Building muscle mass is the best way to increase your metabolism and ultimately lose weight without changing your calorie intake. But before diving into a weight-burning, muscle-building regimen head first, be sure to understand your main objective.
Muscle cells weigh more than fat cells; so the more muquinscle you gain, the higher your weight will be—with other body weight remaining constant. Since muscle is denser than fat, it takes up less space so you achieve a slimmer appearance. Most people seeking to lose weight actually desire to be lean and toned. If this is your goal, then increasing your metabolism is of paramount importance.
Muscles and Metabolism
Quadriceps (thighs), gluteals (buttocks), back, and chest muscle groups are your body’s largest skeletal muscles. These energy-burning powerhouses use carbohydrates and fats as necessary fuel during physical activity. Certain weight-loss diets emphasize fat as fuel and downplay the importance of carbohydrates. However, the body reduces carbohydrates to glycogen, which triggers the secretion of insulin that enables muscles to grow as they absorb essential amino acids and synthesize proteins.
Your body continually builds up and then breaks down numerous proteins over time (some proteins degrade faster than others) in a process called protein turnover. Essential amino acids that you extract from foods tend to raise the basal metabolic rate, which is the sum total of the energy consumption necessary for your body to thrive while at rest. Boosting your metabolism accelerates the means by which your body consumes energy—fat/calorie depletion, protein turnover, and carbohydrate utilization—throughout the day when you are at rest or moving about.
In addition to building muscle, proteins and the amino acids they are made from are key to a gamut of metabolic functions at the cellular level, including hormone synthesis and enzymatic function. Frequent protein consumption by the cells for various bodily functions coupled with vigorous physical activity deplete protein reserves fast. This is why replenishing the body’s protein reserves is a key component to any muscle builder’s training regimen. Consuming foods or supplements that contain essential amino acids increases the rate of protein turnover—keeping growing muscles healthy and primed to burn fat efficiently.
Key Factors to Consider
Maintaining proper protein levels is one of several factors you should consider when developing your weight-loss routine. Genetics, gender, and age are variables that will affect your goals as well as the time it takes to achieve them. Consider that, as you age, the rates at which you synthesize proteins and build muscle tissue slow down. Heed these other factors for building muscle mass and shedding the fat.
The quantifiable basal metabolic rate accounts for the fact that fat burns approximately 2 calories when at rest, while muscle burns 5 to 6 calories at rest daily. If you consume more calories than you expend, you will very likely gain weight. Conversely, moving around more while consuming calories at the same rate will cause you to lose weight. With the right exercises, you can engage muscles that increase the rate at which you burn calories considerably. Limiting calorie intake—by 300 calories per day, for instance—with increased physical activity may accelerate your weight-loss results even further.
If you decide to increase your physical activity to raise your metabolism, the type of activity you choose matters. Extreme cardiovascular exercises, like running or biking, tend to burn more calories during a workout. But with strength training exercises you can potentially burn more calories up to 24 hours after your workout, as they positively impact your resting metabolic rate. Engaging large muscle groups during resistance training maximizes your post-workout calorie-burning potential even more.
Excess water weight may hinder you from defining muscle and appearing slimmer. Eating too much sodium (salts in processed foods, for example) or consuming too little can cause electrolyte imbalance and fluid retention. Dehydration, magnesium deficiency, stress, and lack of sleep are also prime culprits for water weight gain.
Active muscles need and absorb fluid. The energy that active muscles generate triggers perspiration of water and salts through sweat glands. The more you use muscle, the more water, and essential tissue salts you stand to lose.
Depending on your genetic makeup, your muscle tissue may be composed of either slow-twitch (type I) or fast-twitch (type II) muscle fibers. Type I muscle fibers require more time to grow than type II muscle fibers. Long-distance and endurance training are best suited for slow-twitch muscle fibers, while fast-twitch muscle fibers respond best to explosive bursts of activity (e.g., sprints) and are able to withstand higher intensities. There are a number of muscle fiber tests available to help you determine which types of physical activity are ideal for you.
A diet replete with high-protein foods is best for growing and sustaining healthy fat-burning muscles, but be sure to also include healthy fats and carbohydrates to fuel muscles. Consuming protein powders, especially essential amino acid blends dissolved in shakes or liquids, enhances nutrient absorption. Of the three main protein powders—whey, casein, and soy—whey is more soluble and contains all nine essential amino acids. Of these nine amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine are crucial for nourishing muscles, especially leucine.
Essential amino acid powder supplements, however, offer potential advantages compared to protein powders such as whey. Amino acid mixtures can be formulated exactly as desired to address specific metabolic issues, and they can be completely absorbed more rapidly than any intact protein, including whey protein. Check out this article to learn more about using essential amino acids with whey for ultimate muscle-building impact.
You can assimilate protein from foods as well. Some high-protein foods are:
Recommended daily protein consumption for sedentary individuals varies depending on gender, age, and size, but on average look to ingest 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight to satisfy your body’s functional needs. Ten to fifteen grams of additional protein is necessary to build 1 pound of muscle. Consuming more protein probably won’t produce better results.
Aim to consume more fats than carbohydrates, but don’t discount the carbs since they support proper protein absorption in muscles via insulin facilitation and they decelerate protein breakdown. Bananas, sweet potatoes, and apples are a few examples of healthy carbohydrates. A standard recommendation is a diet that consists of 20% carbohydrates, with healthy fats comprising 50 to 70%. Foods that contain healthy fatty fuel for muscles include avocados, cheese, nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, coconuts, full-fat yogurt, dark chocolate, and chia seeds—all foods rich in amino acids!
Gain More, Burn More
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn and the more weight you stand to lose. Choose exercises that adequately engage large muscle groups in the chest, back, and legs.
If you prefer to engage muscles without using weights, try swimming or yoga exercises. Swimming engages large muscles in the arms, thighs, and buttocks. The yoga plank pose engages the core back and abdominal muscles; lunges target the thighs and buttocks; the back-flexing locust pose strengthens spinal muscles.
Always consult a physician before taking on a new exercise program or drastically changing your diet. Talk with your doctor or health practitioner about your weight-loss goals. Certain medical conditions or medications may interfere with your intended results. An abrupt change in diet or physical activity can complicate other treatments. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience unexplained weight gain or rapid weight loss, as these could be signs of serious medical disorders. On your path to building fat-burning muscle, stay hydrated, get good rest regularly, and limit stress to help ensure a smooth transition to your desired weight.