Layer of Fat Covering Muscles

Question:

I've (5'3" 164 pound woman) recently returned to being in average shape - take challenging kickboxing classes, can easily run 5 miles, etc. - but feel like I have this layer of fat covering all of my muscles so that basically I just feel "big."

My strength and endurance are improving steadily, but I still can't fit into any of my clothes. What is the best strategy for burning the fat and getting back to my optimal weight of 140lbs (for me a size 6)?

Is it just a matter of continuing with my fitness regime and cutting calories, or should I be making adjustments to both?

How should I balance interval training with weight training sessions?


 

Answered By:


Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question

Qualifications of Mike Behnken

 

Great Job Thus Far

You failed to mention how long you have been regularly exercising since you have "returned to average shape."  It is very common for the human body to change very minimally during the first month (s) of a new exercise program.

The reason for this is because your body's neurological system is in an untrained state so the bulk of your body's adaptation to exercise is getting your neurological system 'up to speed' so to speak. This would explain your physical fitness performance improving while you still feel as if you have a layer of fat covering muscles.

 

Get More Analytical, Establish Measurable Goals

In order for you to obtain your goals most efficiently it is essential for you to establish starting point. Your qualitative goals of fitting into your pants and getting back to a size 6 are good but it is important you try to set more scientific goals.

AccumeasureSetting the goals is the first step which will allow you (or a professional) to be able to help you better. The first thing you should do is get your body fat percentage estimated. You can do this on a BIA scale, or preferably a bodyfat skinfold analysis.

If you are a member to a local gym it is a good place to ask a professional or you could buy a cheap set of calipers and do it yourself at home. They sell the Accumeasure calipers and measuring tape on Amazon for less than $10.

Once you have a general idea of your body fat percentage it will be a lot easier to assess your workout regimen along with your diet at any point of your program. Rather than guessing, you can estimate how much you need to change your fitness regimen in order to accomplish your goals.

As of now, you have no idea of your body fat percentage so there is really no way to determine how much fat you have to lose. Although highly unlikely, your current exercise regimen and diet could have increased your muscle mass while maintaining the same level of body fat, hence making you feel this way.

Burning the FatCaloric Balance

Burning body fat is always a matter of calories in vs. calories out although it is almost never this easy in practice.

Counting calories is one thing you can do to ensure you will lose weight, but for most people it is not practical.

For most people, learning about nutrition and making healthy food choices with proper timing will take care of the calories without counting them and the weight will come off with the proper exercise program.

The optimal diet for each individual varies but for fat loss, the most efficient ways to eat are usually 4-6 small, balanced meals/snacks evenly spaced throughout the day along with plenty of water intake (drinks as well as food, i.e. fruits and vegetables). Developing your personal optimal fat loss diet

What this is trying to get at is, in the real world, there is not a single correct answer to your question. Whether you read a magazine, look online or even hire an expensive dietitian, trial and error is the only way you will truly find the optimal diet for achieving your goals.

Balancing Weight Training with Interval Trainingweight loss balance

Although interval training uses a good percentage of aerobic energy pathways, it also uses the same anaerobic pathways as weight training. Therefore to effectively balance both modes of training it is optimal you avoid performing weight training and interval training on the same day.

Performing a lower intensity cardio session on the same day as your weight training is okay, but performing (high intensity) interval training is not going to allow you to recover sufficiently to get the most out of the weight training workout and vice versa.

Final Words

Keep up what has gotten you thus far. Analyze and set goals for the short and long term. Make sure you enjoy your workouts and reassess in the weeks and months to come. "Listen to your body" for signs of plateau including unusual fatigue, nagging injuries and signs of sickness. If and when this happens, stop, take a week or so of active rest and re-start or revamp your exercise program and you will be on the path to accomplishing all your goals.

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