Do you Train your Brain to be as Tough as your Body?
Some may argue that toughness is found in soul, spirit and mind… and not in muscles.
Never underestimate the power of your mind…whether it is in sports, in business or in life. Becoming mentally stronger may be the one factor that determines whether you realize your goals; or not. It may be the one single factor separating you from being a champion or a runner up.
When life gets hard, we tend to want comfort, not change. Those who have learned the secret to mental toughness have learned that comfort now may mean pain later, but a little pain now can yield great rewards in the future.
When it comes to training; having mental strength is one of the most important pieces of sports equipment you will ever own. Your physical workouts will strengthen you body, but mental strength training provides the necessary conditioning to fortify your mind. It provides you a psychological edge that enables you to be consistent; to maintain focus and determination to not only finish but perform at your maximum potential, despite any difficulty or consequences. More simply put: To Never Quit. Being mentally strong directly affects your confidence. As mental strength rises, so will your confidence. If you want to become mentally stronger, you have to become tough about what you think. What you think determines how you act. Replace weak thoughts like “I can’t or I’m too tired” with positive ones; I feel great; my body is strong.”
Regardless of your fitness goals or where you are in your training you will be challenged many times to keep moving forward to achieve your desired goal. Here are some common traits that make up mental toughness:
Learn to bounce back from adversity, pain, or a disappointing performance. Realize and admit a mistake, understand a missed opportunity, embrace the lesson and quickly move on and refocus on the immediate goal ahead.
Focus in the face of distractions and unexpected circumstances. Don’t avoid situations or make excuses for less than perfect conditions. When your are dead tired, hurting and want to quit is the time to dig deep and focus. Tell yourself to keep moving forward.
Have faith in yourself Trust that your body will know what to do when it is time to perform. Trust in your training and your plan. Trust in your coach. Believe in yourself, even if there is no one nearby to boost your confidence.
—-BE POSITIVE: TALK TO YOURSELF: VISUALZE:
GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE: BE PREPARED—–
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will” Mahatma Gandhi
Active Rest: Because you just can’t train ALL out, ALL the time.
Resting is an essential element of training… as long as it is active.
Active rest is light exercise performed on non-training days at an easy pace with little stress. The low-intensity assists blood circulation which in turns removes lactic acid, reduces blood lactate and speeds muscle recovery for your next high-intensity session. Active rest is NOT the assigned times in between sets of exercises during strength-training and it is NOT the recovery during interval training during a cardio session.
In the recent past, athletes were encouraged to rest completely after a competition or on a day off. But newer research shows that engaging in low-intensity exercise during “rest” is better for maintaining fitness levels. Low-intensity exercise flushes out lactic acid and delivers healing oxygen to the muscles. Active rest activities are easy recreational movements… so keep intensity at levels lower than regular training.
The guideline for this is to exercise at 65% of your maximum heart rate. To determine that, calculate 220 minus your
age, then times that number by .65. Otherwise, increase your breathing and heart rate to slightly above normal level. Be mindful to work hard enough so your body can exercise effectively, but not hard enough that you produce more lactic acid. Getting your blood pumping will help flush away waste products like lactic acid that can build up in muscles post exercise. You won’t be blinded by sweat, but you’ll get a good glow on.
Examples of active rest activities for strength athletes would be yoga, hiking, biking or walking. If you are an avid spinner, you may try a round of tennis. Swimming, gardening, or tossing a Frisbee with the dog; you get the picture. Leave the stopwatch and heavy weights for training days. Workouts should be at least 20 minutes in duration.
If you don’t actively rest, you risk burn out: a condition when stressors become too great in relation to your body’s ability to adapt. As a result, your training can be derailed for weeks or months to regain energy due to over-training. That’s why variation within your training week is important. The light days make the heavy days possible. They should enhance your more intense workouts and they should be equally enjoyable. If done right, scheduled active rest days will prevent over-training, injuries and mental fatigue.
Don’t confuse a day of ACTIVE REST with DOING NOTHING or having A LIGHT WORKOUT DAY.
ACTIVE REST days allow you to get your heart rate elevated and blood circulating. Also, remember an ACTIVE REST day is not a day off from good nutrition!
