When we talk about losing weight, most people associate this process with losing body fat; however, it is possible to lose weight and gain body fat!
How is this possible?
Before I dive in, there is one principle that I often remind my clients about: our bodies are wired to operate as efficiently as possible.
When we are working to shed body fat by creating a caloric deficit, our bodies will look for the most efficient way to extract calories from our bodies to make up the difference.
- One gram of fat has nine calories but takes a lot of effort for the body to break down to usable energy.
- One gram of lean tissue has four calories but takes less effort for the body to convert to usable energy.
Based on the principle I shared above, which fuel source will your body use first?
That’s right! Lean tissue first because it is the most efficient way for your body to get the energy it needs.
In this scenario, it is possible to lose weight from lean tissue while maintaining or adding to body fat.
YIKES. That is not what we want.
So, what is the key to losing body fat?
The first key is nutrition. While you are working to lose body fat, you must give your body enough protein and other nutrients to maintain lean muscle mass. The best way to do this is by consuming at least one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day.
Next, resistance training triggers muscle growth processes. Going back to the principle I shared earlier, when we lift heavy things, our body tries to become more efficient by adding additional muscle to make it easier. This process is easier when we have ample protein and other nutrients that help stimulate muscle growth.
Many people think that cardio is the best form of exercise to lose weight.
It is not.
Why? Cardio activities do not require a lot of muscle tissue but do require cardiovascular fitness. As a result, your cardio capacity will increase, and you will be a few extra calories in the process; however, this form of exercise will not stimulate muscle growth.
Losing weight (body fat) is hard, but keeping it off is even more challenging. Maintaining as much lean muscle mass as possible makes it much easier to keep the fat off because more lean tissue increases your base metabolic rate. Building muscle through resistance training will have a more significant impact on losing fat and keeping it off in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong, cardio is an essential part of a balanced fitness program, but it is not the best activity to maximize fat loss.
Three other things will help you preserve lean muscle tissue while losing body fat:
- Reduce stress
- Stay hydrated
Hydration is an often overlooked component of fat loss and overall wellness. I recommend at least one gallon of water per day for females and 200 oz of water for males.
Losing excess body fat is a challenge, but almost everyone can do it with the right approach and consistent effort over time.