Gain muscle to lose weight. Here's how
Muscle mass is really important for a healthy body. Muscle boosts your resting metabolism, so you burn more calories even when you're sleeping. It also supports your joints and range of motion, which keeps you safe from injury.
But muscle mass dwindles as we age: it's a natural process, and you have to purposefully combat it. Just keeping the muscle you have requires work, and gaining muscle requires even more effort.
On average, after the age of 30, we lose 5% of our muscle mass every 10 years! The medical term for this is sarcopenia, and the less active you are the more sarcopenia progresses. The result is reduced strength and increased fatigue.
It's a struggle to maintain or create new muscle mass, but it's definitely worth your effort because a single pound of muscle burns 3X the amount of calories in a day as a pound of fat. Therefore, the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you will burn each day.
Muscle is made out of different types of protein. These proteins are organized into neat little bundles and units that stretch and flex as you move. When you lift weights, your muscles are pushed to their limits, and sometimes the organized proteins snap and break. This might sound negative, but it's not.
Your body allows this to happen so that it can adapt to what you are asking it to do: lift something heavy. It breaks those protein units and adds extra length and strength to them. In order to do that, you have to supply your body with the right protein to add.
That means, gaining muscle comes down to two factors.
Lifting weights heavy enough to cause microtears
Consuming foods with the right protein to grow larger muscles
Of course, there are other variable you can tweak, such as how many times per week you are lifting weights, how intense the lifting session becomes, adding protein supplements to your diet, and so on. But the basics are all you need right now. Those basics are enough to help you maintain the muscle you already have, and possibly to gain a little more muscle over time.
Gaining a lot of muscle will require commitment and a routine. You will need to lift weights more than twice each week for at least 20 minutes per session. The goal is hypertrophy (gaining muscle), so you have to lift weights that exhaust your muscles after 6-10 reps. Aim to complete 3-5 sets of reps per muscle group.
That type of lifting will cause the muscle tears you need. Now, you have to add the right protein (and enough protein) into your diet. Without this added protein, your body can't gain muscle.
Good sources of protein include eggs, chicken, fish, and supplements. Aim to consume approximately one gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. This much added protein can cause dehydration, so cut back a bit on your protein intake if you notice you are becoming dehydrated. Also, drink extra water.
With this level of effort, you need to focus on recovery as well. It takes time for your body to incorporate that extra protein into your muscles. That's really the goal, so make sure you offer your body proper recovery time, which is at least 24 hours for a muscle group.
If you rotate which muscle groups you work each session, you can lift 3-5 times per week. For example, if you work your legs on Monday, you can work your arms on Tuesday, and work your back on Wednesday. By Thursday, your legs will be recovered, and you can work those again.
Muscle helps with weight loss
The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn. At rest, this means there's a better chance your body will tap into your stored fat to burn.
When you don't have a lot of muscle mass, your body needs fewer calories. But it's tough for people to recalibrate and eat less, not to mention, eat only nutritionally dense and low-calorie foods. There is no room for sweets, fats, or extras when you have little muscle mass.
Muscle is a key element to loosing weight and staying healthy.