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Many articles and websites write about the importance of lean muscle mass. It is important, but why? Your muscles provide may functions: just about all body movement, from walking to nodding your head, is caused by skeletal muscle contraction. Your skeletal muscles function almost continuously to maintain your posture, making one tiny adjustment after another to keep your body upright. Skeletal muscle is also important for holding your bones in the correct position and is essential for strong, stable joints. Muscles store fuel too, and along with the liver make up most of our energy stores.
Important bit: they also play a large part in defining how much energy we need to function, hence they play a vital role in weight loss and maintenance. They are, as mentioned above, functioning continuously, therefore the more we have and the more toned they are, the more fuel we will need all day, every day. As weight loss depends on someone expending more energy than they are taking in, energy used becomes an important part of the weight loss equation; the more the merrier. Although cardio-vascular exercise will burn lots of calories when you are doing it and for a short time afterwards (depending on the intensity of exercise), it won’t increase calorie output all the time. Strength training, however, will! Increasing the tone and amount of muscle we have is like replacing A 1.2 engine in a car with a 2 litre. And that 2 litre is going all the time. It needs more fuel. Combined with sensible eating lean muscle will lead to sustained weight loss that stays off.
Correspondingly, loss of lean muscle will depress the metabolic rate – the amount of fuel we need to function. This explains why crash diets look great on the scales but don’t last. Although you will lose fat, you will also lose muscle. There is weight loss, but after the diet you now need less calories than before, so a return to normal eating will lead to unavoidable weight gain.
We also lose lean muscle as we age; from the age of 30 this can be up to 1lb a year. This explains why it gets harder to maintain weight as we get older. Our engine (lean muscle) is getting smaller, so we actually need less fuel!
The good news is that unlike most symptom of ageing, you can keep or even increase lean muscle as you get older through strength training. And as a lady you don’t have to be muscly, just toned and strong. A recent study into strength training by the University of Pittsburgh showed that adults in their 70s and 80s who did strength training had nearly the same muscle mass as someone in their 40s.
All our courses at Diets Don’t Work include strength training, and you are never too old to start. Our 50plus training gets great success too – http://www.dietsdontwork.co.uk/services/50plus-fitness