KEY FAT LOSS FACT: Muscle burns fat. Lean muscle tissue requires calories every second just to survive — even when we are sleeping! Fat, on the other hand, requires no calories to maintain itself, but is simply a vat of stored energy waiting to be used. Muscle is our body's most metabolically active tissue. It is the automatic pilot of weight maintenance. People with lots of lean muscle tissue have higher metabolic rates, and thereby burn up more calories than people who underutilize their muscles.
TIP: Weight training or related exercise is essential to maintaining or losing weight. This is particularly true as we age and our ratio of fat to muscle gets flipped on its head.
KEY FAT LOSS FACT: Cardiovascular exercise is essential for healthy and long-term reduction of body fat. If you restrict calories, without adding a cardiovascular exercise program into your life, then your body will respond by slowing down its calorie burning engine (your metabolism). Why, you ask, wouldn't your body just go into your fat reserves? This is one of the most confusing issues surrounding weight loss. Most probably, the answer lies in the fact that our bodies are not programmed to ever think of themselves as "fat." The body's first and most natural reaction to a decrease in calories consumed is to conserve energy (slow down metabolism) and preserve the stored energy that it has at its disposal (body fat).
TIP: If you decrease your caloric intake, you must increase your physical activity. This increase in cardiovascular activity gives your body something productive to do with the calories ingested and teaches your body that it must not shut down the metabolic "fires" just because you are eating less.
If you have any questions or have a health and fitness topic that you would like to see addressed in this column, e-mail the author at Robin@MindBodyRobin.com.
Clifton resident Robin Graine runs MINDBODY ROBIN, Yoga-Pilates Fitness Training & Exercise Therapeutics. Call 703-815-8726.