“I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds”
Building muscle strength is really good for you. And if you’re a woman, I promise you’re not going to end up looking freakishly masculine by lifting weights. There are many documented benefits to strength training, which include toning your muscles, increasing bone density, decreasing your weight, and decreasing your resting blood pressure… not to mention how much better you will look and how much more energized you will feel!
One of the biggest mistakes beginners make however is doing too much too soon. Think of the first few weeks of your
program as a prep-time; a period in which you concentrate on learning proper technique and form, which exercises to do, which muscle groups to work and how much weight to use. I’m going to say this part again… use this time to learn about proper form and get into the habit of regular strength training.
An important part of strength training is to be consistent. Everything is life that is good requires efforts to achieve. You want results? You will have to work at it for at least 6 months. Set yourself this timeline and keep to it. At the end of the 6 months, you will see results if you are consistent.
You can begin your program in a gym or at home… the most important factor to making improvements to your health is that you start… somewhere.
There are hundreds of websites that offer general guidance on getting started and although very helpful, for a newcomer it all can also be overwhelming, contradictory (depending on who is giving the advice) and therefore a bit frustrating. Books and DVD’s also offer fundamental information and starter workout programs to follow.
There is probably no better option than an actual, live person to help you get your program going. A coach or trainer will listen to your goals, note your limitations and observe and help you with proper form. Most gyms offer complimentary orientation sessions to new members or you can always enlist the services of a trainer to help you design a program that is right for you and sets you up for success!
Before you begin your strength training exercises, it is important that you always warm up at least 5-10 minutes. The warm-up will help to prevent injury. The goal of warming up is to increase blood flow to the muscles you are about to exercise.
A sample beginning routine would include a total body circuit program that would incorporate 2 sets per exercise using a weight where 10-15 repetitions can be completed, with the last 2-3 repetition considered “challenging”. Start off with 2-3 days of strength training per week and focus on exercises that target the major muscle groups. For example: you would complete 1 exercise each for Chest, Back, Shoulder and Arms, and 2 exercises for Legs. Allow your body to recover a day or two between workouts.
As your conditioning improves, and your fitness level increases, you may wish to incorporate an additional training day and break down your routine into an upper body workout one day and lower body on another. Periodically, you will need to change up and vary your exercises and you should be increasing the weight you lift every two to three weeks in order to prevent plateaus. If your body isn’t being challenged, you won’t make any gains. Ideally, you should be bettering yourself every time you train. You may not increase the weight you lift every time—(if you can, that’s great)–but you will be able to increase the number of reps or sets that you do. Strive to reach a new level of fitness every single time you lift.
The best workout is one where your muscles feel worked, and you feel satisfied with your progress. If you’re ever in pain, don’t ignore it. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and it should never be ignored.
Getting really lean is an art form…and a science. It is NOT about starving yourself. In fact starving yourself would be the worst thing you could do.
The months before entering a physique competition are extremely difficult and require plenty of discipline and perseverance. Eating the correct foods in the proper proportions and at the appropriate time is vital to getting your physique primed for the stage.
The information presented here assumes the reader has a certain level of nutritional knowledge.
HOW MANY CALORIES EVERY DAY?
Calories: A VERY general rule of thumb is 16 x your bodyweight. So if your goal is to weigh 125 pounds that would be 2000 calories a day intake to maintain a bodyweight of 125. To lose weight eat clean and eat with a slight calorie deficit, about 200 to 300 calories below your maintenance level. Over time you will figure out the correct balance and will make adjustments accordingly.
PROTEIN: Eating the correct amount of protein is PARAMOUNT to helping you build and maintain a muscular physique, since proteins are the building blocks of muscle in your body. You should eat at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight EVERY day. Protein should be consumed at every meal.
CARBS: Fifty to sixty percent of your daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates until about three months before your competition. At this point, carbohydrate intake begins to be cut to 20 to 40 percent. Eating the right types of carbs will make all the difference in your physique. Whole-grain carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole grains and quinoa digest slowly in your body. As weeks progress and the number of allowable carbohydrate grams is reduced, you will be getting more of your carbohydrate calories from veggies and limiting fruits to 2-3servings daily.
