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RENATARUNS SparkPoints: (4,367)
Fitness Minutes: (2,155)
Posts: 1,379
3/9/13 12:45 P

Keep in mind too that there's muscle mass and then there's muscle mass. It's not like cardio training doesn't use muscles or build strength - it does both those things. It's just that it doesn't use *all* your muscles, and many of those it does use are not used as intensely as they would be with focused strength training.

My exercise since I started this in December has been almost entirely cardio (and a lot of it), because that's what I like and that's what's easiest for me, and I think the benefits for weight loss and overall health are substantial. I'm sure that some of the 20-something pounds I've lost have been muscle mass. However. I am also substantially stronger now than I was in December. My legs used to feel tired just walking up a couple flights of stairs, for instance, but not anymore. Even my arms -- just a couple sessions on a rowing machine (still cardio) and my squishy non-existent biceps have firmed up. Even triceps have appeared. Two sessions, literally two sessions! Even some of my core muscles are stronger than they were, and they've gotten no attention at all.

So I don't know. Whatever muscle mass I've lost sure wasn't doing me much of any good before, so I don't exactly miss it. I'll probably do strength training at some point as I start to reach some of my other goals and can free up the mental space for something new, but still. Just another perspective.

JENNILACEY SparkPoints: (81,972)
Fitness Minutes: (86,286)
Posts: 2,489
3/9/13 7:25 A

You *can* gain lean muscle while losing fat (ie: change your body composition) while on a calorie deficit. I did. It is obviously much harder/slower than it would be if you are eating at a calorie surplus but it can be done. If you don't believe me, just take a look at my photos on my sparkpage, particularly my upper body.

When I was thin before my pregnancies I had little muscle tone (a little in my legs, virtually none in my upper body. My biceps were non-existent). Then I gained weight over the last couple years, joined Spark and started strength training (or fumbled through it in the beginning).

Now, I can't tell you exactly what in particular helped me to gain muscle while on a calorie deficit. I can just tell you what factors I believe contributed to it. It really wasn't until the last 3 months that I experienced signficant gains and I'll tell you what I did:

1. I'm a mesomorph which means I'm short and gain muscle easily. (genetic advantage)
2. Lifted heavier weights and low reps. No more than 8-12 (at the most) before I moved up in weight.
3. Gave equal time to strength and cardio
4. Upped my calories and decreased my deficit to 1 lb/week loss (I just decreased it again to 1/2 lb loss)
5. Calorie cycle- I eat high calorie days, close to or around my maintenance on most ST days. Lower cals on cardio days. (I've also recently changed that because I'm combining intervals or circuit training on the same days I do ST to allow more rest days while decreasing my cardio so it's kinda hap hazard now).
6. Ensure I'm getting plenty of protein/complex carbs. 1-1.2g of protein per pound of body weight.
7. I did/do circuit training with JM videos before starting my ST program.
8. My cardio is metabolic resistance training (and recently I''m including some HIIT)

Edited by: JENNILACEY at: 3/9/2013 (07:32)
MOTIVATED@LAST Posts: 15,437
3/8/13 9:19 P

Without strength training, up to 25% of your weight loss can come from lost muscle, rather than fat. Strength training will at least help you maintain your existing muscle mass. Aerobics is cardio only, and won't give you the muscle conserving effects of ST.

I agree with the other posters - when you are running a calorie deficit, the body tends to burn protein for energy rather than creating new muscle tissue. It is very difficult to gain muscle while running a calorie deficit - you really need a moderate surplus to get muscle gain.

Basically, you should be strength training throughout. ST while you run a calorie deficit will help you preserve your existing muscle mass, while you hopefully it will give a slow gain in muscle mass when running a surplus.

And very long (30-40 mins plus) cardio sessions can accelerate the muscle wasting process, so aim at shorter more intense cardio sessions, rather than long duration ones.


TACDGB Posts: 6,136
3/8/13 7:18 P

Lots of cardio will destroy the work of strength training so you have to be careful how much you do. Strength training is good for toning up your body. has some useful beginner programs.

DRAGONCHILDE SparkPoints: (61,277)
Fitness Minutes: (15,545)
Posts: 9,713
3/8/13 11:20 A

Then I think this article will help you a lot:

Toning vs. Bulking Up: The Real Facts

You won't accidentally become a bodybuilder through regular strength training. :) Bodybuilders have to WORK at it... it takes a lot of time and effort.

AHUVAK1 SparkPoints: (11,919)
Fitness Minutes: (5,938)
Posts: 200
3/8/13 11:17 A

I'm not really trying to become a body builder. I'm just trying to become lean and strong and healthy looking. Obviously I look and am healthy now, just trying to tone up. I'm hoping that when I get more toned I'll shrink a little bit. Does that make sense?

NAUSIKAA Posts: 4,848
3/8/13 11:08 A

Burning fat while building muscle is the holy grail and while some (men only) manage it, most do it in cycles. Eat at a significant caloric deficit while lifting weights regularly to burn off your excess body fat. Once you've reduced your body fat, increase your calories to about 100-200 above your maintenance range, eat very clean, and continue lifting weights and you should start to put on muscle. It takes a long time and it's not a perfect process (you'll gain some fat but not very much if you keep your calories within 200 of maintenance).

Cardio... I am a bit anti-cardio personally. I don't think it's that useful for this. While you're burning fat, you can do cardio to increase your daily calorie burn and see if that helps but it will endanger your muscle mass. And I certainly wouldn't do any cardio (beyond a warm up) while trying to put on muscle.

DRAGONCHILDE SparkPoints: (61,277)
Fitness Minutes: (15,545)
Posts: 9,713
3/8/13 10:49 A

When you do cardio without strength training, yes, you will lose lean muscle mass as well as fat. Your body burns both. Strength training will offset that by preserving lean muscle mass, and improving its quality.

Lifting weights isn't a big calorie burner, so no, it doesn't really "get rid of fat." To do that, you need a complete program. You need cardio for burning fat, strength for preserving lean muscle, and if your goal is to lose weight, a calorie deficit to burn fat.

You can't really gain muscle mass at a calorie deficit; we'll often see an initial gain, but in order to actually build measurable quantities of muscle, you need to eat at a calorie surplus. And yes, that will result in gaining fat, too!

Bodybuilders usually do cycles where they eat more to build muscle, then cut to reduce fat. It's a delicate process.

For most of us, though, a good full body strength training program complemented by a good cardio program and a calorie deficit is plenty to meet your needs. :)

AHUVAK1 SparkPoints: (11,919)
Fitness Minutes: (5,938)
Posts: 200
3/8/13 10:35 A

How does one optimally lose fat and gain muscle? Obviously lifting weights will build muscle mass, but will it at the same time get rid of fat? Does aerobics get rid of fat only and you won't lose any muscle mass in the process?

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