Message Boards » General Diet and Weight Loss Help

TOPIC: How do I know if I'm losing fat or muscle?

 
August 11, 2011 10:20 AM
Hey all,

This is my first stab at a serious "getting in shape" attempt and I've been at it since July. I've seen some slow but steady progress by changing my diet* and 4 (1 hour each) gym sessions a week. I mix cardio (interval training) and strength training (weight machines with some free weights). I've even gotten into the habit of doing push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, and jumping jacks during the commercial breaks of the baseball games I watch on TV.

I was hoping I would see a slight increase in muscle tone and strength at this point, but the only change I've seen is a few numbers on the scale. My fiance seems to think I might be eating too few calories and burning through muscle instead of fat. Is there any way I can make sure I'm burning fat and not muscle?




*I should note that I have increased my protein (lean meats) significantly and switched to the good carbs. I am 24 and shooting for 1595 calories a day.
  9064426
August 11, 2011 10:26 AM
Muscle is put on slowly. VERY slowly. Many people on this site think they are gaining huge amounts of muscle and that is simpy not true :p Its even more difficult to gain muscle when on a low calorie diet. The lifting will help maintain muscle but isnt going to build much
August 11, 2011 10:29 AM
I think you'd need to take a body fat percentage now, then re-measure every week or so to see how you're progressing. If the scale moves but your BF% doesn't, that's a good indicator that you're losing more muscle. If the BF% decreases, then you're losing more fat than muscle and getting closer to your goal.

But, as long as you're eating plenty of protein and working your muscles several times a week, you shouldn't worry too much about muscle atrophy.
August 11, 2011 10:29 AM
I was wondering about this myself
I've lost close to 60 lbs so far, and I seem to have lost it everywhere on my body
Which would kind of point to a reduction in muscle size
I will say that my arms, chest, legs all look more defined, but in inchs everything is smaller
August 11, 2011 10:31 AM
I have a digital scale that tells me my body fat % (you stand barefoot on the electrodes and it scans your body for the fat %)... I got it at Walmart and it was fairly inexpensive. I check my body fat % on it each week to see if it is going down.
August 11, 2011 10:31 AM
Get your body fat checked. I have tanita scales so log my weekly weight and body fat and hence "fat pounds". Then I work out how much of the weight I lost was fat.

At the start it was 80%. Once I added lots of resistance training and double protein MFP recommended closer to 100%.
August 11, 2011 10:35 AM
You can get your % body fat measured. Different fitness centers have normally more than one type of equipment to measure it for you.
August 11, 2011 10:36 AM
How many reps and how heavy are the weights you are doing in your workouts? After 1 set of 10 are you feeling the burn?
Are you doing arms one day, legs one day, etc? or are you doing them all in one day?
There are many things that factor into why you may not be seeing mucle. In a month you should see some growth, but it depends on how intense you are and how you have your workout set up.
Your cardio should probably only be about 15 minutes at the beginning of your workouts, so that you increase your heart rate.
To build muscle you should weight train about 4-5 times a week. You should not really focus so much on losing the weight, but through weight training and building the muscle, it will in turn burn the fat away.
  359035
August 11, 2011 10:40 AM
QUOTE:

Hey all,

This is my first stab at a serious "getting in shape" attempt and I've been at it since July. I've seen some slow but steady progress by changing my diet* and 4 (1 hour each) gym sessions a week. I mix cardio (interval training) and strength training (weight machines with some free weights). I've even gotten into the habit of doing push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, and jumping jacks during the commercial breaks of the baseball games I watch on TV.

I was hoping I would see a slight increase in muscle tone and strength at this point, but the only change I've seen is a few numbers on the scale. My fiance seems to think I might be eating too few calories and burning through muscle instead of fat. Is there any way I can make sure I'm burning fat and not muscle?




*I should note that I have increased my protein (lean meats) significantly and switched to the good carbs. I am 24 and shooting for 1595 calories a day.
You lose both on calorie deficit, but a strength program helps to reduce the loss of lean muscle. Only way to tell is to do a fat test now and then check again later.
  9285851
August 11, 2011 10:41 AM
Unfortunately we will all lose some muscle while we lose the fat. There are things you can do to help spare muscle loss through the process, and it sounds like with the increased protien and strength workouts you are dong what you can.

It's important to note, that while losing weigght/fat, it is biologically **impossible** to gain muscle. People need to understand losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time are two compltely serparate functions requiring two different intake levels which make doing both simultaneously impossible.
  5907925
August 11, 2011 10:41 AM
Check Robert Ferguson's site Diet Free Life. He is a nutritionist and can tell you the formula to use to determine your present body fat percentage and then the proper nutrition so all you do lose is fat...wwwdietfreelife.com...
August 11, 2011 10:44 AM
Yeah, you are probably losing both. Since I don't have much farther to go, I've been reading up a lot about it. The best way to minimize muscle loss is to eat enough protein (1g per pound of lean body mass), and weight train.
August 11, 2011 10:45 AM
I don't trust the scales to measure body fat percentage accurately. I also have a Tanita and it has told me my body fat is 33% - 34%
for the past 4 months. Over this time I have lost 13lbs doing Turbo Fire (30min-1hr, 6 days a week) and staying under my MFP calories. I refuse to believe that all my hard work has resulted in 13lbs of muscle loss. I have lost inches, gone down 2 pants sizes and ALL the cellulite on my bum and legs has disappeared. Plus, I am tight and toned and starting to see muscle definition. I doubt I've gained any muscle, but surely I have lost a lot of fat.

