The problem with many diets is that they focus on weight loss, what the scales say, instead of fat loss. This a BIG problem, much of the weight loss on conventional diets, think diet clubs, is water weight and lean muscle. Losing lean muscle will make you smaller, but you will still be fat. Ever heard the term skinny fat? This is when a person is small or slim, but still carries a fair amount of fat, often in the form of cellulite. This is just as undesirable and unhealthy as simply being fat.
When you only focus on scale weight, you can lose muscle mass, ‘so what’, you say, well losing muscle mass lowers your metabolism, making it even harder to lose more weight. Losing muscle makes you weaker, making working out for further weight loss even harder. Losing muscle doesn’t just make you weaker, it reduces your fitness as a whole. Losing muscle decreases your resting muscle tone, think firm abs and bum or toned legs, well kiss those goodbye. Losing muscle decreases your insulin sensitivity, meaning more of the carbs you eat are stored as body-fat instead of muscle glycogen. Losing muscle means you can’t eat as much, because of your lowered metabolism.
You get the picture, we don’t want to lose muscle; we only want to lose fat. So don’t rely too heavily on scale weight, get your body fat measured or simply track your own progress with photos and pinch testing, you can see and feel when the fat comes off. The scales may say you’ve only lost a couple of pounds recently, but you may have gained a couple of pounds of lean muscle, so your fat loss is actually double what you think. You can see the difference in the mirror, you can feel the difference, but when the scales tell you it’s only two pounds, you are disheartened. So focus on fat loss, not weight loss, train and eat to be toned and lean, not skinny fat.
To prevent muscle loss when dieting, a few rules need to be followed:
• Make sure you are eating enough protein. Lack of which when dieting, leads to your body breaking down muscle to release amino acids for energy conversion, or for tissue repair elsewhere. A good starting point for your protein intake is between 0.8 and 1.2 grams per pound of body-weight. The more active you are and the harder you train, shoot for the higher end. This should help prevent your body cannibalising its own lean muscle.
• Don’t drop your calories too severely, starving yourself may help you drop weight initially and fairly quickly, but your body will adapt just as fast, slowing processes down to conserve energy. A deficit of around 500 calories per day, is generally accepted as a safe and effective deficit for losing fat.
• If you are going the low carb route, make sure you up the fats, to provide you enough energy, otherwise your body will be forced to convert proteins into glucose to meet energy demands, then you are in danger of lacking sufficient protein to maintain lean muscle.
• Lift big weights. Using light weights for high reps will not ‘burn body fat’, as so many people seem to think. You are more likely to lose strength and size and just build up muscular endurance. Remember we want to maintain lean muscle and to do so, you need to lift heavy, stick to compound lifts and use sufficient volume.
This is by no means a comprehensive ‘how to guide’, for losing fat and maintaining muscle, I simply wrote this blog post to make people aware of the differences in general weight loss and fat loss and why it is important to focus on the later.
For more information on how to lose body fat, check out my ‘losing stubborn belly fat report’ on the warrior fit site.