For most people, (with an exception to the few ‘genetically blessed’) exercise must become a part of your everyday lifestyle if you desire to loose (or maintain) weight. I think one of the biggest ‘mis-understandings’ when it comes to exercising for weight loss is that you must do ENDLESS amounts of cardio to burn off as many calories as possible! I know this to be true, because I too once thought cardio (for at least an hour a day) was the only way to trim down and stay slim! Well…I’ll just say it now…I WAS SO WRONG!!!
Now, don’t get me wrong, doing cardio is an important element of weight loss, and it does have it’s benefits! However, it’s strength training that will help you not only loose weight, but will help you get the results that really LAST! I think the benefits of weight training (especially in women) are poorly understood, and are therefore greatly neglected.
It seems like everyone starts out their weight loss journey doing strictly cardio exercises. Which is a great place to start, and certainly better than no start at all! So, let’s start by discussing a few of the benefits of doing cardiovascular exercise, (which is any type of activity that gets your heart rate up.)
First and foremost, cardio gets your blood pumping through your arteries at a higher pace than normal, so it essentially prevents the ‘plaque’ (that leads to heart problems) from settling in your arteries, (aka helps keep your heart healthy!) Cardio also requires energy from your body, which means it requires calories, (aka it burns calories!)
Cardio usually works well at helping people ‘take off’ excess weight, but what usually ends up happening is people continue to do cardio (and maybe even become ‘cardio queens’ like I was) but eventually STOP loosing weight, and hit a plateau. This generally leads people to wonder what they are doing wrong…and so they do the next ‘logical’ thing which is cutting more calories. What people don’t realize is this combination is actually doing more harm than good!
You see, once your body ‘looses’ a certain amount of body fat, it will come to a HAULT in order to preserve homeostasis (aka a ‘comfy’ place for it to stay at). In addition, once you have burned off a certain amount of body fat with cardio, your body will start to burn muscle in addition to fat. So, in order to prevent a weight loss plateau, and burning off muscle, you will need to incorporate strength training into your routine!
Now lets discuss the benefits of strength training! First and foremost, strength training will build your muscles mass, which will in turn build your strength (hello…I can carry all 500 bags of my grocery’s inside no problem! ;)) Which is important if you would like to keep you body strong, and prevent injuries down the road! Weight training also prevents osteoporosis, (which is a common problem for many women as they age), by building your bone density!
Building muscle also has the added bonus of appearing more ‘toned’ and strong! Also, women don’t have the testosterone to ‘bulk up’ like men do, so it’s not hormonally possible for a woman to get bulky muscles like a man can! I have much more I could say on this… but I would be going on far too long, so I encourage you to study it out for yourself if your still not sure!
Last but not least, here is the greatest part of weight training of all (if you ask me!) Muscle mass is ‘metabolically active tissue’ which means it uses energy to ‘survive’ in a sense, (which means it needs calories to be maintained). This means with every pound of muscle you build, you are burning more calories when you are just sitting around! With cardio, you do burn calories while exercising, and you have a slightly higher ‘caloric burn’ a few hours after you are done. However, with lifting weights, you will burn calories during your workout, and will continue to do so after you have stopped exercising for the day.
Now lets talk about how what your eating affects this whole equation!! When you are on a ‘diet’ or cutting calories, you will most likely lose muscle mass along with any fat you lose. This may cause your metabolism to slow down somewhat and you may find the pounds not coming off as fast as you would like (or plateau all together.) However by building your muscle, you are more likely to keep burning calories long term, with out a plateau effect!
As you continue to build up your endurance and can lift heavier weights you will continue to add more lean muscle mass, which in turn will burn more calories during the day. Another important thing about dieting is you also want to make sure you are eating ENOUGH calories to support your new muscle growth.
You need to be careful to start slowly and not move too fast when you start lifting weights. Lifting too much weight too fast can do more harm then good (remember, our bodies like homeostasis, and any drastic changes will cause your body to freak out and go into plateau mode!!!) :) Ok i’m being dramatic…But I would recommend seeking out advice from someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in weight lifting to help you out when you first start.
Now after RAVING about how awesome weight training is…I must add that weight training should not replace your cardio program, because as I discussed, there are many benefits in doing cardiovascular exercise as well. So, if you want the best results try mixing the two together. This should give you the positive benefits of both types of exercise!
If you have already ‘discovered’ the many benefits of adding weight training to your personal fitness routine, I’d love to hear about it!
I know this post doesn’t have much to do with fitness or nutrition…But I have realized one thing about both of these topics. Our society always seems to try to motivate people to ‘eating right’ and ‘get fit’ in order to look better. I admit, I do feel better about how I look when I eat right and exercise, but when it really comes down to it, those two things have nothing to do with being beautiful!
Regardless of your weight, height, age, or overall appearance, has anyone ever told you that you were WONDERFULLY made!? Well…You were! The Bible says in Psalm 139:14 that you were both “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made!” Now I understand that the Bible is not exactly the ‘common’ or even ‘popular’ standard used to measure beauty…But I have found through my own personal experience that it is the ONLY way. Why do I say this!? Because I have looked to people in the past- men, other women, even myself- to define and affirm my beauty, and it it didn’t matter what kind of validation I received, I was always disappointed. In fact, when I looked to others (or the mirror) to tell me I was beautiful, it was then that I found myself reaping feelings of doubt, loss of self esteem, and seeds of insecurity.
