How does someone burn fat and build muscle?
The answer lies in knowing a little more about how your body works. The more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism. We are often asked why do men lose weight faster than women? More muscle mass! More muscle means a higher BMR (basal metabolic rate). Men’s physiological makeup naturally endows them with more metabolism-boosting muscle which is where the stereotype of men losing weight faster comes from. The more lean muscle you have the easier it is to burn fat and build muscle at the same time. The good news is that women can increase their lean muscle and therefore increase their BMR. This is why at Natural Bio Heath we focus on fat loss, not muscle loss and we measure % body fat for both men and women on our body composition machine.
Muscle is responsible for the vitality of your body. A high muscle-to-fat ratio increases your basal metabolic rate, the rate at which you burn calories. So more lean muscles mean you burn more fat! Most diets and weight loss programs result in decreased muscle and rebounding after the diet is over. When someone says they lost a lot of weight on a program, it often means they lost lots of muscle. This is because they don’t focus on the ‘burn fat build muscle’ idea and instead focus on losing any weight at all (the number on the scale). Read more on exercise and its effects on the body.
So why the rebound after losing muscle? Muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. A pound of muscle burns roughly 15 more calories a day than a pound of fat. For example, if you lose ten pounds of fat and gain ten pounds of muscle, you would thereafter burn an additional 150 more calories a day. This means that your number on the scale would stay the same, but you would be losing inches and dropping sizes! If you lose muscle, you burn less per day. So that scale might move a little bit but your pants still won’t fit like you want them to! And even worse you’re more likely to gain weight back in the future.
And it gets worse. Exercise that builds muscle also helps preserve your aerobic capacity, lower blood pressure, maintain or achieve healthy cholesterol levels and healthy blood-sugar levels. If you do not exercise and maintain lean muscle your inactivity will reduce your cells’ oxidative capacity (the ability to burn oxygen). This is why many older people who have lived typical Western lifestyles experience chronic fatigue. Aging and inactivity slow down capillary growth meaning that the supply of oxygenated blood reaching your muscles and other tissues declines. So by not helping build lean muscle as you get older you are more likely to have tissue/muscle problems. The good news is regular exercise, whether you are young or old, will improve your body’s capillary density. So by adding some light weight training you can burn fat and build muscle to improve your performance and health.
Gain fat and lose muscle? If you eat the SAD diet (standard American diet) and you are sedentary (meaning no exercise or physical activity) you will gain fat as you age even if you aren’t gaining “scale” weight. Your muscles shrink while fat tissue accumulates. In the United States the average twenty-five-year-old woman has 25 percent body fat. If she’s sedentary, by the time she’s sixty-five her body-fat level will rise to 45 percent! The average American man at age twenty-five has about 18 percent body fat (although obesity is increasing in young adults and even pre-teens). Inactive adults will have nearly 40 percent body fat by the age of sixty-five. We call this scarcoepenia obesity. Your BMI may even be in the normal range. This is sometimes referred to as skinny fat.
If you want to burn fat – do not base your fat to muscle ratio on scale weight or BMI.
Do you have to get fat as you age? Science has shown us over and over that it is possible and feasible to keep your body-fat level low, your muscle-to-fat ratio high, and your weight at a healthy level. How? Living a lifestyle with optimal hormone levels, regular and moderate exercise and a diet consisting of healthy fats, lots of plant-based whole unprocessed foods and some fruit. It is the best way to burn fat and build muscle in your life.
Another thing happens as we age to keep in mind: our blood sugar increases. Our ability to use glucose in the blood stream declines with age. As people develop more body fat and less muscle, their muscle tissue becomes less sensitive to insulin. As a consequence it takes more and more insulin to have the desired effect. That means it gets harder to burn fat and build muscle. This can lead to pre-diabetes and diabetes. Increasing your muscle-to-fat ratio can reverse this deterioration. Muscle means increased insulin sensitivity. One important benefit of testosterone is to increase lean muscle and therefore increased insulin sensitivity.
At Natural Bio Health, we emphasize including resistance training to increase your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and fat burning. See “Build Muscle and burn fat.” It also makes you look better and helps keep your bones healthy. Check out our blog on 13 steps to effective weight loss to learn more.
Reference: Pasiatkos SM, et al. “The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review”. Sports Med. 2105 Jan; 45(1): 111-31.