Weight Training Filter: Is it time to start weight training again?
May 29, 2009 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Weight Training Filter: Is it time to start weight training again?

Short backstory: In January I had gastric bypass surgery. My highest weight was 265 pounds. I am currently at 195 pounds with about 30% body fat. This gives me a lean body mass of about 135 pounds. I have not been weight training for the past few months because I worry that if I build muscle I will have a harder time hitting my goal weight of 160 pounds and 22% body fat (124 pounds LBM). It looks like I've got about 10 pounds of extra muscle that will have to go if I want to make it to goal. But I really miss weight training and I often wonder if it would actually help me lose my last 35 pounds faster.

So is my logic flawed? Can I start doing squats again? Or is the concern of muscle gains a legitimate one?
posted by elsietheeel to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, your logic is flawed. Scale weight is not a proper end goal. Nobody intrinsically cares about their weight except as a proxy for some other less quantifiable measurement--health, looks, attractiveness, athleticness, etc. If your goal is cosmetic, to look good, then a better yardstick is body fat %, not weight. Body fat percentage is what people "see" when they look at you. So aim for a low body fat %. If you do that, then weight lifting absolutely makes sense. It burns calories and builds/retains muscle, meaning you have less fat and more lean body mass, both of which lead to a lower body fat %.

You do not want to lose that 10 pounds of "extra" muscle, trust me on that. That's like saying you want to lose 10 pounds of bone. The goal is to lose FAT, not to jettison anything and everything your body will let you.

Weight lifting isn't just "not a bad idea". It isn't even a "good idea". After a healthy diet, weight lifting is the BEST idea. It changes your body composition in ways that plain Jane cardio cannot do, and it means the difference between being lean and fit and being skinny fat.

Get thee to the squat rack, posthaste!
posted by Khalad at 6:51 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, FYI, you won't add muscle mass if you are in a caloric deficit. Your body can do one of two things--it can burn fat when you're in a caloric deficit, and it can build muscle when you're in a caloric surplus and you do resistance-based exercises. It can't do both, at least not to any appreciable extent. The goal of weightlifting when you're losing weight is to retain the lean tissue you already have so that you have more muscle in proportion to fat. Keeping the muscle you have is a good thing!

As they say, diet and cardio will make you look good, but weightlifting will make you look good naked.
posted by Khalad at 6:56 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with everything above. Building muscle is the best thing you can do as far as continuing to lose weight and build a healthy lifestyle.
posted by sanka at 7:46 PM on May 29, 2009

For someone in your situation, not lifting weights so you can meet an arbitrary weight goal is a bad idea.
posted by PFL at 7:56 PM on May 29, 2009

Building muscle will help you lose fat, which may get you to 160, depending on your height (which you don't mention).

But consider also that, since muscle is denser than fat, you can weigh more than 160 yet look as svelt as one who weighs 165.

Also make sure you're consuming enough protein to build that muscle mass.

Check out the site stronglifts.com for more info.
posted by dfriedman at 8:24 PM on May 29, 2009

I'm usually the first person to recommend strength training, but you SERIOUSLY need to ask your doctor if you're healed enough to withstand the internal pressures that come from heavy lifting.

Focusing on the upper body instead of the gut-busting compound exercises seems like a good idea, but like I said, ask a specialist.
posted by aquafortis at 9:04 PM on May 29, 2009

What they said. This is crazy talk. You do not want to lose muscle.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:42 PM on May 29, 2009

More muscle = more calorie use by your body = lower weight in the end
posted by caddis at 12:09 AM on May 30, 2009

Re-reading your post, it occurs to me that, if you've had gastric bypass surgery your body may not be capable of ingesting sufficient quantities of protein for a weightlifting regimen.

I assume that you have a post-operative doctor with whom you consult. I would ask him or her for a referral to a nutritionist experienced with people who have had gastric bypass surgery who can help recommend to you an adequately protein-rich diet for gastric bypass patients who want to start a weightlifting program.
posted by dfriedman at 7:01 AM on May 30, 2009

Response by poster: For those that asked: I'm 5'5". I mastered the squat years ago and I don't trust anyone that says tone. :) I get about 120 grams of protein a day and could probably manage more if needed. My surgery was laprascopic and I've been completely healed for many months.

And yeah, the number 160 is completely arbitrary. I don't really care if I'm above or below it, as long as I look good. I was attempting to use it as a point of reference to the whole current vs. possible lean body mass but it doesn't really matter as I'm being short-sighted anyway. So back in the gym for me and thanks for the thoughts!
posted by elsietheeel at 7:18 AM on May 30, 2009

I get about 120 grams of protein a day and could probably manage more if needed.

I think you'll probably have trouble with recovery unless you get more than that. I'd shoot for more like 200g/day as a starting point, assuming it's not a problem after your surgery.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:06 AM on May 30, 2009

Response by poster: It might be tough to get up to 200g. I'd have to be drinking protein every second of the day. I'll try for as much as I can. Thanks!
posted by elsietheeel at 9:56 AM on May 30, 2009

I doubt that 200g per day is necessary for a 5'5" female - I thought about 1g/lb of LBM was generally considered sufficient for strength training.

I also agree with everyone that you can and should start lifting again. If you're in a caloric deficit, you will probably lose weight and not gain any muscle - however, strength training will help you lose primarily fat and retain muscle, while not lifting means that you will lose both fat and muscle. You will, however, lose some muscle as you lose weight, so it's doubtful that you will end up with "too much" muscle.

Also not that when you start or re-start weight training, your muscles tend to retain extra water for the first week or two. This means that your weightloss may stall or you might even gain a pound or three for the first two weeks. It's almost certainly not real weight gain, but just extra water that will come off naturally as your body adjusts. It's useful to be aware of though, so the stall doesn't freak you out.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:09 PM on May 30, 2009

I'm still extremely concerned about whether or not your internal organs have healed enough to do heavy squats. Gastric bypass is a hell of a big deal, and hernias (and even prolapses, gag) among squatters are all too common.

Please, please, please ask a doctor first!
posted by aquafortis at 10:38 PM on May 30, 2009

Don't you have a doctor and support program for this surgery? Usually there's heavy medical support and regular checkups required for this type of surgery.
posted by reddot at 11:45 AM on June 4, 2009

Response by poster: Yes, I have a doctor and a support program and I have regular checkups. I was cleared to go back into the gym several months ago. Most of the patients they have are generally not into serious weight training, nor do they have the LMC:fat ratio that I have. So the MD's office wasn't much help. And that's fine. I expect them to know how to perform a flawless surgery without complications. The other stuff I can find out on my own.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:54 PM on June 4, 2009

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