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Shedding body fat with minimum muscle loss: a better goal

Shedding body fat

Target:  maximize fat loss, while minimizing muscle loss.

Losing weight can actually be a bad thing, especially if you are doing it at the expense of lean tissue like muscle. If all you are using to gauge your fitness progress is scale weight alone, you are only getting half-the-picture. Forget about how much you weigh or what your BMI (Body Mass Index) is. Instead, focus on your ratio of lean tissue to body fat. Once you do this, you’ll actually start looking and feeling better.

Your body’s total weight:  includes body fat; lean tissue like muscle; your internal organs like the heart, lungs, and liver; the food and liquid currently passing through your digestive tract; water retained by body tissue; and skeletal material like bones and their connective tissue. In a healthy female of average weight, bones make up 12 percent of total body weight, muscle/lean tissue about 35 percent and body fat about 27 percent. The remaining body weight is skin, connective tissue, tendons, blood, organs and so forth. For health, a good percentage of body fat is around 15 to 20% for females. It’s been determined a healthy body fat percentage between 17% – 24% for women is normal.  

We need to understand that fat storage is the sign of good health, it signals that metabolic resources are abundant and the organism is healthy. An extreme overabundance of body fat places stresses on the body and can be unhealthy. The higher your percentage of fat above average levels, the higher your health risk for weight-related illness, like heart diseasehigh blood pressure, gallstones, type 2 diabetesosteoarthritis, and certain cancers. This set point is controlled by a gene called the ob gene that produces a protein called Leptin. Leptin is a strong suppressor of appetite and food intake. As your body fat rises, more leptin is produced and your appetite declines so that your body fat stabilizes. If your body fat falls, your leptin production declines and your appetite is dis-inhibited.

Why choose muscle  over body fat?

A significant aspect is that, a  pound of fat burns around 2 calories per day. Muscle, on the other hand, burns around 6 calories per day — and that is at rest. Exercise the muscle (for example, duringweight training) and you can burn an upwards of 250 calories, depending on your existing levels of lean body mass.

Increasing your ratio of muscle to fat can make you look more in-shape, even though the scale may say you are heavier, as both vary in appearance. Muscle makes you appear leaner, while fat just  makes you look fat. Extreme calorie restriction can leave you with little muscle mass, which translates into a flat, boney appearance. Bottom line is that you might end up looking unhealthy compared to women who are fit, toned and clearly in great physical shape.

Women often complain gain in weight with increase in age irrespective of a consistent dietary intake. The reason here is, as we age there is a natural tendency to lose muscle and we also are less vigorous in our physical activity, which results in further muscle loss. This loss of muscle tissue results in a decreasing metabolic rate. Lose 5 pounds of muscle and your calories burned per 24 hours decreases by about 250 calories. While this may not sound like much, it adds up. If you continue to eat like you did when you were younger, you will gain a pound of fat in about 14 days. Over a 20 week period you will gain 10 pounds. The key to getting rid of accumulated body fat is to get back your youthful metabolism by getting back your muscle. With a proper exercise stimulus that dormant muscle can be reclaimed.

How muscle helps in weight loss? 

When there is a large demand placed on the muscle development .  There is a larger layoff in the fat composition. As we cannot produce cutbacks in the bone or connective tissue  because we need their support because muscle is not helpful unless it is attached to strong bone by strong connective tissue. This means more fat has to be let go. We cannot lay off any nervous tissue, because our new muscle is useless unless it is innervated by new nervous tissue. This means more fat has to be let go. Under this scenario, all weight loss is shunted toward fat loss. In this scenario, your body takes on a dramatic shape change. You have added a modest amount of shape-improving muscle and jettisoned a large amount of shape-ruining fat.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line for fat loss is as follows: 1) Build some calorie burning muscle through proper exercise. 2) Create a modest calorie deficit through dietary restraint. 3) Super-hydration. 4) Get some extra sleep. 5) Avoid over activity or steady-state activities that are popularly thought to “burn calories”. If you have the discipline, these simple steps will prove successful beyond your expectations.

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