FATS: Fat intake will be reduced when preparing for a physique competition. Most people can consume up to 30 percent of calories from healthy fats until about the three-month mark, then as weeks progress, gradually reduce fat intake to 10 to 20 percent.
You need to keep an eating log and record your food intake so you can make accurate adjustments. If you are very active you may have to eat more. If you are naturally obese and hold onto body fat easily you may have to eat less. The only way to really know (how a certain level of food intake will affect you) is keep an eating log and discover what effect eating a certain amount of calories for a month has on you. Ask yourself: Did I get leaner? Did I lose muscle? Did I gain fat? Then make adjustments.
** Remember metabolisms vary significantly from person to person – I am able to keep my healthy fats at ~25% during the leaning phase. I focus more on gradually cutting carbohydrate calories, and increasing cardio sessions as the weeks progress. I am also not as “carb sensitive” as some.
This basic template for macronutrient ratio’s works for me: Protein: 35-40%, Carbs 35-40%, Fats 25%. As I begin to cut carbohydrate calories, I may gradually increase protein, (to keep calories up) depending on the progress I am making.
Basic rules to lose body fat:
Eat every 3 hours. Six small meals a day. Avoid foods that spike your insulin levels (like bread, sugar, and pasta) or foods high in fat (bacon, cakes, butters, fatty meats). Focus on high fiber foods (vegetables, whole wheat, fruits) and protein foods (whey protein, egg whites, fish, lean chicken, low fat cottage cheese, and meal replacements). This increases your metabolic rate. Remember to consume 200-300 calories a day below maintenance level. Also eating every 3 hours tricks your body into thinking YOU ARE NOT DIETING (constant blood sugar level) so it does not store fat (go into famine mode).
As weeks progress, gradually decrease carbs without cutting calories. Eat more vegetables and more protein. Low carb intake lowers insulin levels, you store very little fat, and activate fat burning mechanisms in the body. Keep the calories up though. As you begin to decrease carbs, you will also increase cardio.
When your metabolism slows (from dieting), eat more for 1 to 3 days. Usually one day will do it. Exercise more (increase intensity) as well. Get your metabolism moving again. Usually 300 to 400 calories above maintenance will do it. Carb cycling works well for me when dieting. I incorporate 1 – 2 “re-feed” days per week; with the 2 higher carb days falling on the most strenuous training days (eg squat, leg days). Having these 2 days also helps to restore depleted energy stores (physically and mentally!)
Water and Supplements
Water is one of the most important components of a competition diet and should not be overlooked. Aim to drink at least a gallon of water every day leading up to the competition. Avoid alcohol consumption. Certain supplements can aide you in the preparation phase as well. Consider taking supplements such as a multivitamin and mineral; antioxidants, including green tea; branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s); glutamine and glucosamine.
Train your body to handle real-life situations.
Functional fitness focuses on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in a restrictive posture created by a gym machine. The key to functional exercise is integration. The primary goal of functional training is to transfer the improvements in strength achieved in one movement to enhancing the performance of another movement by affecting the entire neuromuscular system. It’s about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently as conventional weight training does.. Functional strength training is not just done to improve your appearance, but to help improve performance in everyday activities. Exercises that
isolate joints and muscles are training muscles, not movements; which results in less functional improvement. For example, squats will have a greater transfer effect on improving an
individual’s ability to rise from a sofa than knee extension.
Train movements instead of muscles. If you’re training the movement, the muscle will follow.!
Functional strength training (FST) is becoming more popular because it is so practical and is an ideal way to help maximize sports performance. The goal of FST is to develop athleticism. Athletic movements like running, jumping, throwing and lifting are enhanced. Sound technique and optimum speed with movements that are within the context of your sport are further developed. Functional movements offer an effective method in improving balance, coordination, and stability as well as agility, speed, power and strength. FST should supplement traditional weight lifting and is not intended to replace it. It provides variety and additional benefits that directly transfer to common sport movements. And because movements are neuromuscular in that they require the power of both your brain and your brawn, the best exercises to increase functional strength simply involve practicing the movement or motion you want to get better at. Basically, exercises should mimic the movements of the sport while working against resistance. Weight training for strength may not enhance the endurance or strength required for a golfer. A golfer needs to work on core strength, and training involving swinging. A runner, on the other hand, should enhance local muscular endurance.
