We talk a lot about the need to stop playing the weight loss game here at G-Low Fitness Academy. This is a game where the scale is used daily to judge the progress of a diet and exercise program. Measuring your weight alone tells you NOTHING about the quality of the weight you are losing.
How do you know if you are losing fat, water or worse muscle? If you are using just a scale you have no idea. Losing or gaining 5 pounds of fat over a weekend is physiologically impossible, but the scale has convinced many that it can happen. A significant portion of those playing the weight loss game believe the weight they lose or gain on a day to day basis is fat. And the popular media and weight loss experts do nothing to help them understand that not only is this not true, but it also is one of the major reasons they continue to suffer from yo-yo weight regain and can’t lose fat as they age.
One of the single most important mind-shifts to break is how much you weigh. Because if you are losing weight indiscriminately and shedding muscle instead of fat (which almost all dieters are), your metabolism is going to be in BIG trouble over the long run.
Muscle is absolutely essential for maintaining basal metabolic rate. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) accounts for over two thirds of the calories burned at rest and more than half of BMR can be accounted for by the amount muscle a person has (1). It was shown as far back as 1988 in the February issue of the New England Journal of medicine that a slowed BMR is a predictor of fat gain over the course of a 2-year period. In this study those with the slowest metabolic rate had a 4-fold increase in gaining 15 or more pounds over the next 2 years. This explains why 66% of individuals going on weight loss diets end up fatter 2 years later compared to when they started the diet.
So, lose muscle and you lose your metabolic potential!! And guess what is a great formula for losing muscle? The “eat less, exercise more” model. A low calorie diet combined with aerobic exercise is a solution that may make you smaller for a short period of time, but will end up making you either flabbier or fatter in the long run and in a terrible position to make losing weight again that much more difficult, because you lost muscle along the way.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in April 1999 showed just how damaging the standard weight loss model can be on metabolic efficiency. This study looked at a group of obese individuals who were put on a very low calorie diet and assigned to one of two exercise regimes. One group followed the popular aerobic exercise model (walking, biking, or jogging four times per week), while the second group did resistance training three times per week and no aerobic exercise.
At the end of the twelve-week study, both groups lost weight but the difference in muscle vs. fat loss was striking. The aerobic group lost 37 pounds over the course of the study. The resistance-training group lost 32 pounds. Of the 37 pounds lost by the aerobic group, 10 pounds of muscle was lost on average. In comparison, the resistance-training group lost fat exclusively and had no muscle loss. This had consequences on basal metabolic rate (BMR). At the conclusion of the study, the aerobic group was shown to be burning 210 fewer calories at rest per day while the resistance-training group actually increased their metabolism by 63 calories per day. No wonder yo-yo weight regain is such an issue.
So please, resist temptation and do not focus on whether you have gained or lost ½ a pound of weight in a day, and focus more on how you look in the mirror, and how your clothes are feeling on you.