Weight loss is a desire for many. When on a journey to lose, we have the misconception that all weight loss is positive weight loss. Weight loss is a secondary component of one of my 2013 goals – bench press my bodyweight. However, I am concerned with the rapid weight loss I am experiencing. I hate to overanalyze, bu I am beginning to overanalyze. The thoughts in my mind, “Is this real?” “Am I losing muscle?” “How come I still cannot see my abs?” “How little must I weigh to see my abs?” “Am I doing too much cardio?” “Am I not eating enough?” “How many weeks will I continue to lose at this rate if I continue what I am doing?” “Am I sick?”
Unfortunately, I am not tracking my body fat percentage. (I do not have access to an accurate measuring method at this time.) Further, I failed to take my circumferences at the beginning of the year. Therefore, I am only measuring body weight and tracking my weights lifted. At this point, my underperformance in measurement tracking is being perceived as an epic failure. Notice my automatic negative thoughts (ANTs)? I am disappointed that I have allowed myself to gauge my improvements on weight at all and even more disappointed that I haven’t tracked numbers that I should have otherwise maintained.
Thankfully, I do not dwell on these thoughts and I am relatively successful with thought stopping. With that said – How do you know when weight loss is attributed to muscle loss?
In my current situation, I believe it is possible that I have lost some muscle. But to say that I have would be purely anecdotal. I honestly have no idea and all I can say is that it is possible. Honestly, I am not too worried about it. I know that my strength is increasing (evident with my lifting increases). I know that my clothes fit differently.
Because I have obsessive tendencies, I do not want to be too rigid with my fitness improvement methods. I monitor my diet, but I do not want to begin tracking calories and macronutrients on a daily basis – because I know I will become obsessive with it and it will take over my life. (I primarily only track when I feel like I have not been eating enough.) I eat a real food diet and am meticulous with my nutritional timing.
My predicament is reinforcing how important it is to find a method for measuring my body fat percentage and definitely time to take my body circumference measurements. Regardless of your starting point, it is important to use body fat percentage (NOT BMI) and circumference measurements. This will be your best indicators of whether you are losing muscle mass along your journey.
The chances are that I have not lost muscle. I have read that it takes 6 weeks to lose 1 pound of muscle. I’m not even sure what that means. Six weeks of inactivity? Six weeks of poor nutrition? What are the conditions? I doubt there is such a simple equation. I do know that if you do not eat adequate amounts of protein you will lose muscle – because protein fuels and builds muscle. The research is undeniable, nothing other than protein will do! I could cite endless sources – if you want sources leave a comment and I’ll send you a few.
I eat plenty of protein. I eat adequate carbohydrates for my level of activity. I life heavy things and I safely put them back down. After thinking it through – maybe too deeply – I am confident that I am maintaining lean muscle mass!
My own mind is playing games with me. You see, if I did not lose weight, I would freak out. But I am losing weight – faster than anticipated – and I am freaking out. I have found myself in a lose-lose thought pattern. I worry, “It is coming off too quickly, I must be doing something wrong!” It could be exhausting, but I redirect my thinking to safer topics.
Sometimes we think too much. My shock with my weight loss lead to unproductive thinking – focusing too much on the outcome and not on the process. I carefully planned my workouts and I am meticulous with my nutrition, without being obsessive. I do not really have anything to worry about.
HOWEVER, I want individuals to know that sometimes weight loss is muscle loss – is that desirable?
Is muscle loss something you control for and monitor? – increasing muscle is what will burn more calories in the long term, so do you really want to lose it?
Layman, D. K., Evans, E., Baum, J. I., Seyler, J., Erickson, D. J., & Boileau, R. A. (2005). Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. J. Nutr. 135(8), 1903-1910