One of the biggest fitness myths over the past decade has been that the best way to lose weight is to focus on aerobic exercise.
Wayne Wescott, one of the top researchers in the field of sports and fitness, put this misconception to rest with a definitive study that showed that the absolute best way to lose weight was through a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training to build or at least maintain muscle mass, and dieting.
The little understood finding is that strength training alone can supply fat-loss results 81 percent more than a combination of weights and aerobics and 417 percent more than aerobics alone.
To understand why strength training is so important, all you have to do is understand this simple equation: Lean mass in kilograms X 21.6 + 370=Your Basal Metabolic Rate.
Seventy to 75 percent of your metabolism is based on your lean body mass, which includes muscle. If you diet alone, or diet and only do aerobic exercise, your metabolism decreases because at least 45 percent of what you lose is muscle mass. One study showed that those who diet alone, after they achieve their goal weight, must eat 15 percent fewer calories than they did before dieting or gain back what they lost. If you have had a hard time losing weight, ask me to measure your lean body mass and calculate your metabolic rate.
Many women are afraid that strength training may make them bulk up. According to Dr. Carolyn Mein, author of the body-type dieting program that I offer my clients, only one of 25 body types will bulk up through exercise (unless they exercise more than 3 hours a day).
On a consistent basis, what I find when I measure body fat among my clients is that women who don’t strength train measure out at more than 30 percent body fat – which puts them in a category defined as clinically obese.
Excessive Aerobic Activity=Stress on the Body
Recently, Walter Rush and I have been encouraging all our clients to use heart rate monitors during all aerobic activity. Studies show that on very-low calorie diets (defined as 1,000 calories a day for women and 1,200 a day for men), exercising aerobically longer than 45 minutes per day more than 3 days a week may actually deter your efforts to lose weight. That’s because your body may perceive too much exercise as overstress, and begin to shut down its fat-burning mechanisms.
When you exercise too hard, your body produces stress hormones that actually break down muscle tissue.
Avoid These Stressors
On a very-low calorie diet (defined as 1,000 calories a day or less for women and 1,200 calories a day for men), your body will have a hard time maintaining its fat-burning mechanisms if you put too much stress on yourself.
As I am constantly explaining, on a biochemical basis, your body does not know the difference between emotional and physiological stress. That’s why those who are successful in their weight loss look at the big picture of what they are eating, how they are thinking, as well as how they are exercising.
In addition to overexercising, Dr. Ellington Darden has found that overstress can take the form of any of the following:
Too little dietary fat, defined as 20 grams a day or less. How much fat you need may also be an individual factor. Ask me about body-type dieting, because some types have a hard time if their total fat intake drops even below 30 percent.
Too little rest, defined as less than 7 hours a night.
Dehydration. A loss of even 1 percent of the body’s water can cause alarm.
Accumulated problems from work or relationships can have negative effects due to their direct effects on your brain chemistry. Rest, relax, take yoga classes, or meditate to
Nutrition for Weight Loss
In order for your body to maintain its anabolic (or muscle-building) drive, you must maintain optimum levels of essential nutrients.
Simply put, you must be taking in enough vitamins and minerals as well as macronutrients like protein and carbohydrates or your body will shut down its fat-burning mechanisms.
You will not be able to obtain the nutrients you need from food if you are are one of the 97 percent of the U.S. population who fails eats according to the food-guide pyramid or if you are one of the 50 percent of American women who are on a restrictive diet any day of the week. For example, women who exercise would need to eat an average of 3,000 calories a day to obtain enough iron from food. Iron deficiency can affect the thyroid and thereby lower your metabolism, as well as causing fatigue.
If you feel that you may be missing essential nutrients, you may ask me for a nutrition assessment and I will be happy to go over how you may improve your overall health through better eating and nutritional supplementation.
It takes 100 grams of protein to build one pound of muscle. If you are lifting weights and are trying to lose body fat while maintaining or building lean mass, ask me about a healthy range of protein intake – generally .4 grams per pound of body weight for sedentary individuals, and .9 grams for recreational athletes.
Healing Depression Featured on TV
A 15-minute interview about my book, Healing Depression: A Guide to Making Intelligent Choices about Treating Depression (Sante Fe, N.M.: Heartsfire Books, 1997) will be broadcast on March 13 at 10:30 a.m. on Media One Channel 12. There will also be a second broadcast of the program later that week.
Hugh Simpson, host of “Your Health Today,” called my book “fabulous,” and asked me about nutrition, Brain Gym, and other holistic approaches to healing depression without drugs.