Melvin wrote, "I have started losing but when I lift weights I start gaining weight. But, I don't eat any more!" The fact is YOU CANNOT GAIN WEIGHT FROM LIFTING WEIGHTS! If you are gaining weight, either muscle or fat, your caloric intake is exceeding your expenditure. If you are weight training, it should be muscle--a good thing-unless your caloric intake is just so high that not even the weight training can burn all the calories. In that case you will gain fat with the muscle.
Diane: This myth that you can gain weight from lifting weights comes from the idea that muscle weighs seven times more than fat. Unfortunately, many use this statement as a way to justify the increasing numbers on the scale. Richard in a moment will discuss the idea of overeating to add bulk, but I want to discuss the license to overeat because of the density of muscle versus fat.
The easiest time for overweight people to lose weight is at the beginning of a program. A sedentary body that suddenly starts moving is burning excess calories that can translate into a fairly rapid weight loss. Couple minimal exercise with fewer calories and you'll see results even faster. Boost your natural metabolism by building muscle and a newbie in the gym turns into a fat burning machine. Early in a weight loss program, the small changes can add up to a fairly large loss. So, please don't sabotage this naturally easy weight loss time by overeating and using the excuse that increasing numbers on the scale are due to muscle. When you have excess weight to lose, it will come off…even while building that dense muscle mass.
Richard: Many bodybuilders use this excuse to eat crap in the off-season while gaining strength and size; they call it the "bulking-up" stage. I always thought it was an excuse for eating like pigs. Most of them then have to diet like crazy to get it all off and they lose a lot of strength and muscle along with the fat when dieting down. Many others have decided the yo-yo diet doesn't really work that well and in addition is bad on the heart, so they have decided not to exceed 10-15 pounds over their contest weight during the off-season.
Diane: For the women readers a 10-15 pound swing may still be too much, especially for the many that are short like me! Even if you don't compete in contests, you may want to try to achieve a peak physique and then swing no more than 3-5 pounds from that peak weight.
Richard: I had a client years ago who worked out 3 days at an aerobic studio and 3 days at my health club lifting weights. I not only created a weight lifting routine for her, but also a nutrition program. After six months, she was as fat as ever. When she came to me complaining, I asked her if she were eating the foods I suggested (I knew she was working her heart out in the exercise programs). Although she replied in the affirmative, after further questioning her about exactly everything she put in her mouth, I discovered she was also eating a pound of chocolate every day! "Sweetheart, you will never lose the weight you want if you keep eating a pound of chocolate every day no matter how hard you train," I advised. "Well, then the heck with it! I'll just stay fat!" she angrily blurted out. "Yes," I replied, "I'm afraid you will." I never saw her again.
Richard: I always believed that it was not only the quantity of calories that counted but also the quality. In other words, our bodies not only do not metabolize protein, fats, and carbohydrates in the same manner, even complex carbohydrates are metabolized differently than simple carbohydrates.
Processed foods with an overabundance of sugar, flour and salt are often referred to as "empty calorie" foods because they provide so little nutritional elements (especially the vitamins and minerals necessary to catalyze food into lean tissue). So rather than eat "empty calorie" foods, concentrate on foods like baked, broiled or grilled chicken, fish, and beef; steamed vegetables; pasta; and fresh fruit. Eat 6 small meals if possible rather than 2 or 3 big ones. Protein drinks and/or low-carb protein bars along with vitamin and mineral supplements can count as one or two of those small meals. You will lose inches in the waist and butt and gain in the shoulders and arms. You look slimmer and more shapely whether you lose or gain bodyweight!
Diane: Richard is recommending pasta, but please watch the portion size! A serving of pasta is a very small amount of food. But, when it comes to low-carb protein bars, we both agree. Bodybuilding.com recently sent us a box of EAS Chocolate Dipped Strawberry bars, that are so good they've become our new favorite bar. Should I mention that I had a bite while my favorite bodybuilder enjoyed the box?
Richard and Diane: The good news is that the combination of good nutrition and lifting weights works magic on that fat. Yes, that's the big secret to losing fat and keeping it off: a consistent exercise program along with healthy nutrition! If you want to lose weight as well as fat, just eat less while engaging in a vigorous program of weight training while dieting. Just don't attempt to lose more than 1-2 pounds per week.
So, if your goal is to lose fat and gain shapely muscles, you must eat good nutrient dense foods and train with weights at least 3 days per week. There you have it, the perfect prescription for the body you want!
Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC.
Richard Baldwin, Member. Legendary Physique, LLC.
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Copyright 2004. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved.
The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.