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  • Emily Ledford


Updated: Jan 23, 2020

Muscle is your metabolism's best friend!

So here is the thing. And I want to be careful how I say it because people get offended. So much so that I’d like to get a shirt that says: “I’m offended that YOU’RE offended”. 😉

But, as a trainer and nutrition coach, it is my desire (not just job), to be honest with people.

I receive LOTS AND LOTS of questions about all things fitness and nutrition. These questions are usually from people inquiring about training or nutrition coaching with me. Or you know, occasionally, my ears will accidentally hear conversations while out and about. I have magnet ears. Did you know that about me?!

So here it is, raw and real and I hope you can see the sincere place I come from when I answer these very common questions. And it’s all simply because I see you working hard, begging for progress, and wondering why it's not coming. You deserve the truth.

First things first: ALL EXERCISE (unless it’s harming you in some way) is good. Like, anything is better than sitting on the couch 24/7. Can I get an Amen?! 😊

So, if you are exercising and you don’t have a “perfect” program to follow (btw, no such thing as a perfect program), you are awesome for just getting after it! I applaud you!

BUT: If I hear your goal is to get toned, strong, lose weight or fat AND MAINTAIN IT-- and you have COME TO ME for why your way is not working or why you have plateaued-- then I will set it to you straight. Lovingly, of course 😊

So, TA DA! Here are some common situations I hear daily:

1. THEM: I’m thinking of going back on my diet. I lost 10 lbs in 2 weeks last time and I know it works. I’ve just got to get back to it. Oh, and exercising is NOT allowed while I’m on this diet.

ME: It’s another quick fix, a temporary solution, and it WILL come back. More than that, you are consuming so little calories that it will backfire in this way: You’ll lose “weight on the scale” fast, sure. But you are also taking all your metabolically active tissue (aka muscle) and losing that as well. That means your metabolism will start to crawl. The number of calories you burn in a day dramatically decreases. You can’t avoid that during rapid weight loss or rapid calorie reduction. When you lose weight fast (and especially if you were told not to exercise), you lose muscle which gives you the “tone” and “shape” of your body. Don’t do this ON PURPOSE! When you go back to regular eating, even if your calories just increase a little, your metabolism won’t be ready for it and it will come back faster than it did before. You’ll then have EXTRA fat and LESS muscle than when you started. And unfortunately, it will cause you to appear larger, even at the same weight at which you started. That's not what you signed up for. It is a vicious cycle!

2. THEM: I’ve added strength training to my cardio schedule so here is what it looks like now. I should probably do MORE to lose weight. The scale won’t budge, and it is even going up.

ME: Tell me more about your current workout schedule, how often, etc.

THEM: I run 4-6 days a week for 5 or more miles at a time. I do a boot camp too which consists of bands, burpees, jumping, running, intervals, sprints, and light dumbbells. It’s High intensity for sure! I’m breathing hard the entire time and sweating buckets. Sometimes I’ll go to the gym and add more lifting after I run if I don’t have boot camp that day.

ME: You need muscle if you want a higher metabolism and to see changes in your body. And although I see you trying harder than ever, this is not a routine that will build the muscle you are looking for. In fact, with all of this activity combined, you may be losing muscle. Even your boot camp IS CARDIO. MOST are! Yes, lifting with weights CAN BE just cardio. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing when done in the proper dose, but with all the other cardio you are doing, you DON’T NEED MORE CARDIO for your goals. You need to lift heavier. Lifting heavy enough will require REST to be able to do it again with good form. Let me reinforce this: cardio IS GOOD and you SHOULD do it. But with the changes you are specifically looking for, this won’t cut it. NOT all strength training is equal. AND HEAR THIS: Not all things that are CALLED "strength training" are actually strength training. Crazy, I know.

3. THEM: I don’t want to lift and get too bulky.

ME: Bulky is extremely relative. What one person thinks is bulky, another would call skinny, and so on. Strength training will make you leaner and more defined, lose fat and decrease inches all over. Nutrition also plays a MAIN part with strength training. If you WANT to add muscle size, that is done with adjusting training volume and eating in a calorie surplus. If you want to just appear tighter and not have big muscles, you’ll need to eat at more of a maintenance level when it comes to calorie intake. You likely won’t need as much volume in your strength training. Either way, strength training (heavy enough) is the number TWO thing you can do. Nutrition is always #1 to get leaner and stronger. You must put down the 3 and 5 lb dumbbells that you can lift for reps on end. Go heavier. And I must repeat: even if you do all things right in the gym, nutrition can make or break your goals.

4. THEM: I get bored with my workouts. I need something new every day to keep me going.

ME: Again, ANY EXERCISE is better than none. But if you want something you don’t have, you’ll have to do something you haven’t tried before. That is, you must work with progress in mind. You can’t pick random exercises each time and expect significant progress. A well-rounded program will include exercises that you stay with for a certain period of time and get better at them. This can take on may forms: adding weight, increasing reps, or changing variations as you master them. The most progress is NOT made by switching exercises around each workout. Yes, all exercise is good. But not all exercise will bring you the same result or help you reach your goals.

5. THEM: I Just can’t wrap my mind around doing anything differently than before. It’s scary.

ME: Yes, it is. And I’ve been there. I wish I could say you could just snap out of it and tell your mind to trust and follow, but it may be hard. You may be GOOD at what you are currently doing. You’ll have to be ready to decide to trust the process. You’ll need to find consistency in a new way. But until it changes, nothing will change. But good news: when you see your body responding while doing the difficult thing, you’ll be encouraged. Your mindset CAN change. And I would love to walk beside you in that journey.

My clients who trusted the process!

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