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. Period.
You will lose weight, unfortunately, the weight you lose will be both muscle and fat.
The real, ultimate goal is a certain “look”—a toned, fit body, regardless of what it weighs. Adding lean muscle tissues and reducing the amount of body fat that we carry will help us achieve the defined, fit, toned look that you’ve been seeking. The scale can’t tell you if your clothes fit better and it definitely won’t tell you that you’re looking any better.
Well, you may have heard the saying that “muscle weighs more than fat.” However, this saying doesn’t quite get it right. One pound of muscle and one pound of fat technically do weigh the same amount (one pound). However two things that weigh the same amount can be very different in size. One pound of chicken feathers is going to take up a great deal more space than a block of steel that weighs one pound.
This applies to body fat and muscles as well. A pound of muscle is quite a lot harder and denser than a pound of body fat. They weigh the same, but their size is different. Consider how this applies to your body composition. If you gain 5 pounds of muscle and drop 5 pounds of body fat, your scale weight will be exactly the same. But in your clothes and in the mirror, you’ll notice a huge difference.
Your body composition refers to the amount of Fat and Fat-Free Mass (muscle, bone, and water) your body contains. We will place emphasis on body composition simply because our goal is way beyond achieving a lower number on the scale.
If all this is true, why should we use the scale at all?
How do we know if we’re truly making progress without it?
The scale is a tool.
Like any tool, it does serve a purpose and it can be useful in your journey toward your fittest, healthiest self. It’s a tool in the same way that a tape measure is a tool to measure the circumference of your chest, hips or waist. However, unlike a tape measure, many people have a strong emotional attachment to the scale. They see the scale number as proof of whether they have been “good” or “bad.” For many people, five seconds on the bathroom scale in the morning can ruin their entire day.
Rather than worrying about those fluctuating daily scale amounts, you’re going to monitor scale trends over time. Here’s how:
We recommend a daily weigh-in, first thing in the morning, after you use the bathroom, before eating or drinking anything, without any clothing. Record the number and move on from it—we don’t care about a single day’s weight. Instead, you’re going to use the daily weigh-ins to generate an average for the week, hopefully under the same conditions each time (same time of day, same scale, etc.).
Once you have calculated the average weight, the goal is to compare it from one week to the next. When you use the average, it will “flatten out” those daily fluctuations that inevitably occur due to a long list of reasons (hormone changes, you ate something high in salt last night, you didn’t sleep well, etc.).
Other tools of tracking fat loss include taking progress photos or videos of yourself on a weekly basis. The only downside is that they are subjective and qualitative. Most of us are quite hard on ourselves, so we might find it difficult to notice small changes in photos from week to week. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see huge changes in your photos from one week to the next. Just like with assessments of your scale weight, look for trends over the span of multiple weeks.
Additionally, remember that gaining lean muscle is a very slow process and you likely will not notice major muscle gains over the span of two to three weeks. It’s better to rely on improvements in gym performance (for example, increasing the amount of weight you can lift) as opposed to waiting for major changes to show up in your photos.
Ultimately, the goal to successful weight loss is to preserve as much muscles 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.
We’ve discussed a lot about the difference between losing weight on the scale versus losing body fat and gaining lean muscle (i.e. Changing your body composition). During your quest to achieve your desired body, you may have been tempted to add cardio. After all, cardio burns lots of calories, and that’s our main goal, right?
A very important piece of this fat loss equation is resistance training!
Weight training doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio, per session. However, weight training is far more effective than cardio at building muscles, and muscle burns more calories at rest than fat. Weight training raises your resting metabolic rate (i.e., the number of calories you burn when you’re at rest—including when you’re asleep!). In addition, strength training workouts burn calories for many hours following the session (far more than cardio workouts).
Effective body recomposition requires both manipulation of your caloric intake through a diet plan and your output in terms of exercise.
When it comes to losing fat, you need to find a nutritional diet plan that’s sustainable for you. It’s scientifically impossible to actually lose pounds of fat overnight. So, in order to make a substantial change, you need a plan that you can continue following for a substantial amount of time. Even if you monitor your nutrition but don’t participate in some kind of resistance training program, you may lose body fat, but you may not achieve the defined, toned look you are aiming for.
After all, the main difference between a successful diet and an unsuccessful one isn’t the diet itself, but whether or not we can stick to it.
The Science Behind Fat Loss
While shedding a pound of fat isn’t easy, the basic principle behind it is simple: Burn more calories than you take in each day.
A pound of fat corresponds to roughly 3,500 calories, so losing a pound of fat per week means cutting 500 calories/ day from your diet each week. Hence to burn 1kg of fat, there should be a deficit of 7700 calories and it would take you approximately 2 weeks to burn 1kg of fat! (This 7700 Kcal only takes into account fat tissue, which is 86% fat and 14% water).
This creates a “calorie deficit” that forces your body to start burning fat for energy. The first half of the fat loss equation is to reduce your calorie intake, while the other half is physical activity (output).
For example, a 30 year old man who is active for more than an hour a day burns roughly 2500 calories daily. By cutting his intake to 2000 calories, he could lose a pound a week. Alternatively, he could cut his calorie intake by 250 calories – eating 2250 per day – and burning 250 extra calories through exercise to achieve his calorie goal. Part of successful weight loss is setting goals you can achieve, since meeting your goals keeps you motivated to stick to your healthy lifestyle. Shedding one pound weekly may be a very aggressive weight loss goal, and one that won’t be a good fit for everyone. It likely isn’t a realistic goal if you’re older, have little weight to lose and can’t live a very active lifestyle. If you’re on the low end of the calorie-burning spectrum, set more modest goals – like losing a half-pound per week, instead of going for a whole pound of loss weekly.
Alright then, if your goal is fat loss, you’re are going to need to focus on preserving muscle mass while losing fat. Many tend to sabotage their diets by eating too little food and too few nutrients resulting in muscle loss. Remember that effective body recomposition requires both manipulation of your caloric intake and your output in terms of exercise.
Once you start losing muscles, you are fighting an uphill battle to lose fat. This is one of the main reasons why diets fail.
To prevent muscle loss, make sure you are following these basic guidelines:
• Get in enough calories for your body size and activity level.Get at least 7- 8 hours of sleep daily.
• Make sure those calories are nutrient dense by having them come from fruits, vegetables, meats, legumes, tubers, dairy, and whole grains.
• Eat sufficient protein to support your activity level. You should aim for 0.66 – 0.77g/lbs of body weight.
• Eat enough healthy fats to support your activity level. You should aim for 0.5 – 0.7g/lbs of body weight.
• Fill the rest of your daily caloric goal with healthy carbohydrates.
• Make sure you exercise and give your muscles a reason to maintain themselves. If you don’t exercise, your body is going to shed that unneeded muscle. Force your body to preserve it and even grow it by giving it consistent stimulation.