Build more muscle to burn more fat

Published 10:27 am Friday, May 20, 2011

When working with clients for fat loss, there’s one thing I recommend they not do.

I call it troubleshooting. Troubleshooting with fat loss is like saying “Okay, I’m going to lose 10, 15, 20 pounds or so, by whatever means possible, and then just try to hang on.”

This isn’t the way to effective, safe or permanent fat loss. There are many strategies for losing body fat, but today I want to describe one in particular – gaining muscle.

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Increasing lean tissue is absolutely necessary for consistent fat loss, and weight training is the best way to go about it. Some people might say, “Well I don’t care about gaining muscle. All I want to do is lose the fat.”

Big mistake. If you don’t gain muscle when you’re trying to lose fat, three things happen:

1) Fat won’t come off easily.

2) If any fat does come off, it won’t stay off for very long.

3) Your size might change, but your shape won’t. That’s why gaining muscle is crucial to losing body fat. You see muscle is active tissue. Unlike fat, which requires no maintenance by the body, muscle needs constant care and attention from your body. This requires the use of calories. In other words, for every ounce of muscle you gain, you burn extra calories 24-hours a day to keep that muscle healthy. Also, unlike just trying to do activities that burn a certain number of calories at any one time, muscle-building exercises keep your body burning calories long after you stop doing them.

Now I know from counseling with clients that when a person is trying to lose fat, and I say the word gain, in any context, they get this uneasy look. Don’t worry.

Since muscle is so much denser than fat, it is actually possible for you to lose many inches, and not lose much actual weight at all. Once, I took a lady from a size 13 to a size 6, and she lost just one pound. Is it unusual to drop that many sizes and lose so little actual weight? Yes, but it does happen.

Weight training is the best way to gain and tone muscle, but don’t try to come up with a program on your own if you are inexperienced. People have been injured, and even killed, by lifting weights improperly. Also, the same routine won’t work for everyone, because every individual is different, and we all have different needs. In fact, I have no two clients on the same exercise program.

When it comes to weight training, you ladies shouldn’t worry either. It’s a myth that as a woman, you will bulk up if you lift weights intensely. When I was lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, I trained five top models, and I assure you they all worked very hard. Now I’m not suggesting you do weight training to the exclusion of aerobic training, nor am I suggesting that either of these is a substitute for a clean diet. You need them all in their proper portions.

Do not under any circumstances start a weight loss program without consulting your physician. There are so many conditions you could have that you may not even be aware of. So many times I’ve checked out a client before beginning a training program with them, and found that their blood pressure was high, and they had no idea, because they felt fine. With a proper balance of diet and exercise, you will be amazed at the great changes you can make to your body.

Diet or exercise question?

Email me at or visit David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist for 24 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USC-Spartanburg baseball team, Converse college equestrian team, lead trainer L.H. Fields modeling agency, taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.