Whether you are looking to drop 10-15 pounds of fat or add 10-15 pounds of lean muscle mass, it’s important to first come to grips with some of the biggest lies/myths in the fitness industry. Otherwise you may end up wasting your valuable time and could even damage your long-term health.
For starters, the myth/belief that muscle turns to fat is totally erroneous.
Muscle never turns to fat.
They are two totally, separate types of tissue. Just as your heart is different from your liver and you wouldn’t worry that it could become your liver, your muscle cannot turn into fat. It would be like watching an apple convert to an orange right before your eyes. Not going to happen.
So, what does happen to someone who was once very muscular and fit but stops working out? If muscle does not turn to fat as many believe, then why does their once fit and trim body now appear fat, flabby and unhealthy?
The reality is much worse than turning to fat. Muscle is not being converted to fat, it is being lost. It is literally, wasting away.
Because the body uses a lot of energy maintaining lean muscle mass (which is why having more muscle is great for preventing fat gain), when the body believes it no longer needs to maintain muscle mass, it eliminates it. Whatever muscle mass is not being stressed (used), starts catabolizing (breaking down).
Muscles shrink from non-use and fat pockets grow bigger. Soon, what was once an attractive, trim, fit body now appears flabby and fat. It is really that simple.
Because muscle burns more calories than fat, whenever workout habits change or slow down, changes in diet must follow. If diets are not adjusted to align with a less active lifestyle, if food intake remains the same but total calorie expenditure decreases, guess what? The excess surplus of calories (that are no longer being burned through activity) gets converted into body fat.
It’s pretty simple science – when you exercise less, you burn fewer calories and therefore, you must eat less.
The good news is, it only takes about 60 minutes of strength training weekly at the gym (or your preferred strength training workout) to maintain muscle once it’s built. It takes far less effort to maintain muscle once it’s built than it did to build it in the first place.
Exercising daily is optimal. Wrong.
Many people believe that if they fail to see the progress they are after, it’s because they are not training hard (or long) enough so they immediately start pushing their body harder which is the exact opposite of what should be happening.
Every time you train your muscles hard (at the gym or elsewhere), you are creating micro damage to the muscle tissue and time is needed for this to be rebuilt to withstand the same level of force once again. If the time and energy needed to do this is not provided, muscles won’t get stronger and in fact can cause loss of valuable muscle mass.
Reality – when actively working out, the body requires and needs rest days in a well-planned protocol to have the time needed to get stronger than it was before. Ideally, one day off a week should be allowed, if not two. But, even that is not hard science. Some people require more. In fact, three to four days rest for beginner trainees or those who do intense training is not at all uncommon.
Remember, as the intensity of your workouts go up, your total rest required to recover from that workout will also increase.
It’s very important to recognize when it’s time to work harder and when it’s time to rest. Understanding the difference and giving your body exactly what it needs is what gets you to that end goal.
Honor your workout, but balance it with rest.
Cardio is a great way to get thinner – False.
Cardio – (referencing steady state cardio sessions) – the workouts that people dread yet do daily after hitting the gym. Jumping on a piece of cardio equipment and going at one pace for 20-60 minutes.
These workouts do very little for anyone. What these extended cardio workouts achieve is to increase the appetite, causing us to eat more. In fact, many people, who are classic “cardio bunnies,” report ravenous appetites that just won’t go away.
Cardio training can even cause loss of lean muscle mass. When the body knows it must go for long periods of time at a moderate intensity pace, it does what it can to be more efficient. Since muscle tissue is energy-intensive to maintain, it is better for your body if you have less of it.
Couple this with the fact that many are on a lower calorie diet while doing cardio and now you have a body ready and willing to drop lean muscle. So, fat is not really being lost in the process, but rather, lean muscle.
The body may appear smaller after months of cardio workouts because of lost weight, but, unfortunately, it is due to an unhealthy, change in body composition. The body now contains more fat mass in proportion to lean muscle mass and the result is not pretty. The look is soft, jiggly, and anything but fit.
If you’re looking to create a fit, lean, firm body, cardio training is not the way to get there. Strength training is the only thing empowered to reverse unhealthy, muscle loss.