Lose Weight or Lose Fat?

Lose Weight of Lose Fat? …

When a person says he or she wants to lose 5 or 10 pounds, it’s understood that this means 5 pound of fat, not 5 pounds of muscle, bone mass or body water. But when the typical dieter sheds pounds, barely half of that weight is fat. The other half is, in fact, muscle, bone mass and body water.

Losing weight is not as good as losing fat. If you lose 5 or 10 pounds of mixed fat mass and lean body mass, your health, appearance and performance (in your sports/gym/work) will not improve as much as if you lose an equal amount of pure fat.

Here are some tips to ensure you only lose body fat in pursuit of your ideal weight.

Track Your Body Composition

Ensuring that fat loss accounts for all of your weight loss begins with consistent monitoring, easily done with a body fat scale. Step on the scale once a week. Multiply your weight by your body fat percentage in decimal form to obtain your body fat mass. If changes in your total body weight equal changes in your body loss, then 100 percent of your weight loss is fat loss.

For example, suppose your body weight four weeks ago was 160 pounds, and your body fat percentage was 15. This means your body fat mass was (160 pounds x 0.15 =) 24 pounds. Now suppose your body weight today is 156 pounds and your body fat percentage is 12.9. This means your body fat mass is now (156 x 0.129 = ) 20.1 pounds. So your total weight loss is 4 pounds and your body fat mass loss is 3.9 pounds. Congratulations! Almost all of your weight loss has been fat loss.

Cut Calories Moderately

The surest way to lose lean body mass is to cut your daily calorie intake drastically. In a study performed at Tufts University, one group of subjects cut their energy intake by 700 calories a day, while a second group cut their calories by 250 calories a day. The first group lose more total weight, but it was only 48 percent fat – the rest was lean body mass. Meanwhile, the weight lost by the second group was 91 percent fat.

When trying to lose excess body fat, limit your daily energy deficit to roughly 300 calories per day. This is especially important during periods of intensive training, when you need plenty of energy to fuel workouts and recovery.

Eat Plenty of Protein

Anytime you reduce your daily calorie intake to promote fat loss, you should also increase the percentage of your daily calories that come from protein. This measure will help you preserve muscle and lose only fat. Muscles are made of protein, after all!

You can increase protein’s contribution in a way that doesn’t sabotage your training by simply maintaining your current level of protein intake (in terms of grams per day) while cutting fat and carbs to achieve your desired calorie reduction.

Strength Training

Strength training will also help you retain muscle during periods of weight loss. It should be a part of your routine at all times, for its injury-prevention and performance-enhancement benefits but when you’re trying to shed fat, there’s a third reason to do it. A little goes a long way – just two 30-minute, full body strength sessions per week are much better than nothing.

By Matt Fitzgerald for Triathlete Mag, July 2011

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