How Do I Lose Weight But Not Bulk Up?
No Hulk! No Bulk!
Dear Fun and Fit: K and A–I want to lose weight, not bulk up and build muscle. I’ve recently joined a gym and started doing 40 minutes on the elliptical and walking five miles on the treadmill each day. Should I still do this daily elliptical routine to lose weight or just stick with the walking so I don’t bulk up and get too muscular? Thanks so much! Chelsey, Effingham, Illinois
Kymberly: Good news walking wonder woman. Not only can you tread the light fantastic, but also you can work the elliptical until you shrink so much you have to run around in the shower to get wet. Unless you are actually lifting the elliptical machine above your head until muscular fatigue sets in (probably around one repetition), you are in cardio land, not weight or strength training land.
How Do You Know if an Activity is “Cardio” or “Aerobic?”
An “aerobic” or “cardio” activity is defined as being:
- systemic (using many muscles in the body, mostly the major ones in the lower body)
- with elevated heart rate
- at a pace you can sustain 20 minutes (even if you go longer or shorter, you COULD sustain it at least 20 minutes)
- always able to breathe comfortably at a rate of 60-85% of your heart rate maximum
- low resistance and many many many repetitions.
While aerobic exercise will strengthen your heart, it will not really affect muscle mass. In short, work out bulk-free with both the treadmill and elliptical as neither will build much more than the heart muscle.
Alexandra: There is a myth, that’s a mystery to me and misses the point about weight loss. That myth is that weight training will make you all bulked up like the Hulk. That is called bodybuilding. If you want to lose weight, you will have to add weight training to your regimen (see how it’s called “weight training?” That is because you are training your weight to bend to your will). With cardio, if you hustle your bustle (19th-century version of Spanx®), you can burn 10-12 kcals a minute; with weight training it’s only 8-10 kcals per minute. But, da da da da (those are trumpets), due to a magical thing called the metabolic spike (not a volleyball term), you will continue to burn kcals for about an hour after you finish working out and are sitting on your Chelsey Tushy. So in the end, due to the wonders of higher math, you will actually have burned more kcals with the weight training added in.
Kymberly: If it reassures you even more, unless “Chelsey” is a fake name for “Carl” or “Charles” or “Manly Man,” as a female you do not have enough testosterone to accidentally bulk up. No sireee, I mean no misseee, you will not wake up one morning suddenly sproing boing, pop pop muscle-bound beyond belief and desire. Creating muscle definition is a process that takes time and deliberate weight training effort, so if you see yourself getting more muscular than you want, I’m pretty sure you’d notice and make changes to your program.
Alexandra: Because we like you so much, you get the bonus info that we haven’t told anyone (except in these other posts which we encourage you and everyone to read, then blab about):
By adding weight training, you will change your metabolism and be burning kcals at a higher rate all day and night. Even on vacation and during high fatty-intake sports matches and dates where you eat a lot because someone else is paying (oops, gave away my college financial solvency plan), you will be a little kcal-burning heater.
Dear hulkers and bulkers: What kind of weight training have you added to your exercise regimen? Did you even know there was a She-Hulk?
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA