When thinking about weight loss, most people tend to focus entirely too much on the scale in the hopes of lowering that number. There are no shortages of diets out there to choose from that boast on their ability to get you those lower numbers. But what you are about to read should pique your interest.
While we all know that fat is stored energy, meant to be burned up as fuel by your muscles, not everyone realizes that there are, sadly, very common mistakes made during weight loss goals that cannibalize your precious muscle instead. This should never happen. So why does it?
Firstly, let’s look at muscle for a moment and understand what its role is within the body.
The human skeletal muscle comprises approximately 40% of total body weight and contains 50-75% of all body proteins.
- Muscle is your fat burning furnace and it drives your metabolic rate. The muscle cells in your body use energy, while the fat cells store energy.
- Muscle fortifies the bones, ligaments, and tendons.
- Muscle is needed for mobility, strength, and balance.
- Muscle creates your physique.
- It also manages and decreases risk of disease.
Signs and symptoms of diminished skeletal muscle include:
- Loss of energy
- Balance problems
- Trouble walking and standing
Hence, muscle is the organ of longevity.
How does skeletal muscle specifically relate to the issue of obesity? Well,
carrying unwanted fat is not fundamentally due to overeating but rather a symptom of being under-muscled. Knowing how to properly protect, build, and nourish your body’s muscles is how you burn your body’s proverbial FAT candle from both ends by:
1. Stopping it from being lost during weight loss, and
2. Working on increasing it at every opportunity throughout life.
Every time you did a weight loss program in the past that did not take these two things into account, made matters far worse for you.
We often talk about understanding the difference between FAT loss and WEIGHT loss, being super critical to your knowledge of wellness because it involves you either protecting your muscle or cannibalizing it. Even to this day, when talking about “losing weight”, the topic of burning up precious muscle has been actively hidden from you and it is hugely important that we uncover this for you.
We’ve all heard of the natural growth-stimulating, peptide hormone that the body makes during your growing years, known as the Human Growth Hormone (HGH). It’s been talked about in circles relating to performance enhancing, anti-aging, and bodybuilding. When produced naturally in the early stages of life, it promotes muscle growth, density, and strength. However, after the age of 30 it starts to gradually decline and has the body wasting away muscle. This is known as Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass and function. It is mainly age-related and is not necessarily a measure of an active vs. a sedentary lifestyle (although this is a component). It is a naturally occurring stage of life that has people losing about 0.5% of your muscle each year. By that rationale, from as early as your 30’s, you could expect to lose about 20% of your muscle by the time you reach retirement age.
If that isn’t already a large enough amount of muscle loss, factor in the negative effects created by flawed diet programs out there that inherently burn up muscle. In the attempt at getting a scale to show a smaller number, they ignore the damage it inflicts to the body and skeletal muscle. Usually to the tune of 30% of all the weight that is lost would be precious muscle.
The common misinformation out there is that engaging in a calorie restrictive “diet”, which usually comes in the form of multiple small meals throughout the day, combined with a strict and aggressive gym regimen, is what’s needed. You’d think that including gym workouts would be a plus for muscle building, but this would be wrong in this case. With insulin production present at every meal, your body fat is more preserved than burned and because of the calorie restriction the body looks for fuel and nutrients elsewhere which make both muscle and even bone easy targets. So, you are ready to get after your goal and thus will have the misfortune of following the wrong path.
This overly basic concept is premised in simple math being the solution to weight loss. But what’s really happening is your body receiving mixed signals telling it that it’s ok to look at the very muscle you’re trying to preserve and build to be used as fuel. It’s not your body that’s flawed, it’s just trying to survive with what it’s given to work with.
It needs to be stressed that a body that functions on systems that are governed by hormones is much more complex than simply applying math. It’s more about the body chemistry.
The body behaves and reacts quite differently to calorie restrictive signals and truly doesn’t take kindly to being told to expend more effort with less nourishment coming in. The message that’s being sent is…. “I’m only going to give you this much fuel to do all that work”, thinking that fat will be used.
Naturally, the body’s systems kick in and reply with….” If I must perform at this extreme level and have inadequate fuel to do so, I need to sip and conserve the fat reserves because we don’t know how long this will go on for!”. Thus, what ends up paying the ultimate price is your MUSCLE tissue. The adrenal and thyroid glands are also tasked at this point and trigger the cascade effect that follows.
Multiple small meals throughout the day as a fuel source result in an overworked, underfed, and unhealthy existence. Therefore, if we cannot easily tap into and use up fat for energy, the body turns to muscle because blatantly ignoring the chemistry has produced more insulin events and cortisol production than are necessary. Since both are fat storing hormones this would clearly result in a direct contradiction to the goal of fat loss.
Further adding to the 20% muscle loss over the years, it is compounded by the unnecessary muscle loss perpetuated by inexcusable misinformation dealt out by flawed diets in the pursuit of weight loss.
The ultimate version of fuelling the body would be to toggle from glucose, derived from properly selected foods, ingested at the right time, to then fuelling from your fat stores after that food has been used up entirely.
In conclusion, it should be noted that, although Sarcopenia is an age-related depletion of one’s muscle, it does not need to be worsened by dieting or following flawed programs. Also, by doing the correct program, one can target fat exclusively and protect precious muscle, rejuvenate, and radiate through wellness. Burn fat with the understanding that chemistry is key so that we are never forcing or tricking the body into anything it doesn’t want to do to itself.