We have all heard someone say “I need to lose 10 lbs.” So often these individuals become slaves to the scale and can sometimes take drastic measure to see the number on the scale go down. Most of the time when somebody wants to lose weight the image they have in mind is a leaner toned more athletic physique. This requires building muscle and burning fat, and contrary to popular belief this can be done at the same time.
Let’s look at weight loss vs. fat loss from the point of view of 3 different individuals with the goal to lose as much weight or body fat as possible.
Person number one goes on the “salad diet” and only does cardio. This individual thinks they will have the best success by focusing on cardio and trying to lose as much weight as possible. One of the biggest mistakes with this strategy is the exclusion of weight training which is an extremely productive way to burn calories and help with fat loss. In this case the client will lose weight due to a drastic reduction in overall calorie intake, however all of the weight will not be body fat. Half or more of the weight loss will come from muscle tissue and water weight. The end result is a smaller flabbier physique which looks “skinny fat”. This is also unhealthy due to the lack of essential nutrients. Typically people using this strategy gain all of the weight they lost back as they start to eat normally again.
Person number two has some knowledge on how to exercise and knows that protein is good for building muscle. In this scenario the individual is willing to do whatever it takes to get into shape and starts out going all in doing 2 hours of cardio a day on top of a rigorous weight training sessions and only eating egg whites, fish, and chicken with some vegetable on the side. In the beginning this will work and the client will lose body fat but over time fat loss will stop due to the clients metabolism adjusting to the overwhelming demands placed on it. Eventually the body will become stressed, cortisol production will increase and any weight loss will stop. In this situation the body will actually start to break down muscle tissue and spare fat in an attempt to conserve energy. A gram of fat yields 9 calories as opposed to a gram of protein, in its quest to preserve energy the body will start using muscle tissue as energy vs. using fat. The end result here is possibly a leaner but definitely flatter emaciated physique.
Person number 3 understands that fat loss doesn’t happen overnight and takes a more strategic approach by simply reducing overall caloric intake for the day by between 200-500 calories and eating a diet consisting of a balance of all three macronutrients let’s say 40 40 20, meaning %40 from low glycemic carbs %40 lean protein and %20 healthy fat. This individual creates a good training program consisting of 4 weight training workouts and cardio sessions a week. The first week this individual actually gains 3lbs but feels their pants fitting a little loosely. By taking this approach the individual will preserve or even gain muscle tissue while losing body fat. The number on the scale may not move as fast as clients 1 or 2 but the end result will be far greater producing a leaner tighter physique. The point being made here is don’t become a slave to your scale, stop stressing about the number and use the mirror and how you feel to help determine success. If your goal is to be fit slow and steady dieting is the way to go, and be consistent with your nutrition and training. Crash dieting does not work instead learn to live a healthy life.
Dominick Walsh is a blogger for Performance Nutrition and TMRzoo.com and covers all men’s health topics and exercise issues including protein powders, diets, weight loss, weight lifting supplements, fat burners and supplement reviews. Dominick’s columns cover everything you need to know about your pre, during and post workout nutrition.