This post is ESPECIALLY for the ladies of Cause Fitness, but men, please read this and share it with the ‘Cardio Queens’ in your life. :)
Recently, especially since living in Los Angeles, I’ve realized that women treat weight training like the plague! They literally run…and cycle, and eliptical, and Zumba…away from it, readily accepting their fate, doomed to die on cardio equipment due to the endless hours spent on those machines.
Hey you crazy hamster, get off that dang wheel!!!
Wanna know a secret?
Active, fueled muscle tissue, not cardio, will keep you small forever! What does that mean? I’ll try to explain. Read on…
YOUR BODY: If we break it down to the VERY basics (bear with me, smarty pants…I’m trying to make it VERY easy to ‘get’) is made up of organs/tissues/fluids to keep you alive, bones to keep you upright and protect your ‘innards’, muscle to stabilize and move you, and fat which insulates, protects and provides energy for survival. BUT…let’s break it down further and talk strictly aesthetics for a minute.
YOU WANNA LOOK GOOD: No, you wanna look GREAT! But you wanna be healthy at the same time right?
Now, you may think this is a simple game of “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”, but really, it’s a game of percentages: the percent body fat you have, versus the percent of lean body mass (muscle and everything else other than fat) that when combined, total your body weight.
Relax, take a deep breath and stay with me…
FAT and MUSCLE are two common words that have very different connotations, and it truly depends on who you ask. But for the sake of this article, I want you to understand that as a bodliy ’tissue’, body FAT is inactive, dormant…it basically does nothing but “hang out”. MUSCLE on the other hand, is alive. It’s an active tissue. It can break down and/or become weaker, or it can grow, and/or get stronger, but either way, it’s doing going or the other direction at all times…slowly, but it’s happening. To make it real, at this very moment in time while you’re reading this, depending on how you’re training and fueling or not fueling your body with adequate foods at optimal times, you are either losing or repairing/building muscle tissue.
Before you stop reading, and take everything you’ve read so far and think something like, “All I need to do stop doing cardio,” or, “I just need to build muscle all the time and lose all my body fat because fat is the enemy,” let me explain something vital.
Yes, too much is unhealthy, can cause disease and other health issues, and by societies standards, unpleasing to the eye, but…a little fat is good, healthy, and necessary to survival!
This is how we judge percentages as healthy, unhealthy or somewhere in between… (see chart to the right)
Oh, and FYI, just so you have a visual, the girls who compete in fitness competitions on stage are around 9–11% body fat, but it’s just for stage and next to impossible (not to mention dangerous) to stay that low. See post on “How I Tighten-Up”.
Men, on the other hand, can maintain much lower percentages and still be healthy. The stud at the gym with shredded arms and abs (that you can see through the sides of his cut out tshirt/tanktop that he “accidentally” cut “too much” off of when he made it at home) is probably sitting pretty around 4–6% body fat. Ladies, is this unfair? YES. Can we change that? No. Life is unfair. Train hard and concentrate on YOUR best.
QUESTION: HOW DO YOU BUILD AND KEEP JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF MUSCLE AND BURN JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF FAT TO GET AND STAY HEALTHY/FULL OF ENERGY, AND LOOK FABULOUS?
ANSWER: 1) EAT TO MAINTAIN, 2) LIFT HEAVY, 3) DON’T OVERTRAIN
Remember, as an “active” tissue, muscle is in a constant need of energy (stored or incoming calories that are broken down to become energy…). Unlike FAT, your muscle needs/uses calories/energy to build, but also just to maintain what you already have. So most importantly, you need to eat. You need to eat the right amount of calories to fuel your body. See post on “How many calories do you need” here
2) LIFT HEAVY
NOTE: Keep in mind, you won’t “BULK UP” unless you’re eating a surplus of calories for your energy needs, aka. eating more calories than you’re burning/using.
Did you hear me? I’ll say it again. Repeat after me:
“I won’t “bulk up” unless I’m eating more calories than I’m burning.”
Knowing what you do now about muscle being an active tissue (requiring calories/energy just to ‘be’), doesn’t it make sense that the more lean muscle tissue you have, the less fat you’re likely to have stored? WATCH THIS *OLD VIDEO* (Throwback Alert! — This is one of my first video ‘tips’ from when my business was still called “iFit: Independent Fitness”) AND LEARN…
GOT IT? YOU HAVE TO LIFT HEAVY.
Need a *very general* lifting split/training protocol? Shoot for 3–4 sets of every exercise, 8–12 reps of every exercise, and chose 4–6 exercises per muscle group, resting 60–120 sec between sets. (NOTE: This changes depending on individual needs, but generally, this will help you build and maintain some awesome, fat-fighting, lean muscle tissue).
Need another reason to lift heavy? How about 12 reasons? Check out this blog by a fellow true-fitness friend and fitness model, Jill Coleman, called 12 Ways Lifting Weights Improves Your Wellbeing (& General Awesomeness). Ya’ll KNOW I don’t recommend just ANYone. She’s the real deal. READ IT. NOW. (Love you!) :)
3) DON’T OVERTRAIN
Rest is essential to building/maintaining lean muscle tissue, losing fat, and almost every other bodily function. It’s while you’re at rest, only AFTER you’re finished with a heavy, intense, training session, that you rebuild muscle, get stronger, and burn fat. This is why I don’t want you to fall into the “Cardio Queen” trap.
–Yes, cardio is good for your heart.
–Yes, cardio can help burn some extra calories, but…
Too much cardio will trigger more fat storage later due to your brain and body’s survival instincts. It’s basic science/evolutionary principles.
Imagine your brain during excess calorie burn. It might sound something like this:
“RED ALERT: We are starving! EMERGENCY PROTOCOL: Store FAT for survival and don’t burn it so fast next time. In case she continues this behavior, we will still have energy to keep her going!”
Funny to me :)
To say it another way, your body learns to become very efficient at preserving energy (burn fat slower than before and store it longer than before). This is why you will always see a couple overweight marathon runners and endurance athletes. They have essentially taught their bodies to become VERY good at storing and holding body fat. See post on HIIT training and ‘why sprinters are sexier’ here
Have any “cardio queen” friends? SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH THEM! :)
YOUR TURN: I wanna know how you feel about lifting heavy weights: DO YOU? If not, why not? Is it knowing how, intimidation, fear of “bulking up” despite my explaination of why you won’t?? :) Let me know in the comments below! Here to help! :)