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Plateaued? Fighting Regain in Maintenance?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass. This happens with age and it also happens with weight loss. In the study review "Human Biology of Weight Maintenance after Weight Loss" by Edwin C.M. Mariman I was struck by this.

"As the closely related basal metabolic rate is largely determined by fat-free mass [14, 15] , it can be assumed that a fat free mass sparing effect is strongly involved in the risk for weight regain [10] . In this respect, the ratio of fat mass/fat-free mass in the lost weight could be easily higher for people with a high baseline body fat content, giving them an advantage with respect to the risk for weight regain."

Here is the link to the study.

My suspicions that long term calorie restriction coupled with steady state cardio as a recipe for weight regain seems to be well founded. Both steady state cardio and VLCDs take weight off rather indiscriminately. I experienced this personally.

Cardio is not muscle sparing, strength training is. I've been fighting to put this muscle back for almost 2 years and have finally seen some success. Two things have worked for me.

1) Stop doing cardio.
2) Strength train.

I'll add some wrinkles to both bullet points. Cardio can be fun for some folks, but it's a chore for most. If you love it, keep doing it. It is likely to your detriment with regard to body composition and if you're struggling with maintenance, you're likely making it harder for yourself.

But what about my heart health?

There is sufficient stimulus of the cardiovascular system during intense strength training that a person of reasonable aerobic capacity can largely maintain or improve VO2max. Also, one HIIT session per week not to exceed 30 minutes will build aerobic capacity sufficiently.

Second item, strength training. Most people don't have a clue, myself included, until fairly recently. I have seen the most long term success (measured by progress in absolute terms we all understand, like pounds on a bar through full ROM) with barbell training with progressive overload. This is not P90X, bodypump, pink dumbbells or assorted videos. Most of what I'm doing can be found here.


See the section "Practical Programming (2nd Ed) Novice Program"

If you're not familiar with progressive overload, see:

These two items have done two very wonderful things for me. First, maintenance is a breeze. I've completely stopped tracking my intake and have ratcheted back my scale watching because it doesn't move much. Second, this workout can be completed in about 30 minutes. I do it once or twice a week. That's it.

Hoping this reaches some of my friends who might be struggling.

Also, we started a discussion about this on the Maintainers forum on SparkPeople.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for the info. I'm a firm believer in strength training!
    1915 days ago
    Haha, I have a total gym. It's been in my closet for 10 years. At least I think it's still there.

    I don't disagree with the muscle building thing. Goal is to get more lean mass. Much easier for men though, as you guys generally have more lean mass to begin with. (Curves are good :))

    As for my maintenance, I haven't tracked in months, I jump on the scale two or three times a month, this way I can make quick corrections if needed, but the scale doesn't move all that much and - my favorite past time right now is Zumba (say: " cardio")

    I do some ST but not as intensely as seems to be prescribed. I do worry about bone loss. Btw, interesting info about that in chapter 5 of Body by Science.

    Well, just because you're in maintenance doesn't mean you have it all figured out. I'll be around, continuously fine tuning.
    1918 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/17/2012 12:49:10 AM
    "Get a Total Gym."

    What was that you said up there? Something about cluelessness, I think... but I forget.
    1919 days ago
    I read and bookmarked both web sites - but don't know yet what I'll do about them. I have watched you do it for the last two years, but I have more than 40 (maybe 50 ) years on you and things don't always work like they used to for me. I'm making slow progress, but it's a long time since I played football or worked in the steel mill.
    1919 days ago
    Strongly disagree.
    1919 days ago
    Get a Total Gym. They are great for strenght training.
    1919 days ago
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