How to lose fat but not muscle?
Weight loss refers to a decrease in overall body weight due to the loss of muscle, water and fat. Fat loss refers to weight loss due to fat, and is a more specific and healthy goal than weight loss. However, it can be difficult to know if you are losing weight due to fat or muscle. This article explains why fat loss is more important than weight loss, how you can tell the difference between the two, and provides tips for losing fat and keeping muscle.
It’s common to track your weight loss progress using a scale. While this can be helpful, most scales do not 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 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’s important to realize that a significant portion of that weight can include water and muscle loss. Muscle loss can be detrimental, as 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 levels of fat, such as triglycerides and cholesterol, in the blood, and controlling inflammation.
In fact, many 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, which leads to frailty and potentially disability. In addition, 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 weight lost as fat.
There are a few simple ways to ensure that you lose weight as fat and maintain or gain muscle mass. It’s all about eating lots of protein, exercising regularly and following a nutrient-rich diet that puts you in a slight calorie deficit.
Eat lots of protein
Protein is an important nutrient for a variety of body functions. It is 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 muscle you have and promoting the growth of new muscle, especially when you lose weight.
In a 4-week study, young men were randomly assigned to a low-calorie diet containing either 1.2 or 2.4 grams per kg of body weight, combined with an intense workout program. While both groups lost a significant amount of weight, the men on the high-protein diet lost 1.3 kg more body fat and gained 1.1 kg more muscle than the men on the low-protein diet.
Importantly, the study found that high-intensity resistance exercise followed by a high-protein recovery snack made the biggest difference. In addition, it limited the men’s fat intake to create a caloric deficit and maintained their carbohydrate intake for adequate fuel for exercise. And while eating a lot of protein on a low-calorie diet without strength training doesn’t help you gain muscle, it can help you retain muscle while increasing fat loss.
A review of 20 studies of men and women aged 50 years and older found that a high-protein diet containing at least 1 gram per kg resulted in greater muscle mass retention and fat loss than a lower protein diet. Although protein requirements vary according to age, health, gender and physical activity level, a protein intake of 1 to 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day may promote muscle mass maintenance and fat loss during dieting. For reference, the recommended dietary allowance for 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 cardiovascular training and strength training at least 3 times a week while on a low-calorie diet retained 93% more of their muscle than those who did not exercise. Certainly, exercise alone is an effective strategy for maintaining muscle mass while dieting, but combining exercise with a higher protein intake can help optimize your results. Try to get 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 need to create a calorie deficit. You can create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories or by exercising, but preferably both.
However, excessive calorie reduction can result in more muscle loss than fat loss. Instead, try to moderately reduce the number of calories you consume by 500 to 600 per day to minimize muscle loss while facilitating fat loss. You can reduce the number of calories you consume by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy products, and fewer sugary products and beverages, processed meats and fried foods.
Things to remember about losing 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 fat mass losses. To monitor fat loss, it is more useful to use a scale that calculates your body fat than to track your body weight alone.
Other simple ways to assess fat loss are to measure the inches lost from your waist and hips and to note any changes in the way your clothes fit. Losing weight as fat rather than muscle should be the priority, given the importance of the fat-to-muscle ratio to your overall health.