So, you’ve lost weight. Congratulations! You’ve shed blood, sweat and tears in exercising, getting the right nutrition, and progressing along your fitness journey to achieve your health goals. But you may ask yourself, “What now?” After working so hard for so long, you’ve probably gotten used to having a fitness goal to work towards. And now that you’ve achieved that, it’s understandable to feel like you’ve lost your sense of direction. Luckily, we’re here to help guide you. The next step in your fitness journey should be to build muscle mass and increase your strength.
Why is this the best next step? Well, for several very good reasons. In addition to helping you feel more comfortable showing off your body at the beach, adding bulk to your frame has numerous health benefits. For example, strength training can improve how your body processes food to help prevent diabetes and other chronic diseases, according to News in Health. Additionally, maintaining strength may promote healthy aging by slowing the decline in muscle mass, helping you live a longer, healthier life, research says.
“Building muscle after weight loss is an excellent decision. After you’re in a calorie deficit, your body is naturally primed to gain weight,” she says. Rachel MacPherson, CPT, an ACE Certified Personal Trainer with Garage Gym Reviews. “If you use this timing to focus on gaining muscle, you’ll limit the amount of body fat you’ll be wearing and instead add lean mass, which will help boost your metabolism after it adjusts to become slower during weight loss. “
If you’re not sure where to start, we asked MacPherson to share some stellar tips for gaining muscle mass and strength after losing weight. He reads on to find out how to build muscle after weight loss, and when you’re done, check out 5 Daily Exercises to Improve Muscle Endurance as You Age.
Slowly increase your calories.
You’ve probably heard that you have to “gain up” to put on muscle, but that doesn’t mean you should start eating everything in sight. This is where tracking calories using an online tool like Cronometer or MyFitnessPal can come in handy.
“Don’t jump straight from calories to food without knowing how much you’re consuming,” advises MacPherson. “Instead, try adding a few extra servings of protein and carbohydrates each day. If you’ve previously been counting calories, try adding 100 to 200 calories a day for a week, then add another 100 to 200. You should focus on the slow increase between 0.5 and 1 pound a week.”
Focus on hypertrophy-based weightlifting.
Hypertrophy training prioritizes building muscle mass over strength. Instead of powerlifting or lifting heavy weights in low rep ranges, focus more on moderate weights that you can do in the 8 to 15 rep range.
MacPherson says, “To build muscle mass with hypertrophy training, do two body part lifting sessions each week and slowly add volume as you go. Stick to this routine for at least eight weeks (preferably 12 or more for best results).”
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Fill up on protein.
Consuming enough protein is crucial for several bodily functions, including muscle growth, tissue repair, recovery and a healthy immune system. While the current Internationally Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for this muscle-building macronutrient is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, you’ll probably need a little more if you’re looking to add substantial muscle mass. . So instead, aim to consume between 1.2 and 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for optimal muscle growth, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. “Eating lots of protein during weight loss is super important, but if you weren’t, now is also a great time to make sure you’re getting enough protein,” suggests MacPherson.
Consume high quality carbohydrates after workouts.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, carbohydrates are your body’s ideal fuel source to fuel your workouts. Without them, your body won’t have the energy to train hard and build muscle.
As for how much you need, MacPherson says, “After your workouts, be sure to get 25 to 40 grams of protein and 30 to 50 grams or more of easily digestible carbohydrates. Of course, the amount will depend on the your calorie needs, but consuming carbohydrates with your post-workout protein shake will help your muscles utilize amino acids and replenish lost glycogen stores used to fuel your training session.
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Cut the cardio (for now).
It may seem counterintuitive for a fitness expert to recommend cutting back on your cardio, especially after you’ve relied on it for so long to lose weight, but overdoing your cardio sessions can keep you from maximizing your muscle gains.
“If you’ve been doing a lot of cardio during your weight loss efforts, now is the time to cut back,” says MacPherson. “Consider cutting back to one or two sessions a week. You’ll still get heart-healthy benefits from your weight training if it’s challenging enough. Also, cardio will hinder muscle recovery and won’t promote muscle growth, so for now it should take a back seat to your weight lifting sessions.