I run an 8 month body composition changing program called EVOLVE. In this program we work HARD for 4-5 months on building muscle. After we get everyone's lean muscle mass to their optimal levels, we then shift our focus to fat loss. For 4-5 months there are not many changes to the scale. In fact, for some people the scale even goes up for a while. It can even feel scary for some people who wonder, what is going wrong!?!
Then in month 4 or 5 we begin to transition our workouts away from strength training and more into metabolic style workouts and eventually into cardio intervals training. Suddenly... the body composition changes begin to show. The scale sometimes goes down here and people take a sigh of relief and then pronounce:
"I should have been running & doing HITT classes for those first 4 months instead of lifting and freaking myself out about weight gain! Why didn't we just START with all the cardio intervals and metabolic work?!"
It's a good question!
So what IS the point of building muscle before adding cardio for body composition change? Here are a few reasons:
Increased Resting Metabolic Rate:
Muscle tissue is metabolically expensive, meaning it burns more calories at rest compared to fat tissue. By building muscle first, you can increase your resting metabolic rate, making it easier to create a calorie deficit and lose fat.
Improved Insulin Sensitivity:
Building muscle through strength training improves insulin sensitivity, which is beneficial for managing blood sugar levels. Improved insulin sensitivity can enhance the body's ability to use carbohydrates for energy and reduce the likelihood of fat storage.
Enhanced Fat Utilization:
As you build muscle, your body becomes more efficient at utilizing fat for energy. This can be advantageous when you incorporate cardio and HIIT later on, as your body may be more inclined to burn fat during these sessions.
Body Composition Changes:
Strength training helps reshape your body by increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat. This can lead to a more toned and defined appearance, even if the overall weight on the scale remains relatively stable.
Injury Prevention and Joint Health:
Strength training helps strengthen muscles and connective tissues, providing better support to joints. This can reduce the risk of injuries during high-impact activities such as HIIT and intense cardio, especially for individuals who may be overweight or deconditioned.
Establishing a Solid Fitness Foundation:
Building muscle first establishes a solid fitness foundation. It allows you to develop proper form, strength, and endurance before engaging in more demanding cardiovascular exercises, reducing the risk of overuse injuries and promoting a sustainable exercise routine.
Seeing positive changes in muscle tone and strength can boost motivation and confidence, making it more likely that individuals will adhere to their fitness program in the long term.
In the long term, the initial investment in strength training really does pay off! While it may seem counterintuitive at times, I hope you can see how the benefits can make the whole process more effective! Remember, a well-rounded training approach is almost always the most effective path to achieving lasting results and allowing your body to evolve into its best version.