This past weekend I got some body fat calipers and measured 3 times. Then I had my husband measure me 3 times. Each time came out the same: 21.5% Body Fat. That's a HUUUUUUUGE difference from what my stupid scale still tells me to this day.

I recommend getting some calipers - they're cheap and they are the most accurate.
  7073870
August 11, 2011 10:47 AM
QUOTE:

I think you'd need to take a body fat percentage now, then re-measure every week or so to see how you're progressing. If the scale moves but your BF% doesn't, that's a good indicator that you're losing more muscle. If the BF% decreases, then you're losing more fat than muscle and getting closer to your goal.

But, as long as you're eating plenty of protein and working your muscles several times a week, you shouldn't worry too much about muscle atrophy.


Good to know -- I had this same question myself.
  7647087
August 11, 2011 10:49 AM
It's not the MOST accurate way to measure body fat and lean muscle mass, but this site will calculate an estimate for you.

http://www.scientificpsychic.com/fitness/diet.html

Plug in your starting weight and measurements, vs your current weight and measurements.

For instance, according to that site my starting stats, at 160#:
Percent Body Fat: 32.0%
Lean Body Mass: 108.8 lb

And I'm currently, at 130:
Percent Body Fat: 19.2%
Lean Body Mass: 105.0 lb

So according to those calculations, about 26 of my 30 pounds have been from fat. I imagine losing some degree of muscle is inevitable. I NEEDED more muscle while I was toting around an extra 30 pounds everywhere! smile
Edited by LorinaLynn On August 11, 2011 10:52 AM
August 11, 2011 11:22 AM
I'm pretty sure what I have lost has been all fat, I dont do anything to build muscle at the moment
  5463231
August 11, 2011 12:30 PM
QUOTE:

Check Robert Ferguson's site Diet Free Life. He is a nutritionist and can tell you the formula to use to determine your present body fat percentage and then the proper nutrition so all you do lose is fat...wwwdietfreelife.com...
The BF% based on my measurements were way off. By more than 5%. I have Lange calipers and a Futurex body fat composition reader at my disposal which are within .5% of each other, so I don't think this method is going to be accurate. Also regardless of what any nutritionist tells you, you lose lean muscle along with fat. Strength training will reduce it, but you still lose it. This is NOT disputed by any science that has done peer viewed studies on weight loss.
  9285851
August 11, 2011 12:35 PM
QUOTE:

I'm pretty sure what I have lost has been all fat, I dont do anything to build muscle at the moment
Actually if you don't strength train you lose lean muscle at a faster rate.
  9285851
August 11, 2011 12:51 PM
ninerbuff, I agree with what you are saying, but for people who are new to weight training and have a substantial amount of body-fat, there will be a short period of time where fat loss and muscle gain will occur at the same time. But for someone who's been lifting for any reasonable amount of time, it becomes very difficult without using some insanely controlled techniques (e.g.., Lyle's McDonald's UD 2.0). But then of course, even that can be called into question because that entire diet is based on cycling between depletion and then carb-refeeding....ie, periods of cutting and bulking within the week.

To the OP, one of the easiest ways to check for muscle loss is to keep track of your strength levels. If the weights you are lifting aren't going down, then you aren't losing muscle.
Edited by TK421NotAtPost On August 11, 2011 12:53 PM
  60395
August 11, 2011 1:21 PM
QUOTE:

ninerbuff, I agree with what you are saying, but for people who are new to weight training and have a substantial amount of body-fat, there will be a short period of time where fat loss and muscle gain will occur at the same time.
Yes, newbies to resistance training and obese to very overweight people may experience this. I'll throw in one more: athlete's who have been on a long lay off. My response was to the person who thinks she's losing nothing but fat while NOT doing any resistance training at all.
  9285851
August 22, 2014 5:40 PM
If your belly bottom is shallow you're losing weight.
August 22, 2014 6:17 PM
QUOTE:

If your belly bottom is shallow you're losing weight.


huh
  2728444
August 22, 2014 6:19 PM
QUOTE:

QUOTE:

If your belly bottom is shallow you're losing weight.


huh


^lmfao. That was my face tooooo! Wut?
  69131130
August 22, 2014 7:15 PM
Eating sufficient protein (prob about 1g per pound of estimated lean body mass, more for resistance-trained individuals), doing regular "heavy" resistance training, i.e., lifting weight (where "heavy" means at a weight where you can do no more than 10 or 12 reps of the exercise before failing), and losing at a moderate rate (not trying to lose 3lbs per week), will greatly reduce and in some cases just about eliminate losses of muscle during your calorie deficit.

QUOTE:

To the OP, one of the easiest ways to check for muscle loss is to keep track of your strength levels. If the weights you are lifting aren't going down, then you aren't losing muscle.


That's not really true, especially for those new or returning to lifting (like those folks you were referring to in your first paragraph that I omitted from your quote). You can make regular strength gains during a deficit while maintaining and even losing some muscle mass. A relative newbie experiences tremendous strength gains, the vast majority of which comes from neuro-muscular adaptations -- i.e., your body is learning how to more effectively recruit and use existing muscle fibers, resulting in regular strength gains without adding an actual muscle mass.

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