Transform Your Health: How to Make Your Workouts Work Harder
By Alison Chism
A popular New Year’s resolution for many people is to eat healthier, begin exercising and lose weight. Yet, a common question is how to kick-start an exercise program that provides the most benefit? How can you get the most results from your workout and truly transform your body? Here are three strategies to keep in mind as you start the New Year.
Begin Strength Training
Many people might think that strength training is just for body builders, but it’s really an aspect of exercise that is essential for everyone.
Calories are the fuel that creates energy, which keeps our bodies going throughout the day. These calories must be burned, or they will be stored as fat. When we strength train, we “break down” muscles in order to build them back up stronger. In doing this, our muscles need to consume a lot of calories. And, the more we break down our muscles and force them to repair themselves, the more calories we burn. In addition, the more muscle we have, the more calories will be burned to fuel them.
For example, consider two individuals who each weigh 150 pounds. One has a body fat percentage of 40%, making their remaining 60% lean body mass of muscle and water weight. The other individual has a body fat percentage of 25%, making their remaining 75% lean body mass. What does this mean? The individual who has a higher percentage of lean body mass will burn more calories to fuel their muscles rather than storing the calories as fat.
Additionally, because our muscles need so much fuel, strength training makes our bodies continue to burn more calories even after working out, up to 39 hours!
Consume Enough Protein
Protein is the main macronutrient that feeds our muscles and bodies to keep them strong. As stated, having a stronger body with more muscle will organically burn more calories than having less muscle. Therefore, we need to ensure we are consuming enough protein to help keep our bodies strong. (How much protein do you need? Learn more in “3 of Your Most Common Nutrition Questions Answered.”)
Protein can also help increase or regulate metabolism. This is because our bodies burn calories when we are digesting food. This is called the thermic effect of food. It is estimated that 20% to 35% of calories are burned during digestion when we eat protein-rich food. When we eat fat and carbohydrates, we only burn 5% to 15%.
Sleep, Sleep, Sleep…and more Sleep
Finally, getting enough sleep every night is arguably the most important component to living healthy and transforming our bodies. Think of when your computer shuts down and reboots. It requires a certain amount of time to be completed or else the programs do not run successfully or efficiently. Our bodies are the same way. When we go to sleep at night, our bodies are shutting down in order to reboot for the next day. If we do not give our bodies enough time, then our bodily functions get messed up and do not run properly. These functions can include our metabolism, hormones, ability to deal with stress, and brain function.
Getting active and raising your heart rate is always good for you, and committing to an exercise program is a great way to start a New Year. By following these tips, you can make sure your workout is working as hard as you are.
Alison Chism is the Health & Wellness Director at the YMCA Glendale Sports Center at Infinity Park. She is certified as an ACSM Personal Trainer, ACE Health Coach and TRX Suspension Trainer. She is also certified in ACSM Exercise is Medicine. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Promotion and is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Health and Wellness Management.