1. You achieve your goal and then return to old patterns. Once people reach their goals, it’s common to stop doing the things that brought them success in the first place.
    2. You don’t achieve your goal in the hoped-for timeframe and give up, declaring yourself a failure. Success often takes 2-3 times longer than anticipated.

    Additionally, goals can be distracting and stressful. Ideally, fulfillment should accompany the journey. There is no need to wait until a goal is complete to feel good. It’s more enjoyable and sustainable to cultivate a feeling of pride throughout the pursuit.

    Creating A Plan And New Habits

    A goal is great, but new habits and routines are more vital to success. Embody Personal Training in Kirkwood, MO, would like to help if you’re struggling with weight loss or implementing a fitness routine. We can provide an assessment and evaluate your muscle mass percentage, subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat. Once you have the numbers, we’ll help you come up with a plan for success. 

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