Weight Loss Vs. Weight Gain – The Battle For Success

The two most common goals people have when coming to a personal trainer are weight loss (fat loss) and weight gain (muscle mass). This blog is about the differences in training and nutrition.

Do you feel like our friend here sometimes?

Do you feel like our friend here sometimes?

What they all have in common!

Both goals are highly dependent on your nutrition, a well setup training plan and extracurricular activities. Equally important for the success of your program are sleep and active rest. What does active resting mean? It means that you are not sitting at home on a couch, but pursuing an active lifestyle. A moving body is better circulated, reduces the insulin resistance of muscle cells, and improves recovery by nutrients reaching the cells faster, leaving you ready to go again!

Weight Loss (Fat Loss) as a goal

If you are trying to seriously lose weight and body fat, then you are faced with a myriad of tasks that can be quite overwhelming. The first and foremost goal that I have is really getting the person to move again. Obese people sit about 2.5 hours more per day (Levine 2014) than none-obese people. Time to get off your butt! I know you work a lot of hours, but get a standing desk, walk during phone meetings, take the stairs up and down, do anything but sit.

According to juststand.org  a 170 lb person sitting at work burns about 1000 kcal total over the course of 8 work-hours, whereas the same person burns 1360 kcal when standing – that is an extra 360kcal per day! Compare this to an average 30 minute workout session that burns 200-300kcal. Over a one week period that extra calorie burn translates to real weight loss. What would happen if you start moving more the rest of the day as well?

Now we start adding exercise into the mix. You lift weights 2-3 days a week for 30 min, and boom, you preserve your muscle mass while losing body fat. Let’s say you are super motivated and do 2-3 days a week of some high intensity interval training and really rev up that metabolism. You are pretty golden at this point. Total amount of exercise per week: 1:30 hours – 3 hours.

You know that nutrition is important. You have heard multiple times that you are what you eat, and decide to make small changes every week or two. You add some fish oil because you heard it is important (Berardi 2013), next you start eating more veggies, cut back on the softdrinks, etc and start eating primarily unprocessed food. At this point those pounds are probably tumbling down like crazy. People at work won’t recognize you.

Weight Gain (Muscle Mass) as a goal

We have a couple of clients who want to gain weight. I know a lot of our weight loss clients are envious, don’t be! It can be just as challenging for someone to put on muscle mass as it is for some to lose body fat. My own body type is inherently ectomorph and I enjoy running. I know your pain.

Do you feel like our friend here sometimes?

Here is what you need to do to kill your goal. You need to pick up weights, and you need to go heavy, too. Don’t just pick up light weights, you need to work hard at 8-12 repetitions, sometimes dip into lower reps into the strength area to stimulate the muscles differently.

Here is the kick: even though you might not want to lose body fat, you should still get off your butt at work if you can. Why? Pretty simple. Out of our experience people who sit a long time will struggle with exercises that work on the hip; like squats and deadlifts, etc. That directly impacts your training efficiency. Despite the fact that being active helps you recover faster.

If someone is seriously interested in picking up muscle mass we usually recommend 3-5 days a week of strength training for 45-60 min. This does not have to be with  a personal trainer. The body needs a good training stimulus during the week to be encouraged to change. Depending on the medical needs, body type, etc we might not recommend cardiovascular training during that training phase. Total amount of training per week: 2:15-5 hours.

Now, food becomes an issue again. Just because you want to gain muscle weight, does not mean you can stuff your face however you want. The goal is to take in high quality, proteins, fats, and carbs, vitamins, minerals, etc. to optimize your training progress and minimize the fat gain. Too many people completely blow up with body fat during this phase.

A gradual change to unprocessed foods is the best approach, doing it slowly, not overwhelming someone with goals.

What is the secret?

If you are reading all of this, you might be pretty overwhelmed by now. Don’t be! I think we can all agree on the fact that we want a permanent transformation not necessarily a fast but fleeting change. Here is the secret on how to accomplish all of your goals relatively easily:

In order to accomplish your goals follow the rule of “easy changes first”. Do whatever change comes easy to you first. It might be being more active, nutrition, training, or aspects of each. It does not matter! Simply start with what is doable and implement a new change every 1-3 weeks. Eventually you will have transformed yourself and changes that seemed to be difficult at first, are all of a sudden easy.

Key points:

  • Standing at work can burn as much as if not more calories than working out with a trainer for 30 min 2x a week.
  • Move during the day
  • Slowly make changes to nutrition
  • Will see weight loss without big $ or time investment

Please let me know if we can help with your transformation,

Michael Anders

Berardi, John & Andrews, Ryan (2013). The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Precision Nutrition.
http://www.juststand.org/Tools/CalorieBurnCalculator/tabid/637/language/en-US/Default.aspx (2014).
Levine, James (2014). Get Up! – Why Your Chair Is Killing You And What You Can Do About It. palgrave macmillan.

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