Standard resistance training machines are of limited use for functional training – their fixed patterns rarely mimic natural movements, and they focus the effort on a single muscle group, rather than engaging the stabilizers and peripheral muscles.
- Body Weight
- Resistance Bands and Loops
- Cable Machines (Pulleys)
- Exercise Balls
- Medicine Balls
Strength training isn’t just about improving your physique. Incorporating Functional Strength Training can enhance overall well-being and help you achieve your potential, no matter the overall fitness goal.
Get fit. Lose the excuses…and those membership dues.
No money. No time. No babysitter. Too busy. Too self conscious. These are the reasons given for NOT joining a gym. But we all WANT to be fit and healthy. Guess what? You don’t need a gym to get an amazing workout. And you don’t need to fight crowds to wait for fancy, expensive equipment. You can get fit and healthy….at home!
Exercise should be made convenient and not made to rule your life… With a few simple, inexpensive aides, you will be on your way to a better you. These aides will add versatility to your at home training sessions. Adding variety to your workouts will keep you engaged and interested, and keeps your muscles guessing and challenged so that you will make progress.
So swing by your local Wal-mart or Target and pick up one or all of the following:
Get back to basics with the 3 B’s…..
Bands offer constant tension on the muscle, both in the positive and the negative part of the movement. Bands incorporate more stabilizer muscles to keep the band in alignmentthroughout each exercise, adding a different dynamic to the same old moves. This helps with coordination and balance as you engage more muscle groups. They also offer more variety than cables for example because you can create resistance from all directions – overhead, below, sideways, etc.
- You can perform the same exercises as you do with free weights–the difference lies in positioning the band. For example, stand on the band and grip the handles for bicep curls or overhead presses. Or attach it to a door and do lat pulldowns or tricep pushdowns. The possibilities are endless and you’ll find there are a multitude of exercises available to you.
- Bands range from $6 – $20, depending on how many you buy. Most bands are color coded, according to tension level. (It’s best to get at least 3, as different muscle groups require different levels of resistance).
- And, they are easily packed away in a suitcase so that you can get your workout in even when traveling.
Exercise balls challenge you by placing your body in an unstable environment. They are among the most versatile (and my favorite) exercise aides in that they help to improve core strength as well as strengthen abs and back. When you lie or sit on the ball, your legs and abs immediately contract to keep you from falling off. Add an exercise to that (like a chest or shoulder press or crunch), and you’ve just increased the intensity of the movement.
Use the stability ball as your “weight bench”. This adds difficulty to the movement as well as engages the legs, butt and abs.
Before you buy a ball, make sure it’s the right size for your height. To test it, sit on the ball and make sure your hips are level or just slightly higher than the knees. Again, you can find a stability ball for under $20.
**When shopping for fitness balls, you may also consider purchasing a medicine ball. A medicine ball is a weighted, hollow ball that varies in size from the size of a volley ball (lighter) to a basketball (heavier).
You don’t need a whole rack of weights to supplement your home workouts. 2 -3 sets of dumbbells will enable you to get in a full body workout; especially if used in conjunction with a stability ball and/or bands. For every exercise you can do with a traditional barbell, you can do a similar exercise (and more) with a set of dumbbells. Use the heavier set for exercises in which you can manage more weight — squats and lunges for example; and lighter weight for exercises that work best with comparatively lighter weights — raises, rows, curls, etc.
For the exercise suggestions that follow, remember that many times the stability ball can replace a weight bench.
All of those ab crunches you’ve been doing will make your abdominal muscles stronger. But they will not whittle away belly fat.
Our hormones determine where we will store fat in our bodies. Fat is lost in a pattern dependent upon genetics, sex and age. Overall body fat must be reduced to lose fat in any particular area.
We all have our trouble spots. For women this is typically in the hips and buttocks; the tummy; and/or the upper arms. Unfortunately, the first place we store fat is also the last place it leaves when we begin to diet and exercise.
