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Metabolism is a set of chemical reactions that occurs within our bodies, in our tissues and cells in order to maintain life. It is divided into two categories Anabolism and Catabolism. Anabolism is a process that builds new cells in our body (i.e., muscle) and conversely, catabolism breakdown cells in order to harvest energy from them (i.e., the breakdown of muscle protein or fat). Our bodies switches back and forth depending on what and how much activity we are doing.

Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. It expends or burns energy continuously. Just as we all have different amounts of muscle, so does our metabolisms differ. Our Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of energy that we expend while at rest. So the more lean muscle that we have, the more energy we burn at rest and the higher our Basal Metabolic Rate.

A lot of people starve themselves hoping to lose weight. The problem with this approach is that this will severely damage and lower your metabolism due to the loss of lean muscle tissue. Although they lose fat, a lot of the weight is from the loss of water and muscle. The weight lost is short lived; hormones will wreck havoc, doing its best to hold onto all of the remaining body fat that remains, as it dips into starvation mode. Our body can’t tell the difference between dieting and starving, so it will do its best to preserve body fat as it is our emergency fuel store for survival, and burn off as much muscle as possible as it is not vital to survival. Fat loss is now at a plateau. Yet they diet even harder, taking them even deeper into the metabolic rut.

The calories they eat now are even more likely to be stored as body fat due to the loss of muscle. Pounds pile back on quickly and in most cases they put on more than before they first got started. Now they have an even bigger mountain to climb to rebuild the muscle that they’ve lost to boost their metabolism and get their body burning like a furnace again.



I guess the question we are all asking is, so where does this fit in with how good we look? In relation to exercise and keeping a lean, or as most would refer to as toned look, your body would have a lower than average percentage of body fat or below average body composition (lean muscle to fat ratio). I often get clients coming to me and say I just want to get toned but I don’t want muscles. Well they are pretty stuffed in this situation if they don’t want to build any muscle and yet they want the lean look. In short, what getting toned really means is that you have some lean muscle and low in body fat. You can’t burn body fat without muscle as muscle burns calories and it is the only tissue in your body that can burn enough energy in order to make any visual impact on your bodies aesthetics. Building muscle is the best way to boost your metabolism keeping your body lean for as long as you maintain your muscle mass.

Instant gratification can never do us any good. A small, sustained fat loss over a longer period will ensure that your metabolism remains in check. Not rapid, substantial weight loss causing damage to our metabolism. End of the day we’re all interested in looking our best. So the take home point is, if you want to look lean, do weights as your first priority and ensure that you feed your growing muscles with lean protein frequently to keep your body in an anabolic state preventing muscle breakdown. Do some cardio on top of your weight ·training to burn off some excess calories as a bonus, and rest well. Record your results frequently, be consistent and patient. Rest assured that the only progression you will make, is towards your goal.

What about cardio!? Doing cardio alone isn’t going to cut it, as it doesn’t really build much muscle, if any at all. You are only burning calories whilst you are doing it, so if you want to make any serious impact you would have to be on it 24/7 to burn enough calories. Do bear in mind that the fat you have goes a VERY long way. 1 pound of fat produces 3500 calories! Good luck! With muscle, you are ALWAYS burning calories no matter what you are doing round the clock. I know what I would choose. – Build some muscle then just kick back, enjoy my cookies and cream and STILL look lean! :oP

Stay Healthy & Strong,
Steven Wong – CPT, Pn1

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