by Dr John W Phelts, D.C
To lose weight you have to create a calorie deficit so that you burn more calories than you consume each day. When you reduce your food intake, your body will have to find the energy it needs from somewhere else; basically it will have to consume itself. Your body will have to choose between burning either fat or muscle for its energy needs. In a perfect world, all of the weight loss would come from shedding fat. In reality, your body burns both fat and muscle when there is a calorie deficit. When you are dieting, you want to encourage your body to burn fat instead of muscle. You want to hold on to muscle because the more muscle you have the higher your metabolism and the more calories you burn at rest each day. Holding onto muscle will help you to lose weight faster and keep it off. Losing too much muscle will decrease your metabolism, which will make it harder for you to keep the weight off and make it more difficult for you to lose weight in the future.
One of the easiest ways to program your body to retain muscle is to add resistance training to your weight loss program. Resistance training includes weight training and calisthenics (bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and lunges). Your body was designed to survive and as part of its survival mechanism, it holds on to what it uses and releases what it does not use. If you are not regularly exercising your muscles, your body sees no reason why it should hold on to them. Resistance training makes the body think that it needs to conserve muscle, because it may have to engage in strenuous activity again in the near future. Your body will favor burning fat instead of muscle and you will have long lasting (and hopefully permanent) body conditioning results.
There is a proper way to introduce resistance exercise into your weight loss program and you should seek professional guidance to successfully make it a part of your weight loss program. A certified fitness trainer can design a workout program to meet your specific goals, teach you proper exercise technique, motivate you to exercise, and help you avoid potential injury.