Weight loss refers to a reduction in total body weight due to the loss of muscle, water and fat. Fat loss refers to losing weight from fat and is a more specific and healthier goal than weight loss. However, it can be difficult to tell whether you are losing weight through fat or muscle. This article explains why losing weight is more important than losing weight, how to tell the difference, and tips for losing and maintaining muscle mass.
Ways to tell if you’re losing fat
It is common to track weight loss progress using a scale. While this can be helpful, most scales do not differentiate between fat loss and muscle loss. Because of this, tracking your weight alone isn’t a reliable way to tell if you’re losing fat or muscle and by how much. Conversely, a bathroom scale can provide a more accurate picture of your body composition by measuring the percentage of fat and muscle you have.
Focus on weight loss, not weight loss
Many weight loss programs claim to help you lose weight quickly and easily. However, it is important to note that a significant portion of this weight may include water and muscle loss. Losing muscle can be detrimental because muscle is a key part of your overall health. Maintaining a healthy muscle percentage has several benefits, such as regulating healthy blood sugar levels, keeping healthy fats such as triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood, and controlling inflammation.
Indeed, several studies have linked a higher fat-to-muscle ratio to chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes. Maintaining muscle mass can also reduce the risk of age-related muscle loss that leads to frailty and potentially disability. Also, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. This is the main reason why men generally have higher caloric needs than women. Therefore, losing weight as muscle can reduce the number of calories you burn at rest, making it easier to regain the lost weight as fat.
How to lose weight and maintain or gain muscle
There are some simple ways to ensure that you lose fat and maintain or gain muscle mass. It’s about eating plenty of protein, exercising regularly, and following a nutrient-dense diet that puts you in a moderate calorie deficit.
Eat lots of protein
Proteins are an important nutrient for a variety of body functions. They are needed to produce enzymes that, among other things, support digestion and energy production, regulate fluid balance, and support immune health. Protein is also important for maintaining the muscle you have and promoting new muscle growth, especially when you’re losing weight.
In a 4-week study, young men were randomly assigned to follow a low-calorie diet containing 1.2 or 2.4 grams per kg of body weight combined with an intense exercise program. While both groups lost significant weight, the men on the high-protein diet lost 1.3kg more fat and gained 1.1kg more muscle than the men on the low-protein diet.
Importantly, the study found that high-intensity resistance exercise followed by a high-protein snack made the biggest difference. In addition, he restricted the men’s fat intake to create a caloric deficit and maintained their carbohydrate intake as sufficient fuel for exercise. And while eating lots of protein on a low-calorie diet without weight training won’t help you gain muscle, it can help you maintain muscle while increasing fat loss.
A review of 20 studies in men and women aged 50 and older found that a high-protein diet containing at least 1 gram per kg led to greater muscle retention and greater fat loss than a low-protein diet. Although protein requirements vary by age, health, gender, and physical activity level, a protein intake between (1 to 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day can promote muscle maintenance and fat loss when dieting). protein is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight per day.
Exercise is the most effective way to promote fat loss rather than muscle loss. An analysis of 6 studies found that older adults with obesity who did cardio and strength training at least 3 times a week while following a calorie-restricted diet retained 93% more muscle than those who did not exercise. Exercise alone is certainly an effective strategy for maintaining muscle mass as part of a diet, but combining exercise with a higher protein intake can help optimize your results. Aim to do at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of cardio and strength training involving all major muscle groups.
Follow a low-calorie diet
To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. You can create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories or by exercising, but preferably both.
However, cutting calories too much can result in more muscle loss than fat. Instead, try to slightly reduce the number of calories you eat by 500 to 600 per day to minimize muscle loss while facilitating fat loss. You can reduce your calorie intake by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and less sugary foods and drinks, processed meats, and fried foods.
Things to remember to lose fat instead of muscle
Weight loss refers to a reduction in your overall body weight, while fat loss refers to weight loss that occurs specifically from body fat loss. If you want to track fat loss, using a scale that calculates your fat mass is more helpful than just tracking your body weight.
Other easy ways to measure fat loss are to measure the inches lost in your waist and hips and note any changes in the way your clothes fit around your waist. Losing weight as fat rather than muscle should be a priority, given how important the ratio of fat to muscle is to your overall health.
You can prioritize weight loss by eating a lot of protein, exercising, and slightly restricting calories.
Do you like our content?
Get our latest publications free and delivered straight to your inbox every day