Weight loss: Are you losing muscle or fat?


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Weight loss can be very tricky. You might think that you’re doing everything right and you may even see results. However, these results can sometimes be temporary and things start to go downhill really quick. For example, you might notice a dip in your performance at the gym, or you’re not feeling so great overall. That’s not supposed to happen. What’s going on?

After all, losing weight makes you feel a lot better and exercising is supposed to have all these health benefits right? Then why the sudden dip in performance? The reason is that once people start their weight loss journey, some people don’t do it right. As a result, you start losing muscle instead of fat which is not good at all. The goal of weight loss is always to get rid of that extra fat in your body, not shed the essential muscle needed for correct day to day functioning.

Looking at the weight in numbers can be misleading

Whenever weight loss is mentioned, it’s always recommended to compare measurements and not the weight itself over time. For example, you might not have lost a single pound but you may have seen improvements along your waistline. That’s because you probably added a bit of muscle to your frame, which offsets the fat you lost so your actual weight stays the same, but you’ve achieved the goal of fat loss.

The reverse is also true. If you get it wrong, you might still lose weight. However, that’s where the numbers deceive you. You may think that you’re losing fat, but in reality, you’ll be losing muscle. However, the numbers keep going down so it may seem that whatever strategy you’re using is working. This results in you sticking to the same strategy which makes the problem even worse.

What causes muscle loss?

Muscle loss is not as easy to achieve as it sounds. Your body uses glucose as its primary source of fuel. When it runs out of glucose, either due to restricting calories or through physical exercise, it turns to glycogen. Glucose is stored in the liver and muscle as glycogen and that is used. Fat is also used for energy and can be used as a permanent source too (Keto diet). However, when you eat too few calories, the body then turns to your muscles and starts using them for energy.

Unfortunately, a lot of people think “dieting” is all about restricting your food to almost not eating anything at all. This results in people eating too few calories which leads to muscle loss. Instead of restricting your food intake, a better option is to opt for more healthier foods and to control your portion sizes.

If you eat the right kinds of foods, it’ll be very hard to go above your daily caloric requirements. Healthy foods simply have fewer calories and are more fulfilling. Therefore, you won’t be able to overeat with healthy food, so you’ll lose weight in a much healthier and sustainable way.

Depriving yourself of food is not feasible in the long run.

Another reason is overtraining. Exercising has a lot of benefits for the body, but too much of everything is bad, even exercise. People train for hours a day thinking the more you work out, the more calories you burn, and hence, the faster the weight loss. That might be true to an extent but after one point, you’re only setting yourself up for failure in the long run.

One of the best examples of overtraining is cardio. If you do too much cardio, then your body eventually ends up burning muscle for energy. Fat often doesn’t get used because during cardio sessions, your body needs quick energy, and fat takes a longer time to burn. Therefore, your muscles get used instead. Stick to a healthy amount of cardio per week. 45-60 minutes of high-intensity cardio a week is enough. Not sure if you’re losing fat or muscle? Here are some red flags that you’re losing muscle:

You feel drained or inefficient doing everyday activities

Muscles are an essential part of your body. They play a key role in your body’s movement and function. Therefore, your strength and overall ability to do things diminish which is why you might have trouble doing even the simplest of daily activities.

If you feel sluggish or inefficient when doing daily chores or any sort of task that you were able to do pretty easily before, then it’s a sign that you’re losing muscle instead of fat. If your diet is fine but you’re really active, then there are two possibilities for this result. The first is that your diet is not adequate enough to supply your body with the energy it needs to keep up your active lifestyle. The other possibility is that you’re too active for your own good i.e. you overtrain.

As discussed earlier, overtraining is not good and can result in more harm for your body than good. Try slowing down your training regime and have a sound nutrition plan to recover the damage that has been done.

Your workouts are getting harder- The wrong way

Normally you’re supposed to make each workout harder than the previous. Progressive overload is an important part of progressing and building muscle. However, when the same workout starts feeling harder, then something has gone terribly wrong. The reason for this is simple. Your body has lost muscle due to which it can no longer handle the load you worked out in the same way as before.

One might not feel much of a difference in their daily routines as mentioned above, but differences in the gym are much more common. You’ll notice a significant drop in strength, and you might even lose the motivation to work out entirely at one point. This is a clear warning sign that you’re doing something wrong. Identify the main causes of the problem and fix them now before it gets worse.

You’re losing weight rapidly but your body fat percentage is the same

As mentioned earlier, numbers aren’t everything when it comes to weight loss, they don’t tell the entire story. You might lose a lot of weight at the beginning because of your new “diet” but what you need to do is check your body fat levels. The only time you’ll lose more fat is when you have a lot of fat to lose. Then, it becomes hard to lose muscle.

However, rapid weight loss is neither sustainable nor is it recommended. Moreover, most body fat testing methods or machines now tell you your muscle mass too along with body fat. A simple test can reveal a lot about your training regime. Even if you don’t have an idea of your muscle mass, you can simply see how effective your weight loss has been thanks to body fat results.

If you were at let’s say 25% body fat at the start, and you weighed 100 kg, then you had 25 kg of body fat. Compare this over time with new body fat readings and see how much your body fat went down using this simple calculation: your body fat % multiplied by your current weight. If you’ve lost significantly more weight than you’ve lost body fat, then you know something has gone wrong. Therefore, it’s always recommended to use other means of checking your weight loss progress than just the weight machine.

 

 

 


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Olivia Parker

Parker holds a masters in computer science, but her love for movies and everything that goes into making them forced her to divert her strength to entertainment world. She has been interviewed a number of celebrities in her previous jobs.

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