My CrossFit journey did not start as the typical “join a gym to lose weight and get in shape” motivation. To offer some perspective, I am 5’10” and before CrossFit my weight was generally between 125-130lbs. I was an avid runner, running an average of 25 miles a week. Because I was thin and active, I thought this meant I was fit and healthy. It was not until after I sustained a pelvic fracture from running that I started to rethink what being fit and healthy actually meant. I joined CrossFit Hud in April 2015 with a goal of gaining muscle mass and becoming stronger. Since beginning their programming and implementing their education regarding proper nutrition, I have gained 15lbs and feel stronger and healthier than I have ever felt. Not only have I gained a new perspective on health and fitness, I gained an amazing sense of community at CrossFit Hud!
Ask anyone in the gym and they’ll tell you they’re trying to get lean/loss body fat. First, realize the number one thing you can do to reach that goal faster is to clean up your diet. The next, and often overlooked/misunderstood component to a good fat loss program is lifting weights. And by lifting weights I mean heavy, challenging, compound lifts, i.e. deadlift, squat, bench, pressing Olympic lifts, etc. – 5lb dumbbell anything doesn’t count. Longer cardio based workouts are great for burning calories and have their place in a fat loss program but don’t let those workouts overshadow the grand daddy of fat loss, strength training.
Here’s why strength training is an essential part of a well-rounded fat loss program.
Strength training is far better at producing lean muscle than cardio based workouts. When you’re able to put on lean muscle you raise your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your BMR is how many calories your body needs if you were to do nothing all day but watch Game of Thrones. Muscle is metabolically demanding, so the more muscle you have the more calories your body needs to function. Assuming food intake remains constant, your body will be in a deficit and you’ll burn fat. If you’re only doing cardio based workouts your BMR will actually decrease and you’ll have to continue to up the amount of cardio in order to stay at a deficit. Over time this becomes a vicious cycle and can lead to metabolism issues, weight gain, etc. Sure, if you’re eating a decent diet you’ll lose some weight doing cardio workouts, but it won’t just be fat loss, you’ll lose muscle as well. But hey, the scale is going down!!!! Over time you’ll find it very hard to maintain the desired level of fat loss.
Wait a minute. Won’t I get bulky if I lift heavy weights?
Generally speaking, getting large and muscular is no easy task. Ask any guy in the gym. Weight training will add a few pounds of awesome lean muscle mass, but women don’t have the necessary levels of testosterone needed to support the bulky muscle growth you’re scared of. Unless you’re taking anabolic steroids, gaining lots of muscle should be the least of your worries.
If you want to get lean, focus on the following:
- Your Diet. If you’re having a hard time we can help
- Lift Heavy and often
- Don’t use cardio to cover up poor diet choices
- Get good sleep
- Effectively manage stress
- Have patience
- Ignore friends who tell you to do more cardio and stop lifting weights.