Muscle. Very expressive word, isn’t it? Smacks of manliness, testosterone and sweat. Large, pumped bodies stripped of fat with a knobbly six-pack. And it’s a word women avoid. Out of fear and, probably, misunderstanding. Well, I’d like to put it centre stage. Turn up the lights, start the drum roll and give muscle a big fat yes.
I have just finished running one of our Blast Plans (a 3 week course in eating and training for fat loss). One of the participants (let’s call her Ruby for argument’s sake) had missed quite a few of the workouts (life, children, trains not running, something good on the telly, that sort of thing) and according to her food diaries had stayed off carbs and having meals that were altogether rather too small. Ruby’s weight on the scales had gone down but her actual inch loss was minimal. She was, however, delighted at the scale loss (6lbs in about ten days) but I took her aside and told her much of the weight loss would have been from muscle.
“Who cares?! I’ve lost weight…yippeeee!”
Then I explained. Muscle is metabolically active. It burns calories for you whilst you’re sitting arguing with the X Factor judges, whilst you’re purchasing on eBay, whilst you’re standing at the bus-stop. We need to hang onto it. It’s our friend. The denser it is and the more you have (NOT the bigger they are) the more your body becomes an efficient calorie burning machine. Ruby was following our Blast Plan eating plan but her very low amount of food and minimal training meant that the body was on starvation alert.
Alarm bells were ringing. Her body had started to munch on the muscle for energy and save its fat stores for an emergency. Ruby had been afraid of using weights in her workouts (“I don’t want to look all muscle-bound”) and was still harking back to the old dieting adage of “the less you eat, the more fat you’ll lose”.
Muscle is something to be savoured. Here’s a summary. Learn it, recite it, worship it.
- Strength training (also called resistance training) provides a stimulus for your muscle and that is good. It makes it more active and it will burn more calories at rest for you than fat. Add another kilo, struggle a bit.
- Women will not get bigger, they will get leaner (if they are eating correctly). Us women don’t have enough testosterone to develop huge muscles.
- Don’t do long bouts of aerobic training… for example long, long, endless runs without adding in some resistance training. Consistent aerobic training will dig into your muscle tissue too unless you back it up with some resistance work.
- Muscles makes you strong. If slinging around the odd barbell or hitting the deck for 50 press-ups isn’t your thing, at least being strong is a positive when it comes to lifting luggage, heavy boxes and children.
- If fat loss is your goal, then eating right to enhance your ability to use that muscle is crucial. Take on some starchy slow release carbohydrates (brown rice, brown wholemeal bread, sweet potatoes) but not all the time. Every fortnight have two days together where you have no carbs at all (just protein and veg, no fruit even). That will shake things up and get your hormones and enzymes on full alert. And for goodness sake, eat! EAT! Fuel that fat burning fire.
Forgive the dryness of that blog. But you know when you feel so strongly about something that you find yourself resorting to ‘banging on’ mode. Apologies. I’ll chuck in more jokes in the next one.
Have a very happy weekend. Annie x