The holidays are here, and we’re just about to round the corner of our #NewYearsResolutions. I’m guessing you may want to lose weight and finally look and feel great for 2017? It’s on most our To Do Lists.
I want to help you understand what it means to lose weight, how your metabolism is affected, and the reasons why we should focus on #weight loss, and more on fat loss. Let’s get started!
We all know muscle weighs more than fat. It’s common knowledge, and it’s been drilled into our heads since our early days of discovering true fad diets when we were barely old enough for training bras…at least, that’s how young I was when I started wanting to lose weight.
Of course, did I really need to lose weight at 13? Simply, the answer was no.
I might have added a few extra #pounds when I hit puberty and during the late night slumber parties full of junk food that allowed me to indulge a little too much, but I was a normal kid, a normal young girl who just needed simple guidance to understanding her body.
No shame needed.
But that didn’t happen, and I’m sure many of you had gone through something similar.
My mom was on a diet to lose weight, for the 20th time since I became aware of the ideal female body, and this influenced me. No blame on her, though, because she was just as stuck as I was in this mindset that we didn’t look good or thin enough by society’s standards.
But here’s the kicker that I’m going to be talking about in this post: the first time we start #dieting is the first time we start losing precious muscle, at least this is what happens to the majority of people who lose weight. This cycle can be endless and ultimately depletes much of your precious muscle, replacing it with fat. This needs to stop and can be stopped! I will show you how below.
So I went on to experiment with diet pills during high school. I got down to a really low weight, barely ate anything because of the appetite suppressants and the endless hours of sport practices I was in. I looked good! And I would forever chase this image of myself, even to this day.
During college, like many of you during this time of our lives, I put back on a little weight due to late nights with friends, lots of pizza, Friday and Saturday nights out, and late morning pancakes to soak up the fun from the night before.
Then, more diet pills, and more weight loss. I looked good again! But I barely ate anything, and I hated it. No energy, dull, gray skin, and constantly craving and thinking of food. This is no way to live.
You see, when we constantly diet, our bodies are a lot smarter than we are and works on keeping everything functioning the way it should. Meaning, it wants to stay constant, or in homeostasis. It wants to retain our body mass and will work on getting back to this normal point. Whether it be fat or muscle.
So when we diet and force our bodies to survive on what little calories we decide to give it, our body chooses to only utilize this energy, and stores any more as fat. It’s trying to protect us, so don’t hate it! A after all, we’re the ones telling it to do it this way by the way we go about losing weight.
Fast forward a little and I went on cycles of restricting my calories, trying low carb diets, I went vegan for 2 years (not for weight loss-I chose this for health, ethical, and environmental reasons), and workout supplements that were just diet pills in disguise. My weight fluctuated, of course, and I would either love the way I looked or hated it. I was never not on the path to looking better. Does this sound familiar?
Right now, at 28 years old, I’m sitting just a few pounds above what I was in my best shape in high school at 18. However, I look a little different. A little more…fluffy.
All those sports and exercise allowed me to build and reserve muscle that gave me the desired fit-look I was after, and am still after today. To recap the beginning of this post and what you already know, muscle weighs more than fat.
I may weigh almost the same now, but I certainly don’t look it. See, I replaced all that hard earned muscle with squishy fluff after my years of constantly dieting. I can’t seem to squeeze my soft parts into the same jeans I wore and look just as cute. My bikini strings cut into my hips in a not-so-flattering way whereas before, they sat delicately over my lean muscle.
Of course you also know that muscle burns more energy that fat? It’s true. With each pound of muscle, you burn 20% more energy than it does for fat, which only burns 5% of energy, according to this study on TDEE of muscle vs. fat.
The same reason why men burn more and need more calories per day than women: they carry more muscle than we do, typically. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, which means, you can get away with the occasional weekly treat to two as opposed to the constant dieter who puts on a few pounds with a rare dessert not eaten but once a month. MUSCLE MATTERS!
When you go a diet to lose weight, you can lose around 25% of muscle of your total weight loss. Remember, weight loss and fat loss is not the same thing. That means if you lose 16 pounds of body weight, 4 of those pounds could be your lean muscle tissue, which means your your metabolism slows a little, letting you burn less of the calories you eat, forcing you to eat a little less (i.e., restricting for most people), and makes you wonder why your clothes don’t look as great on you.
