Calories matter, but they aren't the only thing that matters.
February 18, 2020 | Evolistic Health
If you have read our energy balance blogs, as well as a more recent blog “Calories vs Hormones. A battle not worth fighting”, you will know that calories-in versus calories-out will dictate weight change.
However, the keyword here is weight change. Weight change should not always be what we are after, but rather, a change in body composition.
Body composition is, well, exactly what it says on the tin.
It is what we are made of, which is fat, bone, muscle and water, usually described in percentages.
You may be asking, “why does this crap matter?”. And to that, I say, read on.
You see, most people who want to lose weight, don’t just want to lose weight. They want to end up with a “toned” body. Whether or not you have a “toned” body, relies 100% on body composition.
So when dieting, doing all you can to ensure each kg you lose is made up of mainly fat, and not muscle should be of priority!
From here on, I am going to walk you through some basic tips that will help ensure that your calorie deficit causes mainly fat loss and minimize muscle loss.
Lift weights: This is the factor that will have the greatest effect on maintaining muscle during weight loss, by far! We are all incredibly responsive and adaptive organisms, with survival being our no.1 priority (although we don’t always act like this is the case!). If our bodies didn’t respond and adapt to external stimuli, we would die. When we lift weights consistently, our body thinks, oh sh*t, in order to survive, I need to start getting stronger and bigger and deal with this unnatural lifting weights, thing! Unfortunately, when we are in a calorie deficit, muscle mass is often reduced more so than fat loss, UNLESS we lift weights. Lifting weights will tell your body that you need to keep the muscle, so this should be your no.1 priority when losing weight.
Sleep: To be honest with you, I did not realise how much of an effect sleep has on muscle loss until very recently I came across this study. Over the 14 day study, those who were restricted to 5.5 hours of sleep lost the same amount of weight as those who slept 8 hours. However, the sleep-restricted group lost 55% less fat, and 60% more muscle than those who slept 8 hours. These results, plus many other similar findings were enough to make me realise the importance of sleep in regards to body composition, and I hope it has a similar effect on you!
Protein intake: I’ll spare you the pain of the detailed science stuff here. All you need to know is that eating 1.5-2.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day, equally spread over 3-4 meals, will massively help you lose fat and maintain muscle during your weight loss!
For a 65kg female, her protein intake may look like this throughout the day. Note how the protein is evenly spread in regards to dosing, and also timing.
Meal 1 @ 9.00am: 25-30g protein
Meal 2 @ 1.00pm: 25-30g protein
Meal 3 @ 4.00pm: 25-30g protein
Meal 4 @ 8.00pm: 25-30g protein
Whenever a client of ours is looking to lose some fat, these are the three things that we always love to have in place. Depending on the current lifestyle of the client, we would usually start with one of the three and ensure that they are comfortable with it before moving on. If you can get to the point where you have all three of these in check while losing weight, you are giving yourself the best chance to get that “toned” body you are looking for!