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Increase Your Lean Mass for Successful Weight Management



Weight regain after weight loss plagues many people. It’s estimated that 65-80% of people regain their weight within 2-3 years of losing it.

One major factor contributing to weight regain is that metabolism tends to decrease following significant weight loss; that is, the amount of calories someone can eat without gaining weight decreases.

So, how can one boost their metabolism and avoid this weight regain? One major favor you can do yourself is increasing your lean mass through resistance-type training (weight lifting, circuit training, etc.).

I know many of you may be thinking. “I just lost a bunch of weight, and now you are telling me to gain some back?” Well, sort of, but not exactly…Here’s what I mean.

 Lean Mass and Body Size

Scale weight is only one component of body composition and far from the most important. Scale weight can be broken down into fat mass and lean mass. Fat mass is just fat, while lean mass is everything else: muscle, organs, bones etc. Lean mass takes up less space than fat. Therefore, gaining small to moderate amounts of lean muscle mass will not make you look larger, especially when accompanied by a reduction in fat tissue.

Since women often are concerned about “bulking up” from resistance training, here are some numbers to help reassure you that your fear is misplaced:

  • In a study on women and resistance training, the greatest circumference increase was 0.2 inches after 20 weeks of training, with some women even experiencing decreases of 0.1 to 0.3 inches from their hip, thigh and abdomen. This decrease is from decreased fat mass.

So, while women CAN gain muscle mass, the amount gained usually is not enough to get “bulky”.

 Lean Mass and Energy Expenditure

Another big difference between lean mass and fat mass is that lean mass requires energy to sustain itself. Significant weight loss is often accompanied by a modest loss of lean mass. Remember that after losing weight, the total number of calories your body burns over the course of the day tends to decrease. Research suggests that losses of lean mass likely explain a large amount of this decrease in calorie expenditure. Therefore, resistance training that maintains or increases lean mass is very important for weight management.

 Studies on Resistance Training and Weight Management show:

  • Larger muscle masses use more oxygen at rest, leading to a higher resting metabolism.
  • 15% more calories were burned per day in older men and women after 12 weeks of resistance training.
  • 6 months of resistance training resulted in a tendency for slightly more fat being burned as a fuel source compared to those who didn’t resistance train.
  • Women who lost 25 pounds through a calorie deficit plus cardio burned significantly less calories at rest than women who had lost 25 lbs. while resistance training.
  • The women who weight trained actually gained a bit of lean mass, while the cardio exercisers lost lean mass, leading to a decreased resting energy expenditure.

Take Home Message

Weight regain is an enormous problem for many people. Lean mass is a powerful predictor of daily calorie expenditure and therefore is highly relevant to weight management. Both resistance-type training, such as circuit training, helps to preserve lean mass during weight loss. More traditional multiple-set weight lifting can increase lean mass after body fat has been lost, which provides great potential for avoiding weight regain.

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