How walking supports your muscle and long-term fat loss


How does walking support your fat loss goals, support muscle and bone density and give you so many other health benefits at the same time? And where does that fit in with our cardio, cortisol levels and changing hormones when we get into our 40’s and beyond? Today I’m taking a deeper dive into how our resting metabolic rate is influenced by our body composition, how we burn energy and lose body fat, the strategies around muscle preservation, and why this all matters as we age.

In this episode I’m exploring…

⭐ How your body composition impacts your resting metabolic rate
⭐ How our muscle tissue impacts our ability to lose body fat
⭐ Reviewing the key training strategies that support body composition results
⭐ Why many women start gaining more body fat in their 40’s (and how to address it)
⭐ How your body burns energy: TDEE, TEF, EAT and NEAT explained
⭐ How walking more supports fat loss and preserves muscle and bone density
⭐ Why we need to vary our approach slightly at different times in our lives

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Episode Transcript New Tab

Betty Rocker (00:16):
What’s up, rock stars Coach Betty Rocker here. Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to hang out with me today and listen to the podcast. So we recently had a conversation about some of the health benefits of walking and how it’s just so beneficial for our health and has a profound impact on lowering nearly all causes of mortality. Plus it supports our bones and joints, helps us burn body fat and totally improves our mood. Now, there was a lot we covered in that episode, but one thing I don’t think we’ve talked about enough is why walking and moving around more throughout your day in general is really such an easy key to fat loss. A large amount of our daily energy burn and fat loss actually comes from our regular casual movement, not our workouts alone, and just how much of this residual movement and things like walking have the potential to contribute to fat loss is influenced by our metabolic rate and that is actually impacted by how much muscle tissue we have.

This is one of the many reasons I’m always talking about strengthening our muscle tissue and preserving it at every age, especially as we get into our forties and beyond and our hormone levels start to change, which makes it easier for us to lose our muscle tissue. So the more we can shift our focus towards strengthening and preserving that muscle tissue and understand why that’s so beneficial to us, the better protected we are in so many ways as we go through time. Now, one of the key reasons to focus on your muscle tissue if you are at all concerned about maintaining your fat loss or losing body fat right now, is that the more muscle tissue you have, the more efficiently you burn energy or calories even at rest, which means you’ll more easily lose body fat and keep your body fat level lower if you have more muscle tissue.

And I’m gonna explain why here in more depth muscle is a pretty cool body tissue for so many reasons, but I bring it up and focus on it because so often we get really fixated on fat loss and there often seems to be a lot of focus on cardio and fat loss because of the focus on calorie burn and how that’s always so equated with weight loss. But I think this kind of approach really does us a disservice as women because it’s not the entire story. And unless we understand what’s going on beneath our skin, this overfocus on weight loss and under focus on our muscle tissue starts to really impact us in our midlife years creating more burnout out then burn fat. Now when I say muscle, you might immediately think of a bodybuilder , but I’m actually talking about the muscle tissue that we all have that surrounds our skeleton and creates shape of our bodies.

You can say skeletal muscle if you wanna be anatomically correct, and if I say lean muscle, sometimes I’m kind of bending the correct terminology to talk about the muscle on your frame that gives you a sculpted look when you have lower body fat and you can see the definition of the muscle you have because you are leaner, women are way less likely to develop the kind of muscle a bodybuilder will develop due to our hormone levels and the lower amount of testosterone that we have than men. Plus the kind of training and eating you need to do to put on that much muscle is like a second job. So when I ask you to focus on your muscle tissue and pay attention to preserving it, you are in no danger of becoming big and bulky. So please don’t worry, muscle is your friend. Now, as we age, women who aren’t aware of things like their protein needs and aren’t already resistance training are already starting to lose their muscle tissue because of that downturn in their hormones, which we’ve discussed a lot in the past few podcasts.

