Use It and Lose It: Exercise, Muscle-Building, and Weight Management

Author – Jordan Rubin

Our Biblical ancestors probably didn’t have to contend with being overweight. Why? Their diets and lifestyle simply did not set the stage for it. They ate healthily and they got a lot of exercise—including walking, which was a primary means of getting places.

While nutrition provides a solid foundation for good health, exercise is essential to everyone to maintain body weight, stimulate circulation, and keep muscles toned. Regular exercise combined with good nutrition is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.

Studies indicate that people who are more physically active have less body weight and those who exercise on a regular basis help to keep off weight originally lost through exercise programs.  One study indicates that exercising for 15 to 45 minutes per day, every day, will maintain a body weight that is 11 to 18 pounds lighter than it would be without the daily exercise.

Two main forms of exercise—stamina training and strength training—influence the structure of your muscles. Stamina training increases your muscles’ capacity to produce and use the energy they need to contract. Muscle strength requires strength training that builds them up, making bigger, stronger, and sturdier muscle fibers. (Walking, by the way, does both—builds stamina and strength.) By regularly doing some sort of strength training, you create more muscle mass that helps you to burn fat since muscle serves as a primary energy consumer for your body.

For optimum health, it is recommended that we do enough physical activity to burn between 3,500 and 6,500 calories a week (or from 500 to about 950 per day). Most of that caloric burn will come from everyday activities as even daily activities or chores account for healthy weight benefits. People who are regularly moving about doing physical tasks are going to reap more healthy weight benefits than those who lead more sedentary lives?

In addition to those calories you burn from general physical activities, you may also need about 60 minutes a week of stamina training—that is, a cardiovascular activity that elevates your heart rate to 80 percent or more of your age adjusted maximum (220 minus your age) for an extended period of time. Ultimately, the stamina training necessary to obtain optimum health comes in the form of only three 20-minute workouts per week at this heart rate. Note: Once you go over these 60 minutes or so or by burning more than 6,500 calories per week, however, there’s no more benefit to your body from a longevity standpoint.

Age also has something to do with muscle mass and the need for exercise. We lose an average of 5 percent of our muscle mass every 10 years after the age of 35 if we don’t do anything to stop this process. What’s more is that when we lose muscle, we typically replace it with fat. If we do not intentionally rebuild muscle through consistent and frequent exercise, then every 10 years a person will need to eat 120 to 420 fewer calories each day to maintain a current weight, even though that does not build muscle. It only maintains weight.

Exercise also helps the metabolism by reversing insulin resistance. Overall, people who exercise look younger and have more vitality and fewer health problems than those who do not exercise. If you have not been exercising regularly or are tired, though, start out slowly with an activity like walking—and be sure to stretch out first.

Keeping muscle and losing fat is essential; muscles keep you strong and help you burn fat. Every pound of muscle burns between 40 to 120 calories a day to sustain itself and fat burns only one to three calories. Adding even a little bit more muscle will help maximize energy levels and will help you to store less fat. So, start moving—and see how you can get closer to your desired weight.