I actually have had several friends mention that they are just having trouble losing the rest of their baby weight, in the last couple weeks. I get so jazzed and burst with excitement to share the "secret" to re-shaping your body, losing weight, and not starving yourself or increasing your cardio to 2 hours a day to get there. Getting back into pre-pregnancy clothes? One word. LIFT. Want to shed 20 years of weight? Go HEAVY. The secret is the muscle you are building, there's so many advantages, more than just losing weight, let's break it down.
#1 Faster Metabolism
Those precious babes we bore. Totally worth it, but boy it takes your body on an unexpected ride. One part of the ride is adding 8-10 pounds of body fat in ONE pregnancy. Plus, your ligaments loosening and stretching to accomodate a child growing inside of you at a fast rate. Which then causes muscle imbalances and not to mention stretching those abs far apart (bowling ball sticking out your middle?!). So adding fat and losing muscle means a slower metabolism. Plus, every year after you turn 20, a percentage of muscle mass is lost if you don't lift. Oh man, spiral here. This accounts for the typical 5-10 pounds women gain each year after they reach 20. So add that and multiple babies, you feel screwed.
Not so! Lifting weights literally reverses that because a pound of muscle burns 50 calories a day versus the 5 calorie a day a pound of fat burns. That's a HUGE difference. Faster metabolism here you come! So let's say you started at 140 pounds with a body fat percentage of 25, which means your body burns around 1400 calories a day while resting (BMR, not factoring any activity). Let's then then add 20 pounds from age and pregnancies. So your weight increases to 160 and body fat is at 29%. That means your body is burning around 1500 calories a day. Not much increase for the amount of weight you put on. Also, you have a larger belly, your back hurts often, you don't like to wear tanktops or shorts in nice weather, and you're low on energy. Not fun. Each year after this that you don't lift weights, and even if you don't add on any weight your fat can still increase so your metabolism will slow back down towards 1400. Then add extreme calorie cutting/yoyo dieting and you hurt your metabolism so it slows at a faster rate. Sound familiar?
That's a lot of numbers and I know I am spending a lot of time here, but this is important. Cardio or Aerobics cannot put muscle in your body. I will say it again, cardio CANNOT add muscle to your body and increase the speed of your metabolism. It burns fat, but it will not do what weights can do. Go back to the numbers and let's find the solution. Say you lose the 20 pounds and your body fat goes down to 22% because you're lifting. Your BMR (resting calorie burn) goes to 1,480, and since it's resting calorie burn, it doesn't factor your workouts in. We also know that you have a longer calorie burn when lifting weights than cardio, so you will continue burning for up to 48 hours AFTER your workout. Now we are rolling! But back to BMR, you are able maintain the higher level of calorie burn at a lower weight with less body fat. Let's say you're 10 years older at this point, that's an increase from where you started, plus you'll be smaller, leaner and you'll be able to maintain a faster metabolism! Change is possible. Take a look at this chart. Starting at the 30% and then going to the right (for women), there may be little difference in weight but much smaller and a more defined body. It is literally re-shaped.
#2 Less Injury
When you lift heavy weights, the muscles that surround important areas, like your spine, your bones, and organs actually are more protected. Fat is squishy and weakens your support system. So bending down and picking something up is not a problem when you have muscle there to carry part of the load (versus just your bones). You know how we see random videos of an 80 year old woman or man doing things 20 year olds do? How is that possible? It's because they have kept their bodies strong enough to avoid injury. There's a principle or syndrome in fitness called the Disuse Syndrome. You can use it or lose it, in literal sense. If you don't use a body part, or your whole body, you will eventually lose it because it won't withstand even regular tasks. There were studies done on female high school cross-country athletes and when you added in a 12 week weight training program, there was significantly less injury, not only that but better performance and after incorporating weight training practices each season the school was #1 each year with their competing schools. We know building muscle avoids injury, so let's put it to practice!
