Your metabolism, and your ability to regulate it, are vital to your fitness success. Whether your goal is to build muscle, lose fat, or improve your performance in a specific sport or event, you can’t do it effectively without understanding your metabolism and the effects training has on it.
What is metabolism? The Dictionary of Sport and Exercise Science (Anshel 1991), defines metabolism as “chemical changes that utilize energy and result in tissue and compound building (anabolism) or breakdowns of substrates and release of energy (catabolism).” There are only three ways your workout can change your metabolism: 1) the workout session itself and the number of calories burned during the workout; 2), post-workout oxygen consumption; and 3) the addition of new muscle mass.
1 The Workout Itself
Muscle contraction requires energy (calories). The number of calories you burn during the workout is greatly determined by your exercise selection, intensity and weights used. You will burn more calories doing deadlifts, squats, or leg presses than you will doing bicep curls. Intensity and load also plays a large role in the number of calories burned during a resistance session.
2 Post-Workout Metabolic Effect
Intense weight training elevates your metabolism for up to 39 hours after your workout. Because of the intense weight workout, your metabolism has been stimulated to where you are now burning more calories while you are doing nothing.
When you train more intensely, you will deplete your carbohydrate stores and burn more fat during the recovery phase. As the training intensity increases, there is a proportionate increase in fat burning after the workout.
One study showed that 15 exercise sessions per month (50-minute sessions at 50 percent of oxygen uptake) could lead to an extra 2 plus pounds per month of fat loss, strictly from the elevated metabolism and extra calories burned – while doing nothing! That’s an extra 26 pounds plus, of fat burned per year.
3 Longer Term Metabolic Effect – The Addition of New Muscle
Another extremely important aspect of fat loss that occurs from training with weights is adding lean muscle to your body. Lean muscle is “metabolically active” meaning muscle burns calories even while doing nothing. So, the more lean muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolism and the more calories you burn each day while doing nothing. Studies have estimated that for each pound of muscle you add to your body, you burn another 35 to 50 calories per day. So, an extra 10 pounds of muscle will burn approximately 350 to 500 calories a day, or an extra pound of fat every 7 to 10 days, without making any other changes.
The addition of new muscle mass is the only way to permanently increase your metabolism because muscle is “metabolically active” because muscle burns calories at rest, so it is obvious that the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn in a day.
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