There is an important corollary to our ongoing discussion on weight loss that needs special attention here.  Fundamentally, obesity is a symptom of metabolic derangement.  You can’t go long eating a diet full of processed high-carb foods before the “fuel injection system” of your body breaks down.  Eating in this way shifts your body away from maintaining lean muscle into storing excess glucose as fat around the muscles and the liver.  Correcting this metabolic derangement through diet is the first and most important step in losing weight and achieving optimum health.  There is however another very important piece of the puzzle that needs to be addressed if you are to get the most out of your dietary efforts.

On this path of metabolic derangement where metabolism shifts to storing fat, lean muscle becomes the “biggest loser”.  This is critical to understand because it is lean muscle which will be the last step in correcting this metabolic state gone haywire.  It has been previously discussed that calories consumed are in themselves an arbitrarily marker of progress as different foods have completely different metabolic impacts.  Likewise, calories burned through exercise are an imprecise means of assessing loss of body fat.  Here too, it is not the calories burned during exercise which is the bigger contributor to weight loss, but your body’s ability to burn calories at rest.  The old adage of more calories burned than calories consumed is misleading because cardiovascular exercise may not in itself be enough to alter your calorie burning potential.  Building lean muscle, like eating low-carb, shifts your body’s metabolism towards fat burning.

Muscle tissue is expensive for your body to maintain, requiring a lot of energy to function.  An increase in lean muscle therefore demands more calories from your daily food intake.  You could be thin like a marathon runner and burn many times more calories than you consume, however, this requires a constant effort which over time is very depleting to the body.  On the other hand, you can begin a program lifting weights once a week, build muscle, and achieve an even greater net calorie burning effect (at rest) all while growing stronger as you build lean muscle.  This is the untold secret in the fitness world which places too much emphasis on movement for the sake of calorie burning as opposed to training for the sake of conditioning.
There are many great exercises to help you tone, condition, and make you a lean, mean, fat burning machine.  I tend to emphasize an infrequently performed, high-intensity weight lifting routine to accomplish this because you can maximize muscle building while minimizing strain on the body, all with very little time commitment.  Steady-state “cardiovascular” exercise offers little resistance and thus incentive for your body to grow stronger.  Walking thirty minutes each day is an excellent way to stay active, but does not provide a strong enough stimulus to release growth hormone in a way that globally shifts your metabolism into an anabolic state, the end result being an increase in lean muscle and a decrease in body fat.
Although a weight lifting routine is a near foolproof way to build lean muscle, it is by no means the only way to achieve this effect, especially if you are not drawn to our or don’t have access to weight machines.  The whole point is to provide some regular and increasing challenge to your body, via a period or periods of high-intensity, within the context of your workout.  If you are a runner, instead of jogging at the same pace with each workout, you could add intermittent sprints of increasing lengths or intensities over time.  This would be analogous to increasing the weight or time under load in a weight lifting routine.  In either scenario it is the increased challenge which encourages the body to grow stronger and build lean muscle.
The only caveat to the above prescription is to make sure you provide your body with plenty of time to rest and repair from such a high intensity workout. For most folks in good health, that might mean such a workout only once or twice a week.  If you can do it without overdoing it, you will be rewarded with a very strong stimulus to burn fat.  Cheap medicine indeed!  Thanks for reading.

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