You see it in every gym: Women on cardio machines, zoning out, making cell phone calls, or watching reruns of Bravo and the Food Network. (Which, by the way, is insane. Why torture yourself with hours of Cupcake Wars? Why?). After following this ritual for two to three seasons of Top Chef, many of these women have yet to see any real weight loss results.
A lack of muscle can be a huge contributing factor to this colossal waste of time and effort. And this isn’t some phenomenon seen exclusively with overweight individuals. There are plenty of “skinny fat” people too. It just seems as though more women have an aversion to resistance training, so directed this article towards “Chicks and Weights.”
I know; all your calorie calculators tell you cardio burns more than weight lifting–but that’s not the whole story. Energy burned at rest (your basal metabolic rate) is entirely dependent upon body fat percentage. That means if you have more muscle, you are burning more energy while you’re channel surfing. (Provided you aren’t simultaneously inhaling pints of ice cream.) In other words, lifting weights will help you burn fat and lose weight even while at rest.
“But lifting weights will make me bulky.” No, I assure you; unless your body is out of whack or you’re trying to look like Schwarzenegger, you will not get bulky. Ever heard of anabolic steroids? Of course you have. Athletes take them to enhance performance and then get asterisks put next to their names. Ever heard of an anabolic imbalance? Probably not.
Here’s the deal: At the cellular level, the body is always in an anabolic or catabolic state, or in the process of switching back and forth between the two. During the day, our cell membranes are intended to open up (much like a flower) so nutrients can get in and out more easily. This “more open” state is called a catabolic state. At night, our cell membranes are intended to become more closed (again, like a flower) so nutrients cannot get in and out as easily. This “more closed” state is called an anabolic state. Both states are appropriate, and even necessary, for a body to function optimally. Due to many possible factors, some people can get stuck in one state and their body will not switch back and forth like it is intended to.
While an anabolic state can have its benefits, any state can cause problems when pushed to an extreme-even problems beyond becoming so huge that you look more like a video game character than a human. Although it is very appropriate for the cells to be in an anabolic state at night, some individuals will stay in a more anabolic state most of the time. If you are a female who is stuck in an anabolic state most of the time, you may build more muscle than you want to see because you are stuck in the state where the body likes to repair and rebuild. These individuals are said to be experiencing an Anabolic Imbalance. You can read more about this imbalance and how to correct it in any of the books from either of my two natural health series Kick It in the Nuts or Done With That.
As long as you are not experiencing an anabolic imbalance, it is not likely that you will become “too bulky” by lifting weights. The bulky side of the equation is more about your diet and your body chemistry. In fact, if you can increase your muscle fibers by incorporating weight training, you will lean out more quickly, making you look smaller. However, if you’re lifting weights and still eating in a manner that causes your body to store fat, adding more muscle won’t be enough to lean you out. Adding muscle is just a boost; it’s not a replacement for good nutrition.
So what should you take away from this? Make sure your body is not stuck in an anabolic state, take a couple days off from your cardio bubble, and check out the free weights side of the gym. All the cool kids are over there.