Why am I losing weight but not losing body fat?
Weight loss can be difficult and frustrating, which is why many people give up. Don't let that happen to you — losing weight but not fat is a common problem that can be easily remedied. You'll understand how it affects the number on the scale once you understand body composition and how the body burns fat. You'll also discover that the number on the scale isn't always the best indicator of fat loss.
You're Losing Weight But Not Fat
The term "weight loss" is frequently misused. People want to lose body fat, not weight — and these are two entirely different concepts.
The weight you see on the scale is the sum of your muscles, bones, organs, and fat. And a large portion of your body weight is water, which you require to survive. Do you want to lose weight by losing water, muscle, bones, and organs? No, you just want to lose body fat!
The reason you're losing weight but not inches is likely because you're losing lean muscle mass. If you don't do strength training exercises to counteract this, you'll lose pounds but not necessarily body fat. If you are new to strength training, or it’s been years or even decades since you last purposefully exercised, try our 30 day Beginner Bootcamp workout series on our fitness streaming platform BodyRockPlus.com - also check out this article on the benefits of strength training for women.
You're Not Eating Enough Calories
Isn't it true that the fewer calories you consume, the more fat you burn? Wrong. In fact, eating too few calories can stymie fat loss. This is due to a number of factors. According to Caroline Kaufman, MS, RDN, if you don't get enough calories, your body goes into survival mode and starts breaking down even more muscle mass for energy.
Second, a severe calorie deficit alters your metabolic function. These changes, according to Laura Schoenfeld, MPH, RD, affect your hormones, reducing thyroid hormone, which can slow fat loss. At the same time, they raise cortisol levels, which impairs your body's ability to burn fat.
Furthermore, because the body is conserving energy, it stops building muscle in order to save calories for other more important physiological functions. Muscle building isn't a priority when you're in survival mode. Even if you exercise, if you don't eat enough calories, you won't gain muscle.
You're losing weight too Fast
A study presented at the 12th annual European Congress on Obesity, found that the rate of weight loss is related to the loss of fat-free mass (everything that makes up your body weight besides fat). Rapid weight loss causes more fat-free mass loss than gradual weight loss.
People with overweight or obesity in the study followed either a very low-calorie diet (VLCD) for five weeks or a low-calorie diet (LCD) for 12 weeks. Weight loss was comparable in both groups at the end of the diet. However, the VLCD group that lost weight quickly lost more fat-free mass, whereas the LCD group that lost weight slowly lost more fat mass. A slower and more consistent approach to weight loss works best for losing overall body fat.
You Aren't Strength Training
The most effective way to lose fat is to follow a calorie-controlled Meal Plan, or if you don’t want to restrict your food choices, to Intermittent Fast and do a HIIT / Strength Training workout program like our 30 day Beginner Bootcamp, or our new and soon to be released Get Up & Move challenge to maintain or build lean muscle. This will result in a solid decrease in body fat percentage and help you establish a daily full body fitness workout habit in just 15 minutes per day - see why just 10 minutes of exercise a day is enough here.
Another important reason to strength train is that it helps you lose fat faster. Muscle tissue is metabolically active, which means that it requires energy to maintain and build. This raises your resting metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn even when you're not exercising.
According to Paige Kinucan and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. of the University of New Mexico, muscle mass accounts for up to 20% of total daily energy expenditure, whereas fat mass accounts for 5% or less. You're sabotaging your fat loss efforts in more ways than one if you're not strength training yet. Let’s get you started with just 10 minutes per day.
Using the Scale
When you begin strength training and eat enough calories, the scale will begin to level out. People typically gain muscle more quickly at the start of a strength-training programme because the body is adapting to the stressor. You could gain 10 pounds of muscle while losing 10 pounds of fat, in which case the number on the scale will not change.
It's natural for your rate of muscle gain — and fat loss — to slow down after a while. According to registered dietitian Densie Webb, the body adapts to a lower calorie intake, even if it's a conservative deficit, slowing weight loss over time.
The weight on the scale will either go up, down, or stay the same depending on how your rates of muscle gain and fat loss change over time.
Evaluating Your Progress
A better way to gauge your progress is to pay attention to how you look and how your clothes fit. You can also measure your upper arms, thighs, and waist to see if your fat mass has changed.
Eat and Train Smarter
According to a 2018 study published in Nutrition, eating more lean protein promotes lean muscle mass growth, and both protein and dietary fibre can help you control your calorie intake and encourage fat loss. Chicken, fish, eggs, and legumes are high in protein, while fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are high in fibre.
Every day, aim for at least 0.8 grammes of protein per kilogramme of body weight. However, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people who strength train on a regular basis consume more protein — 1.2 to 1.7 grammes per kilogramme of bodyweight.
If you are like the vast majority of people (myself included), and know that you won’t measure or track your food intake at this micro level, then follow a Meal Plan that already takes all of this food processing into account and does all of the planning and heavy lifting for you, so that all you need to do is follow the quick prep recipes that have already been optimized for fat loss. Our Meal Plan is a great example of this, or if you want to eat pretty much whatever you want, our Intermittent Fasting plan for women has been proven to be highly effective at reducing body fat.
The Bottom Line.
At BodyRock we don’t actually encourage the use of a scale. Instead, we believe in assessing how we feel in our bodies, how our favorite pair of jeans fit, and how we look in the mirror and other, more intuitive measures of where we are with our weight. That does not mean that we hide our heads in the sand, or ignore reality. If part of how you keep track of your body awareness involves using a scale great, hopefully this article helps you foster a better understanding of that process. If you are someone that prefers other methods of measuring your weight, those work too. The scale should not be something that holds you back or derails you emotionally.
A shot from our Beginner Bootcamp series.
Building and maintaining lean muscle is key to losing body fat. Getting started on a strength training program might seem intimidating or something that you would just dismiss as something too difficult for you. Most fitness programs out there are for people that are already fit, or are already in the habit of training. Thats where we come in. At BodyRock, we’ve been helping people get into the best shape of their lives since 2008. We are developing programs specifically for beginners who are either coming back to movement after years, or who are taking their very first steps towards a healthier, stronger life.
Coach Sean leads the Get Up & Move Challenge.
Our 30 day Beginner Bootcamp workout series introduces strength training and HIIT at the ‘get off the couch’ level of intensity - making our full body, fat burning workouts achievable in just 15 minutes per day. Our soon to be released (April ‘22) Get Up & Move challenge literally starts day 1 getting you up off of the couch for 10 minutes of movement. Everyone starts somewhere - we hope that you will let us help you stand up and start to move again - and to help with that we are offering a full year of unlimited access to our fitness streaming service BodyRockPlus.com where you can find all of our workout programs for just $69. Use code: NY22 to unlock a full year of support, workouts and motivation.
P.S. We have a pretty great flash deal running today - get your choice of 3 pairs of dumbbell sets and we will add a free weighted vest. The price on the dumbbells is already amazing, and with the free weighted vest, you don’t want to miss this deal. Use code: BONUSVEST at checkout to get your free vest! Click the image below to access the deal.