Fight Fat Over 40
Learn to Love Muscle
A major reason for having trouble losing weight after 40 is that we begin to lose muscle tissue. "By age 50, people have lost an average 10 percent of muscle mass," says Chhanda Dutta, PhD, chief of the clinical gerontology branch at the National Institute on Aging. "By age 70 they've lost 40 percent." At the same time, "the cells that were once destined to become muscle and bone, for some reason that researchers have yet to determine, become fat cells," she says. Worse yet, the size of those fat cells increases -- a double whammy. Muscle burns more calories than fat does -- so having less muscle means your metabolism slows down and then your body needs fewer calories to sustain itself.
Weight training can preserve the lean tissue you have and build more: three to five pounds in about three months from thrice-weekly strength-training workouts. Plus, "after a weight workout, your metabolism is revved for 12 to 24 hours," says Hugo Rivera, a certified fitness trainer in Brandon, Florida, and coauthor of The Body Sculpting Bible for Women. That's because taxed muscles use calories to recover and carbohydrates to replenish their sugar stores, which forces your body to burn fat. Since muscle tissue weighs more than fat tissue, strength training may not drop pounds as effectively as diet or other types of exercise. But you'll look sleeker and your clothes will fit better. Don't worry about looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Women produce much less testosterone than men, so it's hard to build really large muscles. You'll get a lean, defined body instead.
The best way to increase your metabolism may be by combining strength training (to increase your basal metabolic rate) with aerobic exercise, which burns more calories through activity.
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