But training one particular area of your body to reduce fat (also known as spot training) does not work. So if you have a large tummy, then simply doing ab crunches and leg raises will not result in a flat stomach. Here is why. Fat loss occurs in the body as a whole. Unfortunately, the fat in a particular area isn’t governed by the muscles in that same area. So if you want to lose belly fat for example, you have to have a fat loss strategy that burns fat throughout your body.
You must always treat your body as a whole which means changing your diet to a whole food diet (healthy eating) and exercising your whole body.
The answer is to combine weighted compound exercises that work all of the major muscle groups (like squats, rows, and presses to name a few) with high intensity cardio.
High intensity cardio releases fat burning hormones, and revs up the metabolism in a way that slow, steady state, and long duration cardio does not. Cardio raises the heart rate and determines how many calories are burned. Strength training also helps to raise the metabolism, as well as build strong muscles. The more muscle you have, the more calories will be burned. This is why strength and cardio exercise should be a part of your regimen to achieve the maximum fat burning results.
And if you’re serious about reducing your overall body fat percentage; you must incorporate a healthy and well balanced diet. This is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and grains. This does NOT mean to starve yourself. If you deprive yourself of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) you will be counterproductive in your efforts to lose weight and body fat. Essentially, you’ll end up slowing down your metabolism and stopping your fat loss before it even starts.
So, if you are ready to lose that excess fat, you can’t spot reduce it away. Spot training does not work. Instead, focus on fat loss in the body as a whole. The best way to lose fat from one particular area is to lose fat overall, then concentrate on toning individual parts of your body
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Becoming more physically active is about making YOU and your health a priority. Don’t let excuses control you and prevent you from achieving your goals.
People give all sorts of reasons for not participating in a regular exercise program. Most excuses are not valid reasons for not working out; they are defense mechanisms for avoiding an activity they perceive as unpleasant or difficult and therefore approach it with apprehension. Our bodies were designed for motion. Exercise is the body in motion and should feel good.
So I ask, what is your reason (excuse) for not making exercise part of your lifestyle??
1) NO TIME:
Work, school, family, church….there is always something taking up your time. But taking some time out each day for yourself will not only benefit your health physically but also mentally. There are many programs out there that enable even the busiest of folks to fit in exercise.
Inactive people are just as busy as those who find time to exercise… you have got to get rid of this excuse. Here are a few more pointers to help you manage fitness into your daily routine:
Schedule workout time – break exercise time into 15 minute segments:
ü Get up a few minutes earlier & go for a brisk walk
ü Use 15 miutes of your lunch break to walk stairs and/or
ü Lift weights for 15 minutes after work.
2) NO MONEY:
Exercising is one of the most inexpensive activities around. It is not a sport for only the rich. All you need is a good pair of shoes. A regular exercise routine can transform you from a couch potato to a more energetic and healthier individual.
Think about the money you spend on coffee, cigarettes or beer. Think about packing a lunch instead of eating out even just one day a week. You may just have enough for that gym membership.
3) TOO TIRED:
Exercise generates Energy… Let me say that again: EXERCISE GENERATES ENERGY …dramatically.. Sometimes life gets hectic with all we have to do, but once you establish a routine and begin to get healthy, you will find a renewed sense of vitality. And the more energy you have, the more you will be able to accomplish in a day.
4) DON’T KNOW HOW.
There is all sorts of information about exercising and fitness programs. Pick up a book, DVD or fitness magazine to help you. Everybody has to start somewhere. Start with what you know and what you are comfortable with and gradually introduce new exercises or activities. Go to the gym with a friend or colleague who can show you some exercises. Take a group fitness class or set an appointment with a personal trainer to help you get on a program that is specific to your health goals.
5) HATE EXERCISE – really.
Exercise does not have to be this dreadful chore you perceive it to be. Keep looking until you find something you like to do. Experiment with different activities until you “connect” with something. Keep going back and don’t give up. The more you participate and practice, the better you will become at it. As time goes by, your confidence will improve and you will find that you actually are having fun at your “sport”!
And the best part: your body in the process will become healthier and fit.
Exercise is timeless. It benefits all people of all ages, shapes and sizes. You are never too old (or too young), too fat, too busy, too inexperienced, or too broke to start exercising.
It is time to ditch all of these excuses and start moving in the direction to be in the best shape of your life. … Instead of moving in the direction of regret for not making YOU a top priority!
