While it’s true that more strength means more muscle, it’s also true that the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn. You can manage your body weight via strength training, cardio, and by eating smart and controlling your calorie intake.

Here’s how to build strength without gaining unwanted weight.

Strength Training

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Unlike men, women lack adequate testosterone concentrations to build mass. Don’t waste time performing exercises with low weight and high reps. For example, do 5 sets of 5 reps per exercise, with a moderate-to-heavy weight – one that challenges you. This strategy will also provide a better “afterburn,” meaning your body will burn more calories, post-workout, even at rest.

Moderate Intensity Cardio

While I’m not a big fan of overdoing cardiovascular exercise – strength training provides a much better return on your exercise investment – 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio (breathing heavy but not gasping) can burn about 500 calories. Get on the treadmill, elliptical, or exercise bike 3 times per week.

Eat Sensibly (quantity)

Your daily caloric intake should take into consideration factors like your activity level and target weight. Be careful not to undereat or overeat. This formula is useful to calculate the number of calories you should eat (or drink), per day. Despite its simplicity, it’s actually fairly accurate.

How to Build Strength2

Target Weight (TW) X (10 + number of hours of moderate/vigorous physical activity per week) = Calories per Day

For example, let’s say your target weight is 150 pounds. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether you want to gain, lose, or maintain weight. In order to calculate the number of calories you should eat, per day, you need to assess the number of hours of exercise you get, per week. I’m talking about moderate to vigorous exercise; lifting the TV remote doesn’t count.

Let’s assume you get five (5) hours of exercise, per week. Add this number (5) to ten (10) to calculate the factor you will multiply by your target weight. Multiply your target weight (150 lbs.) by fifteen (15), and your calories per day equal 2250. Once again, this formula works pretty well, regardless of whether you’re trying to gain, lose, or maintain weight.

Eat Smart (quality)

Eat to keep your body energized, not to get full (think of your stomach as a gas tank that you want to keep about half to 2/3 full). Don’t skip breakfast – it sets the nutritional tone for the rest of your day. Fuel your body before your workout, and re-fuel it after your workout. Eat smaller, more frequent meals or snacks, 5-6 times per day.

Ensure that each meal/snack includes clean carbs (e.g., whole grains, high fiber, fruits, veggies); lean protein (e.g., chicken, turkey, eggs, Greek yogurt and other dairy); and healthy fats (unsaturated – e.g., nuts and nut butters, fatty fish like salmon, avocado, olive oil). Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary beverages.

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