Gain muscle, lose weight

So, you’re trying to lose weight and there’s nothing you want to see more than the number on the scales going down week after week. It is a gratifying sign that your persistence and hard work is paying off. Results!

Woman holding dumbbell

However, there is a difference between losing weight and losing fat. If you lose weight because you lose muscle, you have not improved your body composition. You may still have proportionally more fat than muscle, which makes your body flabby. You are lighter without being leaner.

Melbourne trainer Ben Longley explains why your best strategy for improving your health and loving your appearance is to lose body fat and gain muscle.

What is the difference between body fat and body weight?

Body fat is only one aspect of your body weight as a whole.

Your body weight fluctuates due to changes in such factors as:

Many people assume that losing weight is always positive and gaining weight is always negative, but this is not true.

You could lose muscle tissue, which would register as weight loss on the scales, but your percentage of body fat would have increased. Similarly, you could gain muscle tissue, which would register as weight gain on the scales but your percentage of body fat would have decreased. In that case, weight gain is an improvement and a step in the right direction.

Isn’t cardio the best way to lose fat?

No. Traditional steady state cardio burns calories, but does nothing to increase metabolism or preserve or increase muscle tissue when you’re on a calorie-restricted diet.

The problem with spending hours on the treadmill or cross-trainer is that your body adapts to this kind of training and burns fewer calories. You reach a point at which you’re not getting any fitter or slimmer.

On the other hand, weight training revs up your metabolism, burns plenty of calories and preserves muscle tissue, leading to better improvements in body composition.

Isn’t the GOAL of losing weight to weigh less?

The objective of ‘losing weight’ is generally to look better, in which case we’re better off focusing on losing body fat and preserving or increasing lean muscle tissue.

Your muscles define the shape and contours of an aesthetically pleasing body. What you need to do is ensure that your body fat is low enough not to spoil this.

Choosing an arbitrary weight you want to be does not mean anything.

Let’s say two women each weigh 140 pounds. One of them has 18% body fat and has well-defined shoulders, a tight torso, and lean hips. The other has 30% body fat and has a thick waist and shapeless bottom. Those individuals look very different, even though their scale weight is the same.

Can weight training lead to weight loss?

Yes. If you were to choose just one form of activity to do, weight training (done properly) gives you the biggest bang for your buck. It burns calories, increases lean muscle tissue and increases your metabolism in both the short and long term.

More muscle also promotes more fat burning. Muscle is more active tissue than fat and the more you have, the speedier your metabolism.

What’s the best regimen to change body composition?

Start an appropriate full body strength training program that is suitable for your fitness level. Include some interval training to burn extra calories. Also, make sure your body recovers fully and your muscles remain pliable by doing stretching sessions, using the foam roller and having a regular massage.

You don’t need fancy machines and an expensive gym membership. Functional movements using your body weight like squats, push-ups, lunges and stepping up on to a bench will get your large muscles firing.

The results from strength training have a compounding effect over time. As you get fitter and stronger, your ability to train harder and elicit a greater training effect improves — and you see even better results.

Ben’s tips for measuring success:

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