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Lose Fat, Not Muscle
When losing weight, it's important to lose more fat than muscle. To lose fat but retain muscle, you should take in more calories each day than your BMR - Basal Metabolic Rate: the amount of calories your body burns when at rest.
This may seem counterintuitive, but if you follow a diet with a lower caloric intake than your BMR, you will not only lose fat, but also a higher percentage of muscle. This is why it is vital to regularly engage in some form of resistance training! It's really important to keep or even increase our muscle mass.
As we all know, muscle burns more calories than fat, thus raising our BMR, or metabolism. (To calculate your BMR and calorie needs, I've included the formula at the end of this blog. There are also several free online calculators that are user friendly.)
Maintaining muscle mass while losing fat is an important factor in reaching both your ideal weight and ideal body composition. To achieve this goal, it's important NOT to reduce your carbohydrate intake too aggressively. Our bodies need carbohydrates to function properly and to replace glycogen in our muscles. (Glycogen is the main fuel source for muscles). If you've ever tried a very low-carb diet, your initial weight drop is actually from glycogen and water loss. Glycogen is a mix of glucose and water that's stored in your muscles. For each gram of carbohydrate (glycogen) the cells in your body store, they store four grams of water.
Depletion of muscle glycogen causes you to fatigue easily, and makes exercise difficult. Research indicates that muscle fatigue increases in almost direct proportion to the rate of muscle glycogen depletion. So, on a low-carb diet, you will likely exercise less, which won't help with your weight loss efforts or healthy lifestyle, and will likely lead to muscle loss instead of fat loss.
The goal for any healthy diet plan, especially a weight-loss plan, should be 30% of calories from lean protein, 45% of calories from complex carbohydrates, and 25% of calories from healthy fats.
Although a healthy diet is important in any weight-loss plan, exercise is crucial! Remember... strong IS sexy!! We don't want to lose muscle, only fat!
Book that workout!
The juggle of everyday life can make a workout seem impossible. But because exercise is a key component of both weight loss and long-term health, it's crucial to book it into your calendar, just as you would a doctor's appointment. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days a week or more. Here a few strategies to help you keep moving:
Don't limit your options to the gym. Broaden your definition of a "workout" to include a wide range of physical activities, and you're more likely to find a workout you enjoy. Dancing, biking, swimming, hiking, rock climbing and ice-skating all count as a workout. Or find an adult league for your favorite sport and join a team; not only will you get regularly scheduled workouts, but you'll make new friends, too!
Do it right. If you do go to a gym, schedule an introductory session with a staff trainer to learn how to use equipment properly. Trainers can also show you how to set goals for resistance and weight training and how to measure effort level when doing cardio workouts.
Break it up. If you just can't squeeze in a full half-hour of exercise, then breaking exercise into two 15-minute sessions is better than nothing. That's enough time for a mid-day walk at work and a short series of calisthenics before bed.
Be social. Make dates with friends to exercise together and you'll be less likely to skip it. Not only does your buddy hold you accountable, but you'll enjoy each other's company as you work out!
Calculating BMR and Your Calorie Needs
First, find your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by using this equation:
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
If you are sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
If you are very active: BMR x 1.725
If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports and physical job or 2x training): BMR x 1.9
The number you get is the number of calories you need to eat in order to maintain your current weight. Decreasing that number by 500 calories per day is a good place to start if you want to lose about a pound per week.