Attempting to get slim without lifting weights makes the entire weight loss process very difficult. Whereas lifting weights (resistance training) will make the weight loss process a lot easier for you, and will enable you to achieve your ideal body in less time and in a much healthier way.
For years, women have believed that in order to lose weight and body fat, they needed to cut calories to the bone and do hours and hours of cardio. The truth is, the real way to lose fat is a whole lot easier to live with.
When working with our NYC clientele, composed of mostly Upper East Side residents, there are two scenarios that we come across all the time in our work as personal trainers. We're willing to bet that you've either seen them or been the women in them.
In Scenario 1: A woman who desperately wants to lose weight is ready to embark on the journey to slim down, but she doesn't want to start lifting weights because she's heard that she'll actually gain weight. (It's true that muscle weighs more than fat, but it takes up much less space. This is why the scale is not the best way to assess your progress.)
So, she decides that she needs to diet and do endless cardio to lose the fat before she starts any kind of weight training. She'll do one of two things: a) never get around to starting the diet and cardio plan because she perceives it as an overwhelming amount of dreadful work, or b) she'll find the motivation to plow her way through it no matter how miserable she gets in the process…this leads to Scenario 2.
In Scenario 2: A woman has lost a significant amount of weight through a very low-calorie, low-fat diet and a ton of boring cardio. She's been hungry, cranky, and tired the entire time. She looks slim, but unfortunately looks and feels awful. Her body has no shape, tone, or definition. Plus, now she's ready to eat "normally" again and simply can't take another week of the strict dieting.
Inevitably, she gives up because it's just too difficult a program to sustain long-term. Once all the results she's worked so hard to earn are gone, she'll do one of two things: a) never try again and go through life hating her body, or b) go through this process over and over again and go through life hating her body.
Why Doesn't the Traditional Method Work?
As recently as the 1980s, we really didn't know enough about how women lose weight and more specifically, how women lose fat. But we did know about calories, so our only answer was calorie math. A pound of fat = 3,500 calories, so if you want to lose two pounds a week (which was also considered the safe max), you need to cut and/or burn 7,000 calories per week. We're willing to bet that you're one of the many women who have that math burned into her brain. In studying to become personal trainers, we've had it burnt into our brains as well!
Because the experts were relying on calorie math, it was believed that cutting as many calories as possible was the nutritional answer to weight loss, while burning as many calories as possible was the exercise answer. Cardio does burn more calories (in general) than standard weight resistance exercise, so this theory seems to make sense. There are two problems, however: our bodies don't subscribe to this theory and you can only cut so many calories and do so many hours on the treadmill. In fact, that's where the two pound a week maximum came from.
There is now tons of new research from the last ten or fifteen years that proves that cutting your calories too low results in losing muscle and gaining fat and that strength training is a huge factor in losing weight. When you cut your calories too low or do more exercise than you can fuel, your body goes into a catabolic state. This means that it starts getting the protein and fuel it needs from your muscle tissue because it can't get it from your diet. That's why you hear that the weight lost from crash diets is mostly muscle and water loss.
However, with resistance training, you can eat more and actually see better and faster results on your body.
How Building Muscle Helps You Burn Fat.
Researchers at Tufts University conducted a study recently which showed that overweight women who lifted heavy weights two times a week lost an average of 14.6 pounds of fat and gained 1.4 pounds of muscle. Another group, who dieted but did not lift weights, only lost 9.2 pounds of fat and gained no muscle.
There are a number of reasons why this is true and why it's been proven in many different research studies:
1. Lean muscle tissue burns more calories throughout the day than fat tissue does.
2. Lean muscle is more receptive to important metabolic hormones such as cortisol and insulin.
Let's talk about calorie burning first. Naturally, it's our bodies need for energy which results in calories being used up or "burned". We think of our bodies as a whole when it comes to calorie-burning, but our stored fat tissue isn't involved in any activity and therefore doesn't burn any calories. Only muscles and organs require calories to function. So, the more muscle you have, the more calories you require. This means that with strength-training, you may not burn as many calories during your workout, but because it results in you developing more muscle mass, you actually end up burning more calories throughout the day.
And this works effortlessly! Your body literally becomes a fat-burning machine because your muscles are eating up all the extra calories you consume. This will enable you to lose weight while eating like a human being rather than a rabbit! Whether you choose to eat more or stick with your lowered calorie intake, you will lose weight faster and easier.
The next reason to build muscle in order to lose fat is that it helps you to regulate and even correct the hormone levels in your bloodstream, especially cortisol and insulin. This happens through a few different natural processes.
When you cut your calories too low, your body senses that there's a food shortage and it releases a hormone called cortisol into your bloodstream. What cortisol does is signal your body to store calories as fat rather than burn them as energy. On top of that, prolonged strenuous exercise, such as hours of cardio, has been shown to also stimulate cortisol release. So if you're eating rabbit food while doing endless cardio, you're actually shooting yourself in the foot.
Another important hormone for weight loss is insulin. Insulin has a really important job when it comes to fat and fat loss. Insulin transports glycogen (metabolized calories that can be burned as fuel) through the phospholipid layer of your cells so that those cells can use the glycogen as energy. This is what we mean when we talk about "burning calories." However, if you don't have enough muscle (to burn the glycogen) or aren't exerting enough energy to burn all of that glycogen, you end up with all of this insulin (and glycogen) left in your bloodstream.
This is what is called, "high blood-sugar." Your body has a process for getting all of that glycogen. It tells the insulin to go store it as fat, particularly around your belly. This is why excess belly fat is considered one of the markers for Type 2 diabetes.
What Does Work.
If you're serious about losing fat and you want to feel good while you're doing it and look great when you're done, you need to eat a healthy but generous diet and do some type of strength training at least twice per week. We recommend doing a split program (working different parts on different days) four or five days per week or a whole body program three days per week.
That probably sounds like a lot, but you can get an excellent strength-training session in as little as twenty minutes. And if you really want to go all out and get the fastest results, you can do an interval training program that combines cardio and strength training in a single workout. The advantages are that you get more of a workout in less time and you can burn more calories in twenty minutes than you do in an hour of cardio!
Of course, the best part of this is that when you do lose the fat, you'll be revealing that lean, defined, curvy and, strong body you've been building.
If you happen to reside in or near New York City, our NYC based in-home personal trainers can provide great support in helping you plan, follow, and ultimately succeed at your weight loss approach.
For some people, working with a personal trainer is one of the best decisions they've ever made. As fitness professionals, we go far beyond simply instructing individuals on what to do and what not to do. Rather, we provide ongoing accountability and support which is often invaluable in keeping individuals motivated and on track.
If this sounds like a dynamic you can benefit from, call us today for a free fitness consultation – (212) 920-5598. We offer personal training at your home or at several gyms throughout the Upper East Side. Whichever is most convenient for you!