• Joshua Li

Are You Losing Fat, Water or Muscle?


On the surface, losing 5lbs of weight in a week sounds like a great result. Dieting hard for an entire week you would hope to see a change on the scales. But does a drop in 5lbs mean that the hard graft is working? Could it be that your diet is set up incorrectly and you are in fact sacrificing muscle or just reducing water weight, instead of shedding fat? With the perfect diet plan for your current physique you can almost guarantee you will be losing body fat. But as there are so many aspects to think about when it comes to dieting and training, there is a good chance you might be losing weight you would rather keep hold of.

Muscle Loss

To maintain muscle mass you must be doing resistance training regularly. When trying to get leaner your daily caloric intake will be reduced and your caloric output will increase from additional cardio you include. These changes will inevitably influence your performance in the weights room, meaning you will not be able to push the same weights as you did previously with more calories in your diet.

Not only will you see a change in your strength, but due to the knock on effect of reduced muscle mass your metabolic rate will slow down. As stated earlier, when dieting and ramping up the cardio, you will sacrifice muscle mass. The less muscle mass you have, the slower you burn calories throughout the day.

Muscle tissue also regulates your insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity determines how effectively your body absorbs nutrients. Poorly structured diets that don’t support muscle retention will mean the likelihood of absorbing nutrients into the muscle cells is much lower and instead you will be storing them into fat cells.

Water Loss

Many fat loss diets involve cutting carbs and sticking to a high protein/fats approach. In theory, this is very effective (in the short term) to help the body become insulin sensitive, meaning when carbs are introduced back in to the diet, they will be absorbed into the muscle cells effectively, as your muscle cells are now insulin sensitive.

Out of all the macronutrients, carbohydrates hold three times as much water as any of the others. When it comes to water loss vs actual fat loss you can see then issue here….. the less carbs in your diet the less water you retain. The scale may be down 5lbs, but in fact you aren’t down 5lbs of purely from fat at all… water will be down also.

Being on a low carb diet for a prolonged period will mean your intermuscular water is reduced. Muscles are 70% water, so when dehydration occurs the muscle tissue adapts, resulting is muscles shrinking and atrophy (tissue wasting away). This issue happens when you stay below 75g of carbs per day on a regular basis. As mentioned previously, I believe low carb diets have their place but only for a shorter period to fix insulin sensitivity issues.

How Dou You Know If It’s Fat, Muscle or Water Loss?

If you see more than 3lbs drop in a week then you know you will have lost water weight as well a bit of muscle mass and fat. At One PT we do skinfold measurements to keep track of individual sites and overall body fat percentage to ensure true fat loss is taking place. Progress pictures are also a very good indicators of what is happening with your physique.

Diets are the key to fat loss success. Come in a meet us for a free consult and talk over what is needed for you to achieve effective results. Book in via the tabs above.


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