Weight loss surgery is an amazing tool to help you lose a significant amount of weight. Depending on the surgery you choose it can be upwards of 50+ lbs in 6 months! However, one of the unintended consequences of weight loss surgery is a significant amount of muscle (lean) mass as well. Research shows that you can lose up to 33% of your pre-surgery muscle mass so it’s important to keep as much muscle as you can.  For obvious reasons the more muscle you have the stronger you will be, but muscle is also a metabolically active tissue, which means that it can help keep your metabolic rate from dropping

you can lose up to 33% of your pre-surgery muscle mass

To be most successful exercising after bariatric surgery it is best to have a plan and stick to it. The plan should be detailed to include workouts, days, and times. Yet the plan can’t stay static or your body will stop adapting. You have to change it up and using the Overload Principle is a great way to do that. If you don’t have a plan or it just seems a bit overwhelming for you, check out my Building a fitness program eBook

The Overload Principle for building muscle after bariatric surgery

What is The Overload Principle in strength training, and why should you care? The overload principle, when used correctly, will deliver optimal results. By challenging your body progressively with smart, controlled overload you will see a positive change start to occur. 

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) explains simply that this means your muscles must be stimulated to greater than normal activity if they are to grow. When you properly apply the correct amount of overload, you begin to see results rapidly.

When you properly apply the correct amount of overload, you begin to see results rapidly.

 In a nutshell, if you under stimulate your muscles, they won’t grow/adapt because they have no reason to do so.  They can meet your demands.  If you overstimulate your muscles, they will at first respond, but will eventually break down and lead to an overuse injury.  There is a sweet spot in between underuse and overuse that you need to be able to find and adjust as you go.

By incorporating an ongoing overload formula into your strength training regimen, you can slow down the muscle mass loss from weight loss surgery.  It is important to note that I said you can “slow down” muscle mass loss, rather than build muscle.

During weight loss, especially weight loss due to bariatric surgery, lean (muscle) tissue loss is a given.  It is our job to prevent as much of this lean tissue loss as possible to keep as much metabolically active muscle tissue as we can and to lose fat tissue instead.  In another post I will explain why muscle loss is such a problem in bariatric surgery. 

From Beginner to Expert – The Overload Principle works

This is great news since building muscle (slowing muscle loss) after bariatric surgery goes a long way towards reaching your overall goals.  If exercise is new to you, you’ll begin to see the desired results quickly. Lifting 10 or 15 pounds with only a couple of weightlifting sessions a week will begin to show improved muscle definition and strength almost immediately. 

In general, the more novice you are to exercise, the greater your initial response will be.  This is part of the reason that bodybuilders have to do hours and hours of exercise.  The more advanced you are, the more stimulus it takes for your muscles to grow. Remember to read weight loss strength training tips if you are new to all of this. 

And the ACSM also points out that the overload principle works for veterans as well as beginners. Though it may take creative and progressive overload to see a dramatic improvement. If you have already begun to strength train regularly, increasing your overall load will help you continue to gain muscle.  Again, it is important that you are able to figure out where you are on the spectrum from beginner to advanced as this will dictate how many sets, repetitions, and intensity is required for your body to positively adapt without getting hurt.

increasing your overall load will help you continue to gain muscle.

Experienced strength trainers can shorten the amount of time spent resting between sets and increase reps and sets to harness the power of this principle. When you consistently and progressively increase the amount of weight, repetitions and sets you perform, you’re using the overload principle, thereby improving muscle mass and strength. 

When you decrease the amount of exercise you perform, your body will detrain and you will begin to lose muscle mass.  But fear not, you don’t have to exercise like a bodybuilder to maintain your strength or be stuck in a cycle of having to continually exercise harder and harder.  The good news is that the more you exercise and the fitter you get, the easier it gets.  You don’t have to keep getting fitter forever, eventually you will find your groove and be happy with where you are.