Now, we’ve talked a lot about how when we’re in our cycling years, we have sort of a natural advantage of holding onto the muscle we have because our estrogen is higher and estrogen is very anabolic, which helps us preserve the muscle We do have, we can almost, you know, get away with a little bit more in our younger years and we don’t notice the impacts of things like too much sugar or too much alcohol or the yo-yo dieting or over training as much as we do as when we get into those later life stages and our estrogen levels start to dwindle. And as we lose our muscle, our metabolic rate starts to change. That means we’re gonna burn less calories at rest than we used to. And if we’re more sedentary and we’re not walking or moving around as much, this sort of snowballs with our drop in hormone levels and creates more opportunities for fat storage to happen.

But of course the more you know, the better you can take care of yourself and preserve that valuable muscle tissue as you age. And if you’re training and eating in a way that supports your muscle, you’re also contributing to strong bones, healthy joints, and a healthy heart and all the other health benefits that you get as well. So just to recap some of our previous episodes, some of the best strategies you can use to preserve your muscle tissue as you age include incorporating that resistance training. And of course you can ramp this up as you build strength. You wanna challenge yourself where you’re at right now. So you wanna build a strong foundation and that might mean starting with body weight training on really good form and then add weighted objects as you get stronger. And then once you’re using, you know, things like dumbbells and bands and that’s getting easier for you, then you can start to get specific within rep ranges to start to calibrate with more specificity as to how much resistance you need to really challenge yourself and get your muscle tissue to respond and adapt and get stronger or you know, maintain the strength you have.

You might wanna take your resistance training to the next level using heavier equipment like barbells and dumbbells and any type of equipment that you have around. And you know, we wanna pair that type of resistance training with high intensity interval training or explosive cardio, which can be sprints or plyometric type exercises like box jumps, burpees, jump squats, or similar types of explosive movement that load your joints and strengthen your muscle and other tissues and also get your heart rate up for a short time, which really improves your cardiovascular capacity rather than a lot of long slow cardio sessions. And we take those two types of training, the resistance training and the HIIT training or high intensity interval training for short and we pair them with a better schedule. So by adding more recovery around our high volume training so that we can come to each workout better rested and ready to go hard so we can maximize the effectiveness of the workouts we do and avoid the burnout and state of nonstop inflammation, so many women suffer from when they’re inadvertently over training, we wanna then add in more stretching around our workouts, more self-care activities like mobility drills or yoga, and start to get more specific about activities that stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system or our rest and digest response to help lower our cortisol levels and help our bodies recover better.

All of this is what I would call training strategically and it’s going to yield a far better result when you’re approaching menopause, you know, the perimenopause years and in the post menopause years. And it will really help you improve your bone density and the integrity of your joints and improve your muscle strength, which in turn will help support your body’s ability to be as efficient as possible in burning body fat. Now speaking of body fat, we have talked about walking a lot and how beneficial it is for our overall health and how it has benefits for our body composition. That’s the muscle to fat ratio and it’s more important than just our body weight alone, which just lumps a bunch of numbers together, right? We wanna look at muscle, how much muscle we have and then how much body fat we have. That’s our body composition.

So walking is really beneficial for helping us with that ratio, helping us preserve the muscle and lose the body fat. It also supports our joint health it, and I know there’s this perception that it’s our cardio workouts that are supposedly the biggest needle mover when it comes to fat loss, but really an overfocus on a lot of cardio can really run you down and deplete your energy reserves and also elevate that cortisol. And we know that cortisol, the stress hormone, can really create more fat storage and be a contributing factor in muscle loss as well when it’s elevated for long periods. And I feel like a lot of women in their forties and fifties are particularly sensitive to this happening to them because they’re starting to see the weight creep on and they aren’t aware of how important resistance training is, or they’re using little weights and they don’t really challenge themselves enough to get a response in the body, or they’re just overdoing it on the cardio and probably not eating enough to sustain all the activity.

And most likely they’re not eating enough protein. I see this all the time. Plus they’re really busy at this time in their lives, so their anxiety is higher. They might be drinking a couple glasses of wine at night, which means gut health may be suffering and they’re probably sacrificing sleep or they just can’t get good sleep because of hot flashes and their hormones shifting and they’re thinking that they need to do more workouts to get the fat to come off because in the past that might have actually worked for them when hormone levels were different. But all of that over training and overdoing it on the cardio and undereating and dieting actually really backfires on us in this later life stage causing more fat storage and more muscle loss, which overall contributes to a weakened immune system, weaker joints, a slower metabolism, and likely poor gut health.