However, when I chose to look to God for my validation, He provided me with constant fulfilling and lasting affirmation. If you open the Bible, you will see verse after verse of telling us how He CHOSE US, how He LOVES US, and He tells us that He has GOOD PLANS for us! It isn’t until we understand how valuable we are to God, that our life begins to radiates true BEAUTY, (because we will start to reflect Him!) Don’t believe me!? Take a moment to think about a woman who shines and radiates Love… A woman who is full of Joy and Peace…That woman may never appear on the cover of a magazine, but one thing is sure, even without seeing her picture, she us undeniably, stunningly beautiful.
I heard a song on the radio by Johnny Diaz recently, titled A More Beautiful You. It really spoke to my heart. I find that the Lord often brings the words of this song back to my mind when I start to have moments of doubt or insecurity…And it always reminds me, that I need to remember what HE says about me (in His Word)..and that He created me wonderful and unique, and the same goes for YOU!
I’m starting a new ‘addition’ to my site called the“Daily Dish”! The Daily Dish will consist of photos and recipes of foods that I ate that day. I will be doing this about once a week to give people a general idea of what I eat on a typical day for meals, snacks, and dessert in order to provide inspiration for ‘real life’ healthy eating! I also hope to show that it can be easy, fun, and delicious to eat healthy on a daily basis! You will see that “eating healthy” doesn’t have to mean eating lettuce for every meal, or eating ‘like a bird or rabbit’ for that matter!
I read this post today on a fitness/health site (www.thatsfit.com) and I thought WOW…I wish more women knew/understood this truth about having six pack abs! Basically, in order to have a ‘six pack’ you need to shed the fat that covers them, (you could have a 12 pack and it be covered with fat and they would never show through!) In order for a woman’s abs to show (in relation to a man’s version of a six pack), she must get down to exceptionally low body fat, (which when too low is not healthy in a woman). Now I’m not necessarily saying having a ‘six pack’ as a woman is ‘right’ OR ‘wrong’ and i’m sure there are cases when women are perfectly healthy (body fat wise) and have RIPPED abs…But I do think there are way too many mis-conceptions about abs out there, especially when it comes to women having them! :) So I thought i’d pass this along…and I’d love to know other people’s thoughts on this!! :)
Six-Pack Abs for Women: A Good Idea?
by James S. Fell Apr 23rd 2010
Earlier this week I wrote about the male six-pack and how difficult (and possibly unrealistic) it is to achieve for most men. Well, for women it’s even harder, and not as coveted, and not even all that healthy. And to make the whole thing even less attractive, ladies, if you want six-pack abs, then you can probably say goodbye to your breasts. Please don’t do that. Seriously, on behalf of literally hundreds of millions of men, don’t.
The fact is that women are designed to carry more body fat than men. It’s actually healthier for women to have higher levels of body fat. A 2000 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that a healthy body fat range for men under 40 years old was between eight and 19 percent, but that for women in the same age group it was in a higher range: from 21 to 33 percent.
To achieve abdominal definition, you are looking at getting down towards single digits of body fat percentage, which is considered to be way below the healthy fat range for a woman.
What’s more, it’s probably going to be even harder for you to do this than it will be for a man. Men have an increased ability to build muscle tissue, which allows more of their calories to be partitioned towards building lean body mass. Even more important is that women are specifically designed to retain more body fat, so your own body is going to fight you harder at losing it. Your body wants to keep fat reserves even more than a man’s body does. Evolution programmed you to be this way.
There is also the fact that abdominal definition on a woman can look kind of creepy.
I’m just one guy, and I don’t know if you care about my opinion, but I can tell you that I don’t like it when women get too lean. I like curves. I like some softness over the muscle. And as I mentioned, achieving abdominal definition makes breasts go away.
This is why so many female fitness models with rippling abs get breast implants. You can’t make your body lose fat only on your midsection, so you’ll end up sacrificing breast tissue as well.
My point is that you shouldn’t let the media dictate to you what is attractive or healthy. Just because some magazine has a ripped and implanted young model on the cover doesn’t mean it’s a realistic or even healthy ideal for you to pursue.
When it comes to fat loss, you can definitely get too much of a good thing.
James S. Fell is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a middle-aged family man with a desk job and not much free time, yet he’s able to keep in shape because he loves exercise and doesn’t mind eating healthy. He is the author of Body for Wife: The Family Guy’s Guide to Getting in Shape. His column for That’s Fit.ca focuses on weightlifting, running and exercise motivation.
I love birthday celebrations with my family. Unfortunately though, (and i’m sure many people can relate) birthdays and holidays are really the only time my family and I sit down to eat a meal together these days. Now, granted, we are all married and moved out (except for my younger sister Emily…Lucky man whoever that will be ;)) and we all work and have busy schedules…But I sure wish we would get together around the table more often, because when we do it is always a blast! :)