As long as I have been a PT I have battled with the negative associations with building muscle. The vast majority of my clients want some element of body fat loss and yet at the same time many of these clients, when joining, warn me against anything to do with muscle gain as if I harbor some strange desire to see everyone become pro body builders! I can safely say The Shed would never have grown if we were “bulking” our clients! The fear of muscle gain often sprouts from unrealistic notions of gaining muscle too quickly and even more concerning I think a lot of us fear muscle gain because we are so obsessed with what we weigh - as if anything that slows down weight loss or adds muscle weight is going to make us look hideous! Let me be clear on something – your body weight is one of many measurement tools and it does NOT take into account all factors when it comes to body fat/composition.
But even after breaking down the myths associated with “bulking” and doing resistance training I am still surprised by how unknown the benefits of building lean body mass are. As I mentioned previously most of my clients are after fat loss among other things and it is common knowledge that our BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) plays a massive role in weight loss. Many of us (hopefully) are starting to let go of the old fashioned run and count calories approach when it comes to long-term body fat loss and are starting to jump onto the Metabolic band wagon – which is fantastic by the way!
But it may shock many of you to know the biggest contributor to the speed of your BMR (63% in fact) comes from the amount of LBM (lean body mass) we have. 63 PERCENT!! And yet so many people wanting fat loss are telling me they don't want any muscle gain!
Now you may start to see why I am writing this blog. Many of you may be saying but what about age, gender – they definitely play a role in the speed of our BMR but it may startle you to know how very little. Age contributes to about 2% of our BMR, gender about 0.05%. So when people say your metabolism gets weaker as you get older – this is technically true but the aging itself isn’t the reason for the metabolic decline, rather the natural atrophy (loss of muscle) resulting in less LBM is the cause. And it is true that males do indeed generally have much stronger BMRs then females but once again this is related mostly to the differences in LBM. (Let it be known that variances in the hormone thyroxine can affect your BMR significantly)
Everyone knows my feelings towards a strong metabolism and its benefits on long-term fat loss and maintenance. But putting that aside, Muscle Hypertrophy or “muscle gain” also plays a major role in improving a person’s body composition ESPECIALLY as a person drops body fat. Have you ever seen that “fat-skinny” person who has successfully lost 15-30kg from steady state cardio? Bad posture, lots of loose skin, what body fat is left is generally sitting in “pockets” as if their vegemite isn’t being spread right out to the edges! This person may very well have a low body fat % but because of the muscle loss associated with long bouts of cardio + caloric deficits - what body fat they do have left is thicker in their sticking points, there is no lean muscle pushing out to the surface of their skin and their posture has changed negatively. Take one look at some of our Before/Afters and you will see the result of body fat loss while using Muscle Hypertrophy instead of long bouts of cardio. This is a big reason why we constantly try and shift the focus off someone’s body weight and rather display a person’s journey in pictures.
So next time you jump on the scales, remind yourself that your ideal body isn’t reflected by how much you weigh and next time you hit the gym spare a thought for the squat rack 😉
Johnston AM, Murison SD, Duncan JS, Rance KA, Speakman JR (2005) "Factors influencing variation in basal metabolic rate include fat-free mass, fat mass, age and circulating thyroxine but not sex, circulating leptin or triiodothyronine." - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16280423