And I just wanted to explain how our body burns energy and how you actually lose a lot of your body fat. So you can see how combining the focus on muscle health with resistance training and that explosive cardio, not lots and lots and lots of cardio, and then those well-timed recovery days and self-care, along with more daily low impact activities like walking, how that sort of structure will give you a better result in your body composition goals as your hormone levels change. So you can really take some of the pressure off of yourself to, you know, do it all, do more, more workouts, more dieting all the time. So what’s ironic is that these strategies actually work for us at all life stages. We would’ve had far better results in our cycling years if we followed this exact approach. But you know, like I was saying before, we kind of get away with a little bit more when we’re younger because our hormone levels are higher.

So you know, we try all kinds of things, we experiment. And that was me actually, I had severe adrenal burnout by the time I reached my thirties because of how overtrained and under fueled I was, and you’ve probably heard me talk about this before, if you see a woman in her twenties or thirties actually prioritizing resistance training and explosive cardio, taking her rest days, stretching more and eating optimally, she would be pretty unstoppable and set herself up for an incredible decade in her forties and then she could follow the same type of training then for optimal success in her fifties and beyond as well. She might need to up her protein intake a bit once she hit 40 and time her rest days a bit more strategically once she got to perimenopause. But you know, her foundation would be these really similar principles and this is why we see women in all the life stages in all ages having so much success with all the Betty Rocker programs because we are giving you these principles and foundations as well as the tools you need to customize things for your hormone status.

Now there are many great ways to train and many different things work for us at different times in our lives and there’s a lot of value in experimentation. I just wanna make it really clear that these foundations are really beneficial to us at every life stage. It’s not just that you only train this way at one life stage, right? These, these will help you at every life stage and you can experiment with different things. But I really encourage you to think about, you know, recovering well, doing workouts that really challenge you when you do them. Adding in the self-care pieces, they’re really, really important for us at all life stages and they would help us have better energy, better joint health, better form and foundations. And I think why women struggle when they don’t have these principles down is just that we often don’t usually start caring about this stuff until our bodies are kind of crying out and changing and we can’t get the same response we used to.

So we start going for things we think we have control over, like diet and exercise, but with different hormones. We don’t get the same results from more training and less eating. The only reason we got results when we were younger from that kind of stuff was because we had more resilience from the robust hormone levels and even then it was work and even then you could burn out like I did. So it’s really good to learn how this stuff works at any age so you can take the best care of yourself possible and also model it to the women around you. So back to fat loss and how we burn energy, there is something called your total daily energy expenditure. You might have heard TDEE and this is the total number of calories or energy you burn through any given day. And of course this is going to fluctuate up and down on different days depending on a lot of variables.

So let’s see what things influence that daily burn. First up is your resting metabolic rate or RMR, which is the amount of calories or energy you expend daily just to exist. You may also hear about BMR or basal metabolic rate. RMR and BMR are pretty much the same thing, it’s just the time of day they get measured basically. So your resting metabolic rate is stuff that your body does to maintain homeostasis, like brain function, your heart beating, all the things your body does on autopilot and would do if you were just laying in bed just existing, right? And your RMR is actually responsible for a whopping 70% of your total daily energy expenditure. Now this number can vary slightly and the things that influence each of us in our own unique RMR and the percentage of our daily energy it’s responsible for burning through are directly related to our body composition as in how much muscle we have.