Are you controlling your diet or is your diet taking control of you?
To be successful in anything, including eating to lose weight, the process need not be too extreme or complicated. You will never stick with a diet plan that is not reasonable for you or your lifestyle. Strict diets and resolutions may seem good in theory, but they have a huge flaw built into them. More often, these fad diets will only set you up for failure. If your diet seems like some form of torture and the foods you eat give you no pleasure, you will not be successful. Rather than trying to follow the exact rules of a particular diet, use sensible guidelines to point you in the right direction.
HAVE LOTS OF FOOD CHOICES:
- Don’t limit yourself to 5 or 6 foods. This makes absolutely no sense. Eat from all food groups. There are unlimited nutritious foods available to you and variety will keep you from straying. “Grapefruit” or “cabbage soup” diets may take weight off temporarily but they will not work for the long term.
- Shop around the edge of the grocery store. These tend to be the fresher, less processed items. You’ll have better nutritional options in those areas. Fresh produce, whole grains, dairy, meats, fish and poultry are found around the perimeter of the store. Sticking to the basics also keeps it simple. Preparing and eating healthy need not be complicated.
- Choose whole grains whenever possible. Bright colors over white. Wheat for white breads and pastas. Brown for white rice. Sweet potatos instead of white, etc. Make a habit of preparing extra portions so leftovers can be placed in reusable containers for the next days meals.
- Bake, broil, grill, sauté but do not deep fry. It is more about HOW you prepare the food. Use healthy oils like olive oil or non-stick sprays and experiment freely with herbs and spices for different flavors. Stay away from butter, cream sauces, and added sugars.
- Do not forget about the value of water. Staying well hydrated is not only vital to good health but drinking at least 8–10 glasses of water daily will also help you feel full. Add fresh lemon or lime.
Take Part in Regular Snacking
Eating more frequently with sensible portions will keep you from getting too hungry between meals and will keep your mind off of food. There is a common misconception that snacking is wrong and that it is what puts most people’s weight on. However, the truth is that snacking actually benefits the body by accelerating the metabolism; it is what you are snacking on that matters!
Snacking stops the body from becoming hungry. It is unhealthy to leave the body without food for a long period of time and so snacking helps to bridge the gap before meal times. Just ensure that you are snacking on the right foods and you should be ok.
Some good snack choices include: low fat air popped popcorn, fresh fruit and veggies, cottage cheese, greek or low sugar yogurt, cereal bars, protein bars or nutrition shakes and smoothies, rice cakes with peanut butter, whole grain crackers with hummus, boiled eggs, turkey roll-ups, low fat cheese, nuts or seeds.
Have a realistic approach. Healthy weight loss is about 2 lbs a week. If you’re losing only 1 or 2 pounds a week, you shouldn’t experience tremendous hunger. Not if you plan your meals and snacks correctly.
Go ahead, dine out.
Eating out is fine if you know how to order. You do not need to socially isolate yourself or avoid going out with family or friends…
Don’t be timid to ask your server to prepare the food a certain way. Here are a couple of things to remember:
. avoid fried entries and those made with cream sauces. Baked or grilled poultry or fish are best options.
. ask for steamed veggies or fresh fruit as sides.
. salads – ALWAYS order dressing on the side (vinagrette much better than ranch)
. if you order an appetizer, order a broth based soup and skip the rolls!
. Drink Water with lemon or lime.
When you know you will be going out to eat, DO NOT starve yourself all day. BAD IDEA! Continue to eat your smaller size meals through the day so you will not be FAMISHED by the time you get to the restaurant. When you get too hungry, you tend to not only overeat but also make bad choices.
Participate in some form of exercise program.
Just like your meal plan, exercise should not be another form of torture. Find an activity you enjoy or find a partner to work out with you to make it more fun. If you are not self motivated or uncertain about what to do once you get to the gym, join in a group fitness class. Match the activity to your interest and you will be more likely to stick with it. Group classes also add the element of accountability. Think of it as a weekly appointment that you cannot miss. Open your mind up to try something new; you may surprise yourself at what you can do.
REMEMBER THIS, one of the many benefits of working out is that it builds lean muscle. And the more muscle you build, the more you continue to burn the fat!