In a previous post, I talked about the only way to actually lose weight. In summary: your calories out need to be greater than your calories in. Regarding your calories out/expended, the large majority of this every day is what is called your basal metabolic rate.
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body uses daily to survive on the most basic level – if you literally laid still in bed all day. The calories needed to beat your heart, breath, digest, fight infection, remove toxins, and repair tissues.
Your amount of muscle mass plays a significant role in your BMR. Muscle, unlike fat, is metabolically active tissue, meaning it uses up energy even at rest to remove waste products, to make micro movements, and to repair/build itself.
Therefore, the more muscle mass you have, the higher your BMR, and the more calories you’ll burn throughout the day, even while you’re sleeping.
This is one of the coolest ways strength training can help you lose weight. And the best part is, outside of the time you are exercising, you literally don’t have to do anything at all differently than normal and you’ll still be burning more calories.
This extra, “free” amount of calories burned probably isn’t going to let you eat a whole extra cone of ice cream a day but it can definitely amount to an extra 0.5-1lbs of weight loss per week. The key is to not increase the calories you take in daily.
The most gain you’ll see is from training the largest muscle groups (like your glutes – which you probably want larger anyway!). However, increasing muscle mass, even a small amount, all over your body will add up and contribute to increasing your BMR significantly.
Many studies have found that the best way to increase muscle mass is to train in the 8-10 rep range. This means using weight that feels relatively easy for the first 1-2 reps but takes almost 100% effort by the 8-10th rep.
If you’re just starting out weight lifting, this is the range in which I would recommend you begin. It’ll give you a good balance of increase in strength (which is short-term rewarding), and increase in muscle size which helps you lose weight (as above!), but shouldn’t make you feel bulky.
Increasing reps over time to 12-16 range helps keep the muscle mass you’ve gained but keeps the muscle leaner instead of bulkier.
So if you want to burn extra calories while you’re doing errands, sleeping, even while you’re eating, head on over to the weight section of your gym, or pick up some weights at home.
Dr. Elle, MD
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