Though he has taken hiatus from posting on his fantastic blog, Ryan has come back and said what needs to be said about all those ladies out there who are considering using weights as a means to lean up and become more fit.
by Ryan Zielonka
Ladies, I feel bad for you. Really, I do. When it comes to fitness marketing, women are preyed upon like helpless bunnies in a field brim-full of intimidating, roided-out personal trainers and professional salesmen. It’s as if fitness professionals go full-retard when presented with a female audience. Seriously, how many training programs do we need that tell its victims to do a bunch of cardio, some butt raises, and biceps curls with pink dumbbells?
Let’s get some things straight. First, lifting weights isn’t going to magically give you more tone or burn more calories while you sit at work all day, regardless of what some authors might claim. In fact, weight training has a marginal impact on metabolism, an average session burning somewhere around 300 calories. Even the addition of lean muscle mass to our bodies bears little on our thermodynamics. Building appreciable muscle, particularly for women, is hard, and I can count on one hand the number of women I’ve seen in the gym lifting in a way congruent with the goal of lean body mass gain or retention.
So if weight training doesn’t burn that many calories while you’re doing it, doesn’t give your metabolism much of a benefit when you’re not doing it, and on top of that, it’s hard to gain muscle anyway, why do it at all?
If you put a discerning eye to the screen or page and scan the above paragraphs a few times you’ll notice much of the disappointment comes out of the exaggerated promises found in books, magazines, and in the mouths of personal trainers. These sources are obsessed with calories burned. To a degree, this caloric obsession has merit. If the number of calories consumed exceeds the number of calories burned, body mass accrues – i.e. weight gain. What none of these sources tell you is that weight training’s great benefit is its ability to tilt the partitioning scales in our favor.
So what the heck does partitioning mean?
Partitioning refers to what happens to calories when they find their way into your body. High-intensity activity, especially high-intensity resistance training, puts your body into an optimal partitioning state. By demanding a lot of your body’s physiological systems, resistance training elevates a host of hormones and metabolic processes encouraging your body to build lean muscle and lose fat. When you consume food before, during, and after your workout your body wants to lose fat and wants to gain muscle. Partitioning refers to how many of those calories get stored as body fat, and how many of those calories go toward replenishing muscle glycogen or building lean muscle tissue.
Nutrient timing is getting more press in mainstream literature; in essence, timing your food intake to benefit maximally from the calories your body receives. Regardless of the type of training you’re doing, you’re best off consuming a good proportion of your daily calories before, during, and immediately after training. All that cool stuff resistance training does to your body puts it into a repair and utilize state rather than a store and waste state. But here’s the kicker – to put your body in this state you need to tax it. Most women exert more effort cleaning the house or grocery shopping than they do at the gym.
So what to do? Find a challenging program and work on increasing your weights. Build on the basics – squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bench press, and rows. The basics will always stay the same and will always apply to both genders. No, you won’t get ‘too big,’ no matter how hard you try. Hit the gym with passion and purpose, and then reap the rewards.