One of the most common phrases I hear is “I want to lose weight”. The answer I want to give back is usually quite long and drawn out, so I thought I would write a short response here and let everyone know that the phrase I’d really like to hear instead is “I want to lose Body Fat”. People new to fitness would presume that those two phrases are one and the same, but today I would like to make a big stink about how losing weight is nothing the same as losing body fat! I’d shout it from rooftops if I could (or in the case of today’s photo, from the high steps of Spain’s ancient forts) but alas shouting it into the blog world will have to suffice.
When someone says that they want to lose weight, it is in actuality a very vague goal. They get so focused on seeing that number on the scale drop that they start cutting calories and loading up on the cardio. They don’t think about the fact that they are probably losing muscle mass, water or stored glycogen and even metabolic waste first before they actually start losing a substantial amount of body fat.
Don’t focus on that Scale
Everyone says it, “Muscle weighs more than fat” but that’s actually not true.
5 lbs of muscle and 5 lbs of fat are both equal in weight, it’s just that fat takes up more room in your body. Fat is all fluffy and gooey and free form, while each muscle comes in a set shape that takes up less space and feels hard to the touch. That is why you can see dimpling below the surface of the skin when there is more fatty tissue present than muscle.
In reality, a 135lb person who has more muscle and a lower body fat percentage can look leaner and thinner than a 135lb person with a higher body fat percentage.
The Real Answer to Losing Weight
The answer to looking fit and feeling better is not to lose weight, but to gain muscle and lower body fat percentage. By gaining muscle you can lose inches on your waist line but gain a few numbers when you step on the scale. The trick is to not get hung up on the numbers on that scale but instead on how you look and feel by taking progress photos and setting achievable goals. Think numerical challenges like measuring your best time or setting a personal best on the amount of weight you can lift.
Studies have demonstrated that the metabolism can be boosted for up to or longer than 36 hours after a weight training workout, meaning rather than burning say 60 calories an hour while sitting and watching tv you could be burning 70 in those 36 hours after your workout. While you may think 10 extra calories are no big deal, multiplying 10 calories burnt by 36 hours shows that you can make a huge difference on your daily calorie expenditure over a day and a half. When you figure that out on a monthly rate, it’s even more clear how regular weight lifting can substantially increase your calorie burning and thus fat burning capacity.
How to Lose Weight
There are two ways to go about losing weight. You could just focus on that scale and drop weight by calorie restriction (but that means not enjoying good food, feeling weak and losing muscle) or you can fuel your body like an athlete and train like one too. You must remember that you will see an initial spike in the numbers on the scale as you start gaining muscle mass.
a) Build more muscle (In order to build muscle you must eat MORE calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight)
B) Lower Body fat (In order to lose body fat you must eat FEWER calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight)
See the dilemma here? You really can’t do both at the same time, no matter what anyone else tries to tell you.
Personal Trainer’s Advice
My suggestion would be to build muscle first, don’t focus on the numbers on the scale and be prepared for a spike in your weight. After you have built a good amount of muscle strength (that’s why keeping track of training progress is so important) you can move on to the cutting phase and start to shed some of that body fat that accompanies muscle gain. Men do this all the time and call this Bulking Up, followed by Cutting Down. What women don’t realize is that it’s okay to bulk up. In fact it’s necessary if women want to build muscle that is going to help burn calories and look more “toned”. I’m not talking about looking like a female version of Mr. Schwarzeneggar (that doesn’t happen very easily by the way) but building proper muscle to decrease body fat percentage.
Forget about being a hamster on the wheel and instead train like an athlete, eat for fuel, and ditch the scale. Set proper goals, calculate your macro-nutrient intake, follow a proper weight training plan, do minimal cardio and take photos every week. Be consistent with all those and you’ve got a sure recipe for healthy weight loss.
To Being Positively Strong,