The truth is - losing weight can be hard. The even bigger truth is that losing fat instead of muscle is much harder, especially when you want to lose fat and make muscle to build definition and tighten your physique. From serious diets to intensive workouts, it can be a serious feat to your life. Some people who think that losing weight and fat means trimming down on calories, working out five times a day, and getting in large amounts of cardio, you may be adding stress your body rather than helping it.
In making sure you are effectively losing fat and not muscle, it is important to know the importance of muscles within our body. Muscles are key for helping you do everyday tasks, such as getting groceries, walking to work, or running errands. Also, muscles are considered to be metabolically active tissue, in which muscle will cut more calories than fat at rest. In keeping a high level of lean muscle mass, you will aid in keeping your basal metabolic rate up - which helps in increasing the number of calories your body burns at rest.
When you stress your body through vast amounts of working out and diet, your body will actually go into survival mood, in which your body will use its own nutrients and sources. It will begin to break down muscle and fat - but losing muscle will impact the rate of metabolism and cause it to slow down. The only way to ensure you aren't losing both muscle and fat is to measure your BMI and body composition at least once a month. The easiest way is to consult a doctor or a personal trainer who can use special equipment to take your measurements. The good news is, there are easy strategies and facts to remember when wanting to lose weight. Here are the key signs that answer the questions "how do I know if I am losing muscle?".
Signs of Losing Muscle #1: You Are Losing More Weight Than Expected
Yes, if you are working out and keeping up with your fitness routine, you will begin to lose weight - however, it is important to ensure you are not losing the wrong amount of weight. There is a limit to the amount of fat your body can handle before it becomes unhealthy. According to SOHO Strength Lab founder Albert Matheny, "if you find yourself losing more than two to two-and-a-half pounds a week, usually means that you are tapping into your muscle to lose weight." When you are trying to get leaner, it is essential to know exactly how much fat to burn compared to muscle. According to a study by Gatorade Sports Science Institute, when you get leaner, you should lose about 70-80% of fat and 20-30% of fat.
Signs of Losing Muscle #2: You Are Only Doing Cardio
If you are only doing cardio for your workout, there is a large chance that you are losing muscle rather than fat. When analyzing your workout routine, if you find yourself doing more cardio than strength training (or no strength training at all), there is a rather high chance of losing both 50% muscle and 50% fat. To ensure you do not do this, is it suggested to include a variety of strength training into your workout. For example, you can try adding weight exercises at least two days per week to ensure you hit all the muscle groups. According to Heather Milton, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, "When you use those muscles, you generate greater recruitment of muscle fibers, and you get a better bang for your buck in terms of energy cost."
Signs of Losing Muscle #3: You're Fatigued
According to Milton, another indicator on whether you are losing muscle instead of fat is if you find yourself feeling more fatigued and sluggish than usual. During everyday physical activity, you will find yourself being drowsy and often easily tired. If you find yourself possibly in this situation, it is recommended that you track yourself with a fitness tracker or smartwatch. For example, if you find yourself reaching 1,500 steps instead of your normal level of 2,000, or burn 500 calories instead of 700, you may be losing muscle instead of fat.
Signs of Losing Muscle #4: You Are Not Seeing Progress
When you are working out, it is important to give yourself breaks and be sure to give yourself enough fuel to rehydrate and feed your body. If you do not, your muscles may be used to replenish the body rather than fat - in turn, you may notice that you aren't making any progress or have plateaued in your workout. Check out for signs such as not being able to increase the weight or cannot keep up a fast tempo with your workout, you may not be giving your body what it needs.
The Bottom Line
To wrap up, if you think you are losing muscle instead of fat, there are many signs to be aware of. However, there are many things to do to ensure you are losing fat but not muscle. Cutting calories is a good start in losing weight, but increasing your protein intake is an essential way to make sure you are building muscle. When you eat more protein, the more you'll find results when you begin your weight loss strategy.
In fact, in 2016, a study was performed by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that subjects who ate about 2.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight preserved more muscle mass than those who compared only ate about 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram. It is important to note that the study subjects were engaged in an intense exercise program and eating roughly 40 percent less than their daily calorie intake. With this being said, it is suggested that you don't need to eat as much protein as they were, but you should eat more than normal to preserve muscle mass.
In the end, it doesn't matter whether you do cardio or resistance training, as long as you exercise and keep your body in check, you wont risk losing muscle mass instead of fat. While it's difficult not to lose fat AND muscle in your attempt to slim down, you can use these strategies to reduce muscle breakdown and maintain your strength.