By Gabe Sanders PhD, NSCA-CSCS
A common question I used to receive from clients is, “will strength training turn my fat in to muscle?” While you cannot magically turn fat to muscles, you can lose body fat and work to gain muscle, but the process is not that easy and it takes time. There are also a few facts you should be aware of when you are trying to gain muscle. All of us should be trying to gain strength and muscle, regardless of your age or gender.
It takes time!
To begin, it takes time to increase your muscle mass. In fact, the initial increase in strength that you may notice is primarily due to an improvement in neurological changes and not a direct increase in muscle mass. These internal neurological changes occur for nearly eight to ten weeks and then you may notice small increases in muscle.
However, do not let this two to three month span discourage you because you are gaining other positive health benefits even though you are not actually enhancing your muscle mass. Just know and be mentally prepared that it may take several months of consistent exercise to actually gain or even notice an increase in muscle, so keep working!
Exercise does not give you the green light to eat anything you want
The goal of exercise is to be healthy, manage your weight and gain strength to maintain independent living. Research suggests that increasing your muscle mass by one pound (which takes time to do) will only increase your body’s resting caloric expenditure by roughly twelve calories.
This means that all your hard work to gain one pound of muscle does not give you the freedom to eat everything on the menu. When you exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet to get the best results. Be sure to avoid the false thinking that exercise makes it ok to eat more. Quite frankly, that behavior will likely lead to weight gain.
Exercise regularly and strength train two to four times per week.
Eat and eat healthy, just do not over do it because you are exercising.
Consistency is the key and results will come with time
Twelve calories are equivalent to a small cherry tomato, which is not much, so don’t over eat!
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Pratley R, Nicklas B, Rubin M, Miller J, et al. Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr-old men. J Appl Physiol. 1994;76(1):133-7.
Lemmer JT, Ivey FM, Ryan AS, et al. Effect of strength training on resting metabolic rate and physical activity: age and gender comparisons. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001; 33(4):532-41.