Increasing Muscle Mass Helps to Promote Weight Loss [Guest Post]

[ 0 ] March 5, 2013 |

muscle woman

When we have our sights set on weight loss, seeing the pounds steadily come down on the scales and fitting back into our clothes are the things

that usually make us feel good about our achievements and motivate us to continue. We don’t give too much thought about what’s happening within our bodies and assume that because we’re losing weight, our fat stores must also be coming down nicely; as long as we’re seeing the right numbers on the scales, we’re happy with whatever means we are using for weight loss. However, it can be a mistake to focus too much on either diet or exercise; to achieve the best results it is important that they complement each other.


The Benefit Of Exercise And Muscle

Research suggests that although the amount of weight lost is similar through reducing calorie intake and taking more exercise, restricting dietary intake alone does not see as great a reduction in our body fat. This is important, as to promote our success in weight loss and our health we should be aiming to reduce our fat stores whilst maintaining or increasing our muscle mass.

Muscle is more metabolically active, allowing us to burn more calories, so we want to hold on to our muscle to aid further weight loss. Carrying more fat in our body meanwhile is not just a risk factor for heart disease, but is linked to the development of diabetes, certain cancers and even inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis due to the hormones released by adipose tissue. Reducing the amount of fat we hold within our body therefore reduces our chance of developing chronic diseases, helping us to live a long and healthy life.

Resistance training using either free weights, resistance machines at the gym or simple resistance bands will primarily help to increase the size and strength of your muscles; though it is important to remember that the size of women’s muscles is limited by the low levels of testosterone that we produce in comparison to men. However, regular aerobic activity whether it’s brisk walking, an exercise class, swimming or using cardio-machines, can also help to increase muscle mass. As with weight loss, the best results for muscle gain are seen when this exercise is combined with good nutrition.


Dietary Intake For Muscle Growth

Ask anyone what you need to increase the body’s muscle content and most people give protein as the answer. While it’s true that adequate protein is important for the muscles, as their fibers are comprised of proteins, most of us do not have a problem consuming sufficient protein unless we are on a severely restricted diet.

Consuming lean protein with lunch and dinner, as well as two to three portions of low fat dairy produce daily should meet the majority of our protein requirements. Following exercise with a low calorie yet protein-rich snack such as a low fat yogurt, crackers with cottage cheese or a glass of milk will provide some additional protein for the repair of muscle fibers damaged during exercise and to stimulate muscle growth.

However, protein is only part of the story. Low carbohydrate diets might be popular for weight loss, but without enough carbohydrate our bodies will struggle to increase their content of lean body mass. Carbohydrates provide us the fuel we need to complete resistance and aerobic exercise and provide the additional energy needed for the growth of new muscle tissue. Not only that though, but when carbohydrates are digested into glucose they stimulate the release of insulin; although one of insulin’s roles is to lower blood sugar levels, it is also an anabolic hormone, so stimulates growth of new muscle tissue.

The key to carbohydrate consumption is to include them little and often over the day and choose those with a low glycemic index (GI) where possible. Therefore include a portion of carbohydrate with each meal, as well as with small snacks during the day. This way blood glucose levels are kept constant and there are no big releases of insulin, which would trigger fat rather than protein storage.

Examples of lower GI complex carbohydrates to include with meals are granary or rye bread, pasta, basmati rice, sweet potato and oats. Lists of the GI of foods can be found elsewhere on this site. It is not simply as easy as assuming that high fiber foods are low GI – white and wholemeal bread have very similar values for instance – as a range of factors influence GI, including their protein and fat content and how they have been processed.

A snack after a workout should also ideally include carbohydrate to see best results for muscle gain. During activity blood glucose levels fall, as this is taken up by the muscles for energy, so including carbohydrate post-exercise helps to raise blood glucose levels again. Any of the snacks suggested above in relation to protein also contain carbohydrate, but a small oat bar, a slice of granary toast with a spreading of low fat cream cheese or a small bowl of cereal would make an alternative choice.

While mentioning snacks it is important to remember that to allow continued weight loss, your overall calorie intake for the day needs to be considered. However, eating smaller portions of carbohydrates at meals to also allow their inclusion in between should help to balance this.

If your weight loss has slowed, consider stepping up your activity whilst reviewing your intake of protein and carbohydrate to increase your lean body mass; with this you may be pleased with the results that follow.

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Category: Weight Loss

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About the Author ()

Christine Allison writes on behalf of one of the UK's leading health suppliers as well as a number of addiction help and advice programmes as part of her work as a freelance health writer. She is currently based in a small town in Sadinia but grew up in Southampton, PA.

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