It’s actually easy to lose weight.
Eat less, move more — done. The scale will likely go down.
But that’s short-sighted. Because weight loss isn’t what we’re going after.
We’re aiming for:
- Fat loss
- Muscle gain
- To live a sustainable, healthy lifestyle on our own terms
And the number going down on the scale doesn’t guarantee any of those.
In fact, focusing solely on the scale dropping is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to get in better shape and develop healthy habits.
This doesn’t mean the scale isn’t a useful tool for monitoring progress. I still use it regularly with my 1:1 fat loss clients, but as ONE tool, not THE tool (I’ll explain how in the next section).
But if it’s your only indicator of progress, you’re more likely to…
- Crash diet and cut calories too quickly, leaving you tired and hungry
- Not eat enough protein, causing you to lose more muscle than fat
- Get emotionally exhausted from fluctuations, resulting in burn out and quitting
- Eliminate carbohydrates, making you look “flat” and “deflated”
So, yeah, avoid all that mess by reading to the end of this.
Because there is a right way that will get you lean, muscular, and on the path to building a badass body you’re proud of.
Four ways, actually. And I’ve used them to successfully transform 300+ people. It’ll work for you too if you choose to implement it.
Let’s dive in.
4 Ways To Guarantee You’re Losing Fat, Not Muscle
Ok, quick disclaimer: it’s hard to not lose ANY muscle mass during your fat loss phase. You can’t fully control tissue storage and breakdown. But these tips will give you the best damn chance possible at creating the outcomes we’re after. Cool, NOW let’s dive in.
1. YOU’RE LOSING AROUND 1 LB PER WEEK, ON AVERAGE.
See, I told you I’d show you how I use the scale the right way.
Here’s why it matters:
If you lose weight too quickly (>1% of total bodyweight per week): you risk losing more muscle mass, increasing hunger, and causing more overall stress on your body.
If you lose weight too slowly (<0.5% of total bodyweight per week): you risk “spinning your wheels,” where you don’t actually make any significant progress; you just maintain.
You can use 0.5-1% of your total bodyweight to get your ideal rate of weight loss per week, but for most people it comes to ~1 lb per week on average. Make sure you’re weighing at least three times per week (in the morning after the restroom, before eating), with one being on the weekend to get as close as possible to an accurate “true” bodyweight.
NOTE: in the first few weeks of dieting, it’s common to lose weight at a higher rate due to initial water weight loss.
2. YOU’RE EATING A HIGH-PROTEIN DIET.
This one’s pretty obvious.
A high-protein diet prevents muscle breakdown, and encourages other energy sources to be used for fuel (carbs, fats, stored glycogen, fat tissue, etc.).
Ideally, you’ll have at least three high-protein meals/”feedings” per day and end up close to 0.7g/lb of bodyweight total for the day.
For me, I like two large high-protein meals, sandwiched by two high-protein snacks (four total feedings) per day. E.g., 25g Snack > 45g Meal > 45g Meal > 25g Snack.
3. YOU’RE LIFTING WEIGHTS AND GETTING STRONGER EACH MONTH.
No matter what you eat, you won’t gain/maintain muscle without resistance training.
And when you’re eating in a calorie deficit, you’re already susceptible to the body using muscle for energy instead of fat. Muscle is energy “expensive” and takes more calories to preserve.
So, to bias fat loss over muscle loss, you need 1) enough food each day, but not too much 2) a high protein diet, and 3) resistance training.
And, ideally, you want to make sure you’re getting stronger over time to ensure enough overload for muscle growth.
What I do: For my 1:1 clients, I monitor 2-4 compound exercises (e.g., squat, bench, deadlift, etc.) on a monthly basis and make sure their strength has increased from week 1 to week 4 to week 8 and on. If they’ve gained 10 lbs on their bench over 12 weeks, I can guarantee their muscles will be bigger as a result.
4. YOU’RE SEEING WAIST MEASUREMENTS GO DOWN.
Like I mentioned earlier, the scale is only one tool in assessing your body composition.
Taking waist measurements is another tool I’ve found extremely helpful in reassuring my clients that they’re losing fat, not muscle.
Take Salley here (not her real name) — in 12 weeks, she didn’t lose any weight on the scale, but dropped 16.75 cm (6.59 inches) from her waist.
I encourage you to do the same.
How to measure: take measurements every 2-4 weeks, in the morning before eating or drinking, with your muscles flexed. Here’s a great graphic from my friend Andy Morgan to help you out, and here’s a body tape measure from Amazon.
NOTE: it’s also acceptable to use your favorite belt or pair of jeans as a form of measurement. It’s not as exact as using a body tape measure, but it can work fine.
And there you have it.
You’re now equipped with everything you need to ensure you’re getting lean and muscular in the healthiest way possible.
How to guarantee you’re losing fat, not muscle:
- You’re losing around 1 lb per week, on average.
- You’re eating a high-protein diet.
- You’re lifting weights and getting stronger each month.
- You’re seeing waist measurements go down.
Hope you found this helpful.
See you next time,
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