#3 Builds Character
Lifting does not only benefit the physical body. When you lift your body weight, bands, free weights or use machines, you are working on your personality. It takes discipline, focus, determination, dying to oneself, perseverance, and control to make this a regular practice. I'm not saying cardio doesn't do this as well, but at the end of the day, you feel stronger on the inside and out. Another aspect is the confidence it gives when you see actual results. You're not just running on a hamster wheel with seeing no change, which would be discouraging. There's just a difference in your mannerisms when you look and feel strong/lean.
#4 Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Studies show that lfiting strengthens your heart and increases the blood going to and from your heart, which lowers blood pressure. If you do 30-45 minutes of strength training there can be up to a 20 percent decrease in blood pressure afterwards. Bye bye medications. I have personally had multiple clients go off blood pressure medications after they began training with me. One man was on 12 medications, 3 of which were for BP and within 3 months he dropped 20 pounds and went off all 3 because his BP lowered so much.
#5 Fight Osteoporosis
So as I mentioned above, muscle protects bones and ligaments from injury. But adding muscle actually strengthens your bones well. Studies show that when you put tension on your muscles (when lifitng) you put that tension on your bones which makes your body build your bones up. Lifiting weights has so many benefits it's crazy!
#6 Helps Blood Sugar Levels
Did you know that you have different colored muscles? Yes, you have white and red colored muscles. White actually aids in lowering blood glucose/sugar levels because it gets used for burning sugar. Lifting weights grows more of the white muscle and is more prevalent in strength sports or body builders. Red muscles are typically found in more aerobic athletes such as a marathon runner and is used for fat oxidation, which means it burns fat. This shows why alternating between lifting heavy and doing cardio is beneficial for the body as a whole and that balancing both create a nice body :)
#7 Better Brain
Studies show that for middle-aged people, lifting moderately heavy on a regular basis actually improves cognitive thinking and memory.
#8 Balances Hormones
When you lift, there's a hormone effect that happens. Endorphins kick in, cortisol lowers, blood pumps throughout your body, blood sugar regulates, blood pressure drops, and all of that works together to make you whole and healthier. We know that hormones regulate your entire body, so it only makes sense that lifting on a regular basis would help balance those out if it's so beneficial for the rest of your body.
#9 Reshapes Your Body
You see pictures of them posted everywhere; pins of women with flat stomachs, beautiful legs, and sculpted shoulders. The secret? Lifting. The only way you can actually shape your body to look like the fit people you want to look like is to weight lift. Muslces are tight, smaller, and lift everything, so building it gives curve to a woman's body and definition for a man.
#10 Relieves Stress
Researchers have found that people lift generally produce less stress hormones (makes sense with all the things mentioned in #7) and keep calm under more tension. Plus, lifting helps literally relieve stress during the workout. It gives you a place to "work-it-out" and let those endorphins kick in, which is better for your anger and decision making. I know that I personally go and lift weights when I am feeling more stressed and it does help.
There are so many other benefits and these are just the tips of the iceburg. Here are more links to other resources if you're interested and some are associated with studies I have mentioned above.
Women's Magazine (health)
Women's Magazine (health)
Put it to Pracitce
Now, I have talked a lot about lifting and maybe you want to know what that looks like. Welll, each person starts at a different place, has varying flexibility, different skills, balance, etc. This is not one size fits all. Lifting heavy is basically keeping a muscle under tension to the point of tearing it for it to rebuild stronger. So maybe it looks like doing lunges repeatedly without standing fully, or wall squats, push-ups, tricep dips on a chair, etc.
Less Reps or More Reps?
Being able to build muscle is to continually increase weight you are lifting to build that muscle. So once lunges no longer give results, holding weights in your hands while lunging is the next step. Keeping your reps low is the key to building muscle quickly. The more reps you do to keep up means the workout is turning into cardio and that's not your goal. You want your last rep to be the last one you can possibly do, physically. The max amount of reps for building muscle? I cap at 15 but typically 12 is going to produce better results. So once you add those weights to your lunges, if you start with 5 pounds, increase to 10 pounds, then continue up and up. If you can't buy weights for a while or you have a max amount then use bands, challenge your balance, anything to challenge the muscle will help.
Whew, that was a lot of information but hopefully helpful to your exercise endeavors. Stay strong fitness peeps!