This Doctor’s Secret to Keeping Excess Weight Off – PART II

By Dr. Scott Rosenthal

Last month I discussed how I use high intensity interval training to help stay in shape and at my optimum weight. For those who embraced the research-backed approach, kudos for making a valuable investment in yourself! For those who still have not strapped on a pair of sport shoes, today is a perfect day to start. This article will take it one step further by adding another component to your successful fitness regime. It’s all about the best use of weights to keep weight off.

Too often, calorie restriction is overemphasized when it comes to weight loss programs. It is true that many Americans consume too many calories (please read the article OVEREATING? archived at rosenthalchiropractic.com for more information), but your engine size and fuel-burning capacity are also vital factors to consider in the effort to maintain your optimum weight. As your body's fat storage area equates to a fuel tank, your lean muscle mass relates to your engine size. Larger engines, not bigger tanks, burn more fuel!

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the energy used each day at rest—think of the gas used when a car is idling while stopped at a light. As you age, your BMR decreases. A portion of the slowdown is due to the loss of muscle mass. Starting in your mid 20's, the average person loses about half a pound of muscle per year. By the time you are in your 40′s, you have about 10 pounds less of muscle— a smaller engine! You may have been a Humvee at age 20, but a Prius at 40!

Considering that one pound of muscle burns about 6-10 calories per day, the loss of 10 pounds of muscle can cause weight gain over time. With the loss of muscle, at age 40, you would have an extra 60-100 calories each day available for fat storage. Since it takes about 3500 calories to make a pound of fat, you will gain a pound of fat every 35-60 days. This is why, as you age, maintaining your preferred weight can feel like being stuck in reverse.

How do you protect your engine from being downsized? The answer requires some resistance—by weightlifting. I understand that for those new to training, this can be a daunting task and uncomfortable at the start. But, once you get past the first few transitional months, the growing pains of a new routine will become a comfortable and enjoyable part of your life!

Aside from protecting the muscle you DO have, consider the other benefits of resistance training:

  • Your muscles are largely responsible for your outer appearance and shape. Greater mass of muscle and better tone creates a more attractive physique!
  • Increased strength adds protection to your joints. Loss of muscle mass and lack of use makes you more prone to injury, aches and pains.
  • Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. The additional calories burned each day, by the extra muscle mass, can add up over the year and contribute to weight loss. As a reverse of the example from above, adding an extra 10 pounds of lean muscle mass to your body will burn an additional 60-100 calories each day (by increasing your BMR). This extra amount of muscle can burn enough calories each year to remove 6-10 pounds of body fat.
  • Resistance training utilizes calories (up to 100-200 calories depending on the workout session).

As always, check with your doctor of chiropractic or other health care professional prior to starting an exercise routine. If you are new to exercising, please consult the trainer at the gym.

My favored routine involves a gentle 10-15 minute dynamic (moving) warm-up. Start with five minutes on a bike, an elliptical machine or a moderately brisk walk. Follow that with performing gentle movements such as forward bends and standing abdominal twists while holding a light weight (a medicine ball works well). Then, perform each resistance exercise that you will later use, but at a VERY low setting for 8-12 reps. A dynamic warm-up prepares your body for the intense workout to follow and helps protect you from being injured.

I then like to vary between the use of free weights and cable-based machines to perform supersets (typically I migrate to whichever is available in order to save time). A superset is two exercises completed back to back with no rest in between other than the time it takes to adjust the weight. Perform 8-12 repetitions (reps) using a level of weight that causes you to barely get the last rep completed. The two movements will usually be antagonistic to each other, such as a pushing exercise followed by a pulling one. Once you are complete, follow with a 60-90 second rest prior to doing a second set or moving on to the next two exercises. Use large muscle groups as the foundation and add smaller muscles if you have time and an adequate energy level (being careful not exhaust yourself).

Perform the minimum for a complete workout:

  • Vertical push-pull superset (example: an overhead press then a latissimus (lat) pulldown)
  • Horizontal push-pull superset (example: a bench press then a seated row)
  • Abdominal and a back superset (example: side and front planks then back extensions over a large inflated exercise ball)
  • Lower body such as a leg press (can be performed alone without a superset)

It is also recommended that you conclude your workout with a cardiovascular interval session. A full description of this component of the routine (essential for those interested in weight loss) can be found in last month’s article archived at rosenthalchiropractic.com. As an added note: it is fine to reduce the intervals to three rounds instead of six because of the additional work just accomplished from the resistance training. Again, it’s important not to become overly exhausted and cause the unwanted consequences discussed last month.

The entire routine (weight training and high intensity intervals) takes about 30-45 minutes, depending on how many sets you decide to perform. Just two or three sessions per week will make a huge difference. Remember to take a day off in between workouts to allow your body to recover.

This routine is not designed to make you look like a bodybuilder, but to achieve a more optimum weight and level of fitness. Please do not obsess over the scale! Muscle adds weight to the body and can offset some of the fat loss. Please think of exercising more for health… after all, weighing less or just being skinnier does not always equate to being healthier. Your goal should always be based on fitness and health!

If you desire to be healthier and maintain an optimal weight as you age, an exercise routine that includes resistance training can help you achieve success. It is fun, makes you feel great, and you’ll love the way it will make you look! A Prius motor may be better for the Earth, but a Humvee-sized engine is superior for your health and waistline!