So someone who has more muscle is going to burn even more calories just existing than someone who has less. That’s why I am always telling you that muscle is metabolic currency because the more muscle you carry, the more calories you burn at rest or the more energy you expend just by existing. And this is one of the many reasons I want all of us to focus on actively pursuing and protecting our valuable muscle tissue, especially as we age with the way we train and the way we eat. And the four pillars of health that I talk about all the time, which are sleep, nutrition, stress management, and exercise. Because these elements work together holistically to create the optimal state in your body for muscle tissue to strengthen and fat loss to occur. Because when we set our sights on creating a strong body with respect to that healthy muscle tissue, this improves our basal metabolic rate, which in turn makes us more efficient fat burners and improves our muscle to fat ratio because as we just said, our resting metabolic rate is responsible for 70% of our daily energy burn and that is influenced by our body composition.

So the more muscle we have, the more calories or energy we burn at rest. So the next way our body burns through energy is called the thermic effect of food , the the TEF. And this is the energy that we use to digest our food and absorb the nutrients it contains. Now some foods require more energy to digest than others, and protein is actually one of those. This is of course another plug from me to you for protein and why I want you to include it in each meal that you eat throughout the day. Not only does your protein help support the repair and regrowth of your valuable muscle tissue after a workout, it also takes more energy for the body to break down than other foods you eat creating a nice little energy burn boost for you. Now this thermic effective food is responsible for up to another 10% of your overall daily energy expenditure, assuming a balanced plate with enough protein alongside the carbs and healthy fats.

So now we’re around 80% of our total energy expenditure accounted for between just existing, which takes 70% of our energy, and then the other 10% from eating. Now the next piece is gonna be your workouts or what we call exercise activity thermogenesis. And that accounts for just 5% of your total daily energy expenditure. I know that might be surprising, right? Because it sounds so low. I think it’s just really helpful to have it in context with how much energy we use just to digest and absorb the food we eat. Like I was saying, that takes up 10% of your daily energy burn and then there’s only 5% of your energy burn that’s coming from your workouts. And this is another one of the reasons I would suggest that putting, you know, so much emphasis on your workouts and not focusing on the balance of the nutrients on your plate is kind of a misstep in the big picture if you are looking to improve your body composition and get your body to respond.

It’s not that your workout isn’t important, it’s just that focusing on it as your main calorie burn might not be the best way to see it in the big picture. You know, your calorie burn from your cardio workout isn’t contributing to your overall metabolic burn, much as the consistent healthy meals that you eat that include a good source of protein. It’s not contributing as much as the lean muscle you’re focused on that you’ve got on your frame. That influences the resting metabolic rate that accounts for 70% of your daily energy burn. And my point is, you know, you don’t have to force yourself to do tons of cardio because your cardio workouts aren’t the one thing that are gonna make you lose weight or lose body fat. The type of workouts that will have a bigger impact on your fat loss are the strategic training strategies I was sharing with you before, the resistance training and the short burst explosive cardio with the balanced strategic time recovery and the self-care.

That kind of training is gonna help you with your muscle tissue, which in turn helps you with fat loss by increasing your resting metabolic rate. Now so far we’ve accounted for 70% of our total daily energy expenditure coming from our resting metabolic rate or just existing. And we understand that our body composition and how much muscle we have influences that rate, we’ve got another 10% coming from our body, digesting our food and absorbing nutrients, and we understand that protein is going to increase the thermic effect of food and increase the burn along with all of its other benefits to our system. So that’s 80%, we’ve got another 5% coming from our workouts, so that’s 85%. So where is the other 15% that actually comes from non-exercise activity thermogenesis or neat for sure. And this is your residual daily low impact movement like getting out of bed, walking around your kitchen, walking around the grocery store, fidgeting in your chair, and walking around.

Period. This low impact daily residual movement accounts for 15% of your total daily energy burn. And this is very significant for long-term fat loss because we know that being sedentary and not moving around much is a real hallmark of increasing fat storage. And this is really the formula for fat loss truly at any age, but one that becomes sharply defined as the clear path to success as we hit perimenopause and post menopause because of how it also supports our health in so many other ways that become essential as we age. And we talked just last week about how walking turns off weight promoting genes. It boosts our immune system, how great it is for our joint health and our bone density. You know how it reduces our risk of developing nearly all causes of cancer, including breast cancer. It elevates our mood and helps reduce..

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