Weight loss refers to a decrease in overall body weight due to loss of muscle, water, and fat. Fat loss refers to weight loss from fat, and it’s a more specific and healthier goal than weight loss. However, it can be difficult to tell if you are losing weight through fat or muscle. This article explains why losing fat is more important than losing weight, how you can tell the difference between the two, and provides tips for losing fat and maintaining muscle.
Ways to know if you are losing fat
It’s common to track your weight loss progress using a scale. While this can be helpful, most scales don’t differentiate between fat loss and muscle loss. For this reason, tracking your weight alone is not a reliable way to determine if you are 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 fat loss, not weight loss
Many weight loss programs claim to help you lose weight quickly and easily. However, it is important to realize that a significant portion of this weight can include water and muscle loss. Muscle loss can be detrimental because muscle is a crucial part of your overall health. Maintaining a healthy percentage of muscle has several benefits, such as regulating healthy blood sugar levels, maintaining 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 like metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes. Maintaining muscle mass can also reduce the risk of age-related muscle loss, which 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 decrease the number of calories you burn at rest, making it easier to regain the lost weight as fat.
How to Lose Fat and Maintain or Gain Muscle
There are a few simple ways to ensure that you will lose weight as 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 slight calorie deficit.
Eat lots of protein
Protein is an important nutrient for a whole host of bodily functions. They are needed to make enzymes that aid digestion and energy production, regulate fluid balance, and support immune health, among other functions. Protein is also important for maintaining the muscles you have and promoting new muscle growth, especially when you lose 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 training program. While both groups lost a significant amount of weight, the men who followed the high-protein diet lost 1.3 kg more fat mass and gained 1.1 kg more muscle than the men. who followed the low-protein diet.
Importantly, the study found that high-intensity resistance exercise followed by a high-protein recovery snack made the biggest difference. Additionally, it limited the men’s fat intake to create a calorie deficit and maintained their carbohydrate intake for adequate fuel for exercise. And while eating lots of protein on a low-calorie diet without resistance training doesn’t help you gain muscle, it may help you retain muscle while increasing fat loss.
A review of 20 studies in men and women aged 50 and over found that a high-protein diet containing at least 1 gram per kg led to greater retention of muscle mass and greater fat loss than a lower protein diet. Although protein requirements vary with age, health, gender and level of physical activity, a protein intake of between (1 to 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day can promote maintaining muscle mass and losing fat when dieting For reference, the recommended dietary intake of protein is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight per day.
Exercise is the most effective way to encourage 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 didn’t. weren’t exercising. Certainly exercise alone is 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 per week of cardio and strength training involving all major muscle groups.
Follow a low calorie diet
To lose weight, you must 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 lead to greater loss of muscle than fat. Instead, try moderately reducing the number of calories you eat by 500 to 600 per day to minimize muscle loss while facilitating fat loss. You can reduce the number of calories you eat by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, and fewer sugary foods and drinks, processed meats and fried foods.
What to remember to lose fat instead of muscle
Weight loss refers to a decrease in your overall body weight, while fat loss refers to weight loss that occurs specifically from body fat losses. To monitor fat loss, using a scale that calculates your fat mass is more useful than just tracking your body weight.
Other easy ways to gauge fat loss are to measure the inches lost at the 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 the priority, given how important the fat to muscle ratio is to your overall health.
You can prioritize fat loss by eating plenty of protein, exercising, and moderately restricting your calories.