How many of us have said, “I need to lose weight,” when what we really mean is, “I need to lose fat”? See, losing weight is not the same as losing fat, and it’s important to know the difference. Because not knowing the difference can have you happy as you see the pounds shedding off, yet you may be losing the wrong thing. And on the flip side, you could be feeling down about some added weight, when that added weight is actually a good thing. Read on to find out what we mean!
Losing weight does not necessarily mean losing fat!
You start a diet and see the number on the scale dropping. But don’t celebrate just yet! Because it’s possible you’re not losing fat. things contribute to the overall weight of your body. Some of these things, like your bones and most organs, remain roughly the same weight over time. On the other hand, water do fluctuate regularly.
When speaking of losing weight, it’s important to think in terms of losing fat. Sure, you may lose some “water weight” too, but this only amounts to up to about 5 pounds in most people. What you absolutely want to avoid, though, is losing muscle. Unfortunately losing muscle is surprisingly easy while dieting if you don’t do it right.
Another important point is that muscle is more dense than fat. Say you held a square inch of fat in one hand and a square inch of muscle in the other. Kind of a gross image, I know! But the point here is that the square inch of muscle would weigh more than the fat. So, if you’re dropping pounds, keep in mind that it could be that you’re losing muscle. Conversely, if you see the scale going up, it could actually be that you’re gaining muscle. A little bit of muscle adds some weight, but overall, your body will look leaner. That’s why some find once they start working out, they look better overall even if they put on some weight from muscle gain.
How can I focus on fat loss while dieting?
You’ve likely heard the rule that losing weight is 80% diet, 20% exercise. But this doesn’t mean that you can/should focus on just diet and neglect exercise. Because if you cut a significant amount of calories from your diet, your body can and will take from your muscle mass in order to make energy. That will result in muscle loss. You want to be able to preserve your muscle mass while dieting, firstly for your general health but
also because it can help increase your metabolism and in turn burn more fat. Muscles are on a use-them-or-lose-them basis, so be sure to include strength training in your weight loss plan. You’re essentially letting your body know that “Hey, I’m still using these, ok?”
Another way to make sure you’re not losing too much muscle while dieting is to be sure to incorporate enough protein in your diet. If you’re unsure about how much you’re getting, try keeping a food log for a week to get an idea of how much protein you’re getting in an average day. Check out this link for a handy protein intake calculator that will give you a customized goal number based on your height, weight, sex, activity level, and fitness goals. If you find that you’re not getting enough protein, add in some lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds, beans, legumes, and/or protein bars and protein shakes to your diet.
The bottom line is this: you want to make sure you’re balancing diet AND exercise (and that you’re including strength training in your exercise routine) in order to lose weight in an optimal fashion. Remember, you want to lose weight while preserving as much muscle mass as possible. Follow your diet of choice, and as for exercise, we here at CardioCast have you covered!