Every person's metabolic rate runs at different speeds - some people have a naturally faster metabolism, while others are a little more sluggish. Although you can't do much about your genetics when it comes to burning calories and fat, you can add an exercise regimen to your daily activities to help improve your fat burning furnace. This includes adding a strength training routine to your exercise program. Strength training is essential for everyone. It increases your lean muscle mass, which in turn helps to reduce body fat and burn calories more efficiently.
Muscle Burns Fat While at Rest
For years, dieters and exercisers everywhere have been focusing on staying within their "fat-burning zone" while performing low intensity aerobic activity like jogging on the treadmill or performing a light routine on the stationary bike.
However, these types of exercises, although beneficial for heart health, do little for muscle building. Aerobic exercise burns calories during the actual performance of the exercise, but the calorie-burning can quickly cease once the exercise has stopped.Strength training, on the other hand, helps to burn fat and calories more efficiently than low intensity aerobic exercise. The actual muscle itself burns calories not just during exercise but even while the body is at rest.
This means that the more lean muscle tissue you have on your body, the more calories - and therefore the more fat - is burned. In fact, a pound of muscle burns about 50 calories even while at rest - not including the vast number of calories used during the actual muscle-building exercise. This is why many more daily calories are required to feed a muscular body - too few calories will result in a loss of muscle tissue. If one pound of muscle burns 50 calories at rest every day, then adding even 5 pounds of lean muscle mass will help to burn an extra 250 calories per day. More calories burned translates into more fat loss. Muscle is an incredibly efficient fat-burning machine - the more your body has, the more calories it consumes, and therefore the more fat is burned.
Burning Fat with the "Afterburn Effect"
The 'afterburn effect' refers to the number of calories that are continuously being burned long after an exercise has ceased. Scientifically known as 'Exercise Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption' (or 'EPOC' for short), this phenomenon represents how much oxygen the body utilizes in order to return to its pre-exercise state. EPOC explains the direct relationship between high-intensity workouts and metabolism activity during extended periods of time following exercise.
Extremely strenuous activity, like lifting heavy weights in a strength training routine, causes a physiological process within the body that spikes the metabolism after exercise, causing the body to undergo oxygen replenishment, ATP re-synthesis, lactic acid removal, and increased respiration. For such energy and oxygen-demanding processes to occur, the body will require a longer period of time to recover. In some cases of extremely high intensity, the body can take upwards of 48 hours to fully recover and return to its pre-exercise state. Lifting heavy weights up to a maximum of 8 to 12 reps before muscle failure maximizes the afterburn effect.
The Bottom Line
Muscle is indeed an efficient fat-burning machine. Its ability to burn calories and fat even while at rest proves that increasing the amount of lean muscle tissue on the body will increase the number of calories and fat burned even while at rest, which in turn helps to improve one's overall body composition (not just weight loss). Incorporating a weight training routine into a fitness regimen can have great benefits for weight control, fat loss, and overall good health.
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