Do you want to lose weight? If you answered yes, you are wrong. Well, not wrong actually, but what you’re really wanting to do is lose fat. Anybody can lose weight. You just don’t eat. You will lose weight, but unfortunately, the weight you lose will be both muscle and fat.
Preserving Muscle Should Be Your Goal
The ultimate goal for successful weight loss is to preserve as much muscle as possible, or possibly even gain some, while at the same time lose as much body fat as possible. Your body fat % is a key indicator of your success, not the scale.
Muscle is vital to your success for losing fat. Muscles have these little fat burning powerhouses called mitochondria. It’s in the mitochondria that fat is metabolized, and there is a positive correlation between the amount of muscle you have and the number of mitochondria. It stands to reason that the more mitochondria you have, the more the potential to efficiently burn fat.
The great thing about muscle is that it is active tissue. It needs constant energy to maintain itself – energy like fatty acids. What does this mean? It means that your body will be burning fat at all times of the day – even while you’re sleeping. Yes, it is possible to burn fat in your sleep, and that is how.
Don’t Worry So Much About Your Weight
Telling people to not stress about their weight is a very common theme for me, and for good reason. Too many times successful dieting is sabotaged because of a deceiving number on a scale. A scale can’t tell you if your clothes fit better, it can’t tell you if your body fat percentage has changed, and it definitely won’t tell you that you’re looking any better.
Two people could both weigh 150lbs, but one might have 40% body fat, while the other might have 10% body fat. To the scale they are both the same. A scale can’t tell the difference between a 150lb person or a 150lb sack of potatoes even though I personally think they look a little different.
When you start trying to lose weight, it is imperative that you track your progress using methods other than just the scale. You need progress measuring tools that are going to track body composition changes too. Body fat calipers, a tape measure, progress pictures, the way your clothes fit, blood work, and people’s comments are all going to be useful to you.
Don’t worry so much about your weight. If you’re looking and feeling better about yourself your weight doesn’t matter. Progress is not just measured in pounds.
How to Preserve Muscle While Losing Fat
Alright then, if our goal is fat loss we are going to need to focus on preserving muscle while we lose fat. People tend to sabotage their fitness program by eating too little food, too few nutrients, and by not providing a stimulus to their muscles, which results in a loss of lean body mass.
Once you start losing muscle you are fighting an uphill battle to lose fat. Since muscle burns calories, when you lose some you slow your metabolism, which results in you ending up having to cut calories further in order to keep a sufficient calorie deficit. This starts a downward spiral of calorie cuts leading to more and more muscle loss.
To prevent muscle loss, make sure you are following these basic guidelines:
- Get in enough calories for your body size and activity level. See my calorie calculator.
- Make sure at least 80% of those calories are nutrient dense by having them come from fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, dairy, legumes, tubers, dairy, and whole grains.
- Keep your calories as high as possible and only lower them when you don’t reach at least .5% body mass loss for 2 consecutive weeks.
- Try to get in .6-.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and divide that somewhat evenly among 3-6 meals.
- Eat enough carbohydrates to support your activity level. Try to eat as many as possible that still enables you to reach your fat loss goals.
- Fill the rest of your calories with fat – healthy fats and EFAs (essential fatty acids).
- Make sure you strength train and give your muscles a reason to maintain themselves. Use them or lose them. If you don’t exercise your body is going to shed that unneeded muscle.
Follow these guidelines and you will reach your true goal of not just losing weight, but losing that unwanted fat, and keeping your hard-earned muscle.