So after my 10-15 years of losing weight, and gaining it back, I’ve replaced my gorgeous muscle with fat tissue. I am lucky that I’m tall, and can distribute any weight gain without too much notice, and since my metabolism is pretty high on average, my weight fluctuation has always stayed in a 30 pound range. I’m still about the same body weight, but my metabolism is slower because of my mention of less muscle, and because I’m 10-15 years older. This also means that I can only eat a certain number of calories each day to maintain my current weight (of more fat than muscle) than I could with the same body weight of more muscle and less fat. Does this make sense?
As an example, at 145 pounds I could either be eating 1800 OR 2500+ calories for weight maintenance, depending on my muscle to fat ratio. I’d rather be able to eat 2500+ calories each day just to maintain, who wouldn’t?? But that means I need to replace some fat with muscle.
Can we start fresh and alter our metabolisms? Absolutely! We just need to replace some fat with muscle. HERE’S HOW:
- Start incorporating more strength training into your workout plan. Long durations of cardio may burn fat, but strength training builds muscle. You want both to lose body fat and gain lean muscle. Try 3 days of muscle building strength training (a push session, a pull session, and a lower body session. I love High Intensity Training, or HIT that only takes 10 minutes to complete for maximum results. This is my favorite workout regime).
- Cardio. Go for a 30 minute walk or jog 3-4 days a week. You can include a 10 minute HIIT workout as a replacement or addition to your cardio session for maximum fat loss. Too much intense cardio depletes your glycogen stores, and can cause you to crave more food and sweets. You want to find the right balance for your fat loss goals.
- Protein. When trying to build and retain muscle when losing fat, you’ll want to increase your protein intake. I typically go for about 100g of protein a day for my body measurements (5’9″, 145 pounds, female)
- Cut ~300 calories for your daily intake. If you want to alter your physique and switch up your fat to muscle ratio, you’ll need to adjust your caloric intake. Cutting too much can result in more muscle loss than fat loss, and cutting too little will result in slower or no results. The best method is to track your normal intake for 7-14 days, take the average of your calories, then cut down 200-300 calories a day. Assess 7 days later to see if you need to adjust. The ideal rate is one-half to two pounds a week for healthy fat loss, so if you’re losing this, great! Keep your intake the same. If you’re not losing anything, subtract an extra 100 calories and assess again.
- Water. Drink lots of water, people. Water fuels your body in so many ways, and keeps things moving. You want to stay hydrated, especially during periods of working out. It helps flush out the bad and assists in optimal digestion.
- Carbohydrates. Keep eating carbs! But only the good kind. Processed carbohydrates (like bread, pasta, candy, sweets) just funk with our energy levels, so opt for potatoes, fruit (if you’re not carbohydrate sensitive), quinoa, and beans. The brain needs at least 135g of glucose to run efficiently, so if you aim for around 170-190g of carbohydrates you should be able to keep your blood glucose steady and optimize your fat loss, while giving you enough energy to fuel your strength and cardio workouts. Depending on what your current CHO intake is already, of course. The same goes for CHO as calories-adjust if needed.
My current goals are to lose body fat and to gain more muscle. My reasons for this are:
- to be able to enjoy the occasional indulgence on a date night with my hubby without having to worry about gaining weight
- eat more each day to fulfill my energy requirements and brain function (and to keep from being #hangry)
- to have the energy to move physically without being winded (so embarrassing as a 28 year old)
- the ability to lift heavy objects (like moving and carrying groceries)
- and yes, to look hot in my skinny jeans. It’s not a bad thing to want to look good!
So now that you have some tips and guidelines, let’s start the new year off fresh! Heck, start now to get a jump start before the gyms become over populated with New Years Resolution-ers.
You ready to feel and look your best? I hope this helps!
DISCLAIMER: I want you to know that I don’t think I looked bad in any picture, nor do I think that you have to be a certain weight or size to look, feel, and be beautiful. If you are comfortable and feel awesome at a weight that’s not a recommendation list somewhere, stay where you are if you want and do what’s best for you! For my personal situation, I look and feel my best when I have more muscle for better energy utilization, mobility, and blood sugar stability since I have issues with my blood glucose levels. I love the feeling of fitting in clothes and not having to adjust so it’s more of a mind game with me. I am a Nutritionist and with my degree in Nutrition and Dietetic Sciences, my background and knowledge allows me to make the best choice for myself and my health needs. All opinions are my own and I don’t mean to offend anyone. The links I provided in this blog post are to back up some of the research discussed and to help give you the resources you may need.