Every week since starting the Biggest Loser Competition at work, it’s my goal to send out inspirational e-mails loaded with tips, tricks and secrets to keep people motivated and losing weight. I’m not the Biggest Loser’s biggest fan. I don’t think that quick weight loss, whether to win money or get into a wedding dress, is the best strategy for long-term success.
We all know that the key to a healthy weight is developing habits that we can practice day after day, week after week, year after year. And, if we mess up for a day, week, or even a year, we get right back at it once the disarray in our life that caused us to slip up gets back in order.
However, I’m on board with the competition at work, and am providing as much encouragement and atta-girls and boys as I can muster without being dishonest, superficial or shallow. If I don’t believe it will work, I can’t recommend someone try it.
Is ‘Weight’ Really Want You Want To Lose?
This week my message to the competitors was about how important it is to exercise, for the primary reason of maintaining muscle, while you lose weight is. I recall that I read somewhere awhile back – although I’m not able to locate the source to attribute the quote – that when people say they want to lose weight what they really mean is they want to lose body fat. If we think about that for a minute, it’s absolutely true.
The goal isn’t really to lose ‘weight’, but, in fact, that is exactly what happens. As the number on the scale starts to go down, body fat is lost, and so is the precious muscle mass that helps fuel our metabolism, prevents bone loss, and reduces our risk of injury as we age.
Dieting without exercise leads to a loss in muscle mass up to as much as 25% per pound according to the American Council on Exercise which is why exercise is necessary for initial body fat loss and long term maintenance. Aerobic activities like walking, running, swimming, biking, Zumba and Turbo Kick may not build big muscles but will provide a calorie burn that lasts for a couple of hours even after the workout is over.
Strength training programs, including yoga, build lean muscle mass that increases the resting metabolic rate. People that have a high muscle mass burn more calories – even at rest – than those with mostly body fat. (To find out exactly how much, keep reading).
A high percentage of lean muscle tissues not only burns more calories while we’re sleeping, it also helps prevent osteoporosis, improves glucose metabolism and decreases the risks of falls and injuries. An exercise program consisting of both aerobic and strength training activities three to four times a week will help with both fat loss and lean muscle retention.
Before we get into the arguments about exactly how much muscle affects our metabolic rate, let’s look at some other things we can do to prime our metabolism.
Water – Studies have shown that even mild dehydration will cause the metabolism to slow down. Adults who drink eight or more glasses of water a day burn more calories than those who drink four. Mild dehydration is also a known cause of afternoon fatigue. Along with drinking plenty of water, eating foods that contain high amounts of water naturally, like fruits and vegetables, will help you stay hydrated and keep your energy up throughout the day.
Protein – Make sure you get plenty of protein from low-fat sources. The human body uses about 25% more energy digesting protein than it does fats or carbohydrates. Some healthy sources of protein are lean beef, skinless poultry, tofu, nuts, beans, eggs, and low-fat dairy products. Protein is also important in the growth and maintenance of muscle tissue.
Coffee – Whether or not coffee actually increases our metabolism to any advantage hasn’t really been proven, although there are plenty of health and fitness web sites that will claim that it has. One thing we do agree on is that coffee before a workout can help improve our endurance and fight fatigue. It may also help reduce the amount of pain that we feel both during and post-workout. Not only will coffee give us the energy burst we need to get moving in the first place, and keep moving once we have stated, it will help reduce the after effects so that we don’t dread doing it again.
Vitamin B12 – The proof that Vitamin B12 improved metabolism is in the same bucket as coffee. One source says yes, the next one says no. Here’s what is agreed on: B12 is crucial to metabolic function and the creation of red blood cells. Primary sources of B12 are meat, eggs, dairy products, beans, soy, lentils, and fortified cereals. Deficiencies occur when we’re not able to get an adequate amount of B12 from food sources, when the stomach doesn’t have the ability to properly absorb it, or a combination of the two.
People that are deficient in B12 suffer from numerous ailments includinganemia, fatigue, weakness, loss of balance, poor memory, depression and confusion. These people aren’t feeling their best; their energy is depleted and a supplement may be necessary to get them back to peak. I’ll let the experts determine whether or not B12 increases metabolism, but people that are lacking B12 need more than a couple of cups of coffee to give them a boost.
The Debate On Muscle Mass and Metabolism Rages On
Years ago it was common knowledge that muscle tissue burns more calories – even at rest – than body fat does. The claim was that a pound of muscle burned as many as 50-60 calories per day at rest. Now that claim is considered a gross exaggeration and it’s probably closer to five to six calories a day.
I read a post on Mark’s Daily Apple discrediting the 50 calories a day claim. The article made for a good read, but the comment section was even better. People don’t want to believe that the 50 calories a day is a myth. The most frustrating part is that no one really knows for sure. One study says one thing, the next one disputes it. Like with the coffee and B12 studies.
I remember when I was writing a post on how music motivates me to run further and faster I found articles written by athletes who are adamant that running should not be done to music. We should all be listening to our feet hit the ground. No thank you.
Who knows. They may decide that drinking a lot of water isn’t that helpful to metabolism either. I’m okay with all of that.
I Don’t Need Absolute Proof
I like coffee. It helps me get motivated to work out in the hours before dawn when humans really shouldn’t even be out of bed. Liquid B12 makes me feel perkier too. I take a dose of liquid B12 everyday whether I need it or not. When I run out and don’t get it refilled on time, I feel like I’m lagging.
I do three strength training workouts a week. If my muscle tissue is burning 50 times more calories than it would be if it were body fat that’s a huge bonus. If not, I’m still going to strength train. I like the way it feels. I like that it’s helping prevent the painful disease of osteoporosis that my mother suffered from. I like that the back of my arms don’t wave goodbye when I wear a tank top in the summer.
I love running to music. (Check out the best running playlist ever here.) I’m going to continue to search for and download songs that inspire me to run farther and faster. If people want to listen to their feet hit the pavement that’s fine, but that’s not for me.
Life is complicated. Human beings are complex. Scientific research is a work in progress. What’s proven one week, may be disproven the next – or even worse, the results conflict – so we end up not knowing what to believe. If science isn’t absolute about the best way to increase our metabolism – besides the obvious sit-less, move-more – why can’t we be the test subject in our own research project?
If there isn’t proof that some of the techniques you use to keep your energy at peak are absolute, do you throw them out? I’m constantly exploring and examining what works for me. I’ll bet you are too!