Although some days it may not feel like it, spring is here and the New Year celebrations and fitness resolutions are becoming a distant memory. It’s often around this time of year that many of us start backsliding on our fitness programs.
If your goal was to lose weight and you followed your program consistently, you probably accomplished a lot. The goal now is to maintain your healthy weight.
Weight maintenance is an elusive proposition for most dieters. The large majority of people who lose weight can’t maintain it, primarily because of how they lost the weight. They either lose the motivation to maintain the lifestyle that got the weight off or they participated in an unsustainable program.
Programs such as very low calorie diets, excessive exercise, or weight loss through drugs/injections all are likely to set you up for longterm failure. Not only is it hard to keep motivated to maintain the lifestyle required of these programs, they will likely cause a loss in healthy muscle tissue.
Successful weight maintainers never stop paying attention to their weight or body fat changes. Weight gain can and does happen by accident, but weight loss or maintenance never does. Below is a list of a few attributes of those who have successfully maintained their weight:
— Consistently record your food intake;
— Eat at least four small meals spread throughout the day;
— Exercise at least three days per week. If you are watching and controlling your caloric intake, you can probably get away with the minimum recommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity;
— Weigh yourself regularly; at least once per week;
— Incorporate motivational devices like pedometers or other body-sensing devices that capture activities and/or calorie burn.
It is important to understand the difference between fat loss and weight loss.
Losing muscle is not generally healthy, slows our metabolism and can be debilitating in the long run when it comes to daily functioning. Therefore, the goal is to lose only body fat during weight loss unless you are extremely overweight. In the latter situation, it’s normal to lose a small amount of muscle since as you gained weight, even if not exercising, about 25 percent of the weight gained would be muscle because you needed it to carry the extra body fat.
Below are other facts on why losing fat only is the best course and why it’s recommend using changes in body fat to gauge your results whenever possible. By measuring body fat you can see exactly how much fat and/or muscle is lost or gained and it also shows you why your weight might not change but your body fat has gone down. This would mean you added valuable muscle.
Calories are burned in muscle tissue. One pound of lean body mass burns approximately 6 calories per day at rest, and much more when moving. Conversely, body fat is a storehouse for calories. One pound of fat only burns about 2 calories per pound and stores 3,500 calories of energy. Adding or maintaining muscle keeps the metabolism revved up.
Anytime you lose weight, you lose both muscle and fat unless you weight train and are getting proper nourishment. But even with weight training, you can’t lose any more than 0.7 percent of weight per week without losing muscle. For example, a person weighing 200 pounds can lose 1.4 pounds of fat per week.
When losing weight quickly (more than 1.5 pounds per week), about 25 percent will be lost from lean muscle. If 25 percent or more of the weight you lose is from lean muscle tissue, weight regain and more is likely. Rapid weight loss and under-eating cause muscle tissue to be used for energy, which decreases metabolism.
Providing your body with the food and nutrients it needs will sufficiently fuel working muscles, initiate fat loss and develop a healthier metabolism. This is what all dieters should do because the goal is to increase lean body mass during weight loss to help burn more calories, not fewer. This can help offset the weight loss plateaus and allow you to achieve your short term and long-term fitness goals.
Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as a Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.