Why is it so hard to burn only fat instead of muscle?

Almost all of us have been on this journey time and time again.

We feel that we’re doing everything that the books and online forums tell us, but for some reason things are not going according to our plan. This may be happening for weeks and months on end. What exactly is going on?

The truth is, our bodies are a lot smarter than we can comprehend. Any slight changes to our overall calorie intake and activity, infuses a cascade of alarm bells. If we are not careful enough, putting on more body fat and losing muscle mass will definitely become a reality. I know this well, as it always happens to me.

Don’t worry, all is not lost here, and I will go through some important points with you now.

5 things you may have dismissed about weight loss.

  1. Are you eating more than what you should be? Weight loss 101 tells us that in order to encourage fat burning, we have to in fact facilitate a calorie deficit. This does not necessarily mean less food, it means quality and density. Lean meats, vegetables and fats with every meal to create satiety. Eliminating hunger is one simple key to losing body fat. When you stop constantly snacking because you are full, over time this does make a huge difference when it comes to weight loss.

    Are you tracking what foods you eat? This can easily be monitored with endless apps available online. Don’t become too obsessive with it, just be aware and honest with yourself. Snacks and drinks do add up when it comes to calories. Do you really need a 3pm chocolate fix? Why not have a black coffee instead? These little changes make a huge difference.

  2. Are you doing enough exercise on a daily basis? Yes, diet is key to weight loss, but dieting also slows your metabolism down. Hence the term ‘burning muscle for energy.’ You may not even know it’s happening to you, but in more cases than one, it does happen when on a calorie restricted diet.

    One way to combat this is to do the correct form of exercise. I highly recommend (surprise, surprise) weight training. It causes your metabolism to burn stored body fat, makes you insulin sensitive and prevents muscle loss. In order for this to work well, you must make sure you’re eating enough protein per day.

    If you really want to burn some stubborn body fat, get into HIIT. This short burst with rest periods triggers hormones responsible for fat burning, as well as the after burn you experience outside of the gym! Make sure you only stick to 20 minutes at a time. Less is more in this case.

  3. Are you consistent with your training? Consistency is key to success in anything, including fat loss or muscle building. You MUST make the commitment to really work hard at this, and do whatever you can to eat well and schedule your work outs. It’s ok to take a day off here and there, but you must be in the gym training properly at least 3 times a week. 5 times if you are game. Rest periods are needed in order to recover from your workouts, and recuperate for your next sessions.

    If you cannot train due to an injury, then you should watch your diet very carefully. Infuse your body with fats such as salmon, avocado, nuts, olive oil and coconut oil to decrease inflammation and speed up recovery. In no time, you will be back into training, and by then, muscle memory will take over.

  4. How is your quality of sleep? Sleep is very important for fat loss and muscle recovery. It’s very hard to train when you are lacking sleep for one, and more so, several nights. The result will be a mediocre training effort, and your cravings for carbs and sugars will increase. Whilst in an ideal world, it’s awesome to have 8 hours sleep per night, this may not be the case for many people. If you are low on quality sleep, be aware of your cravings during the day, and make a huge effort to take supplements such as magnesium to increase your feelings of relaxation. Have a massage, or a nice warm bath with essential oils before bed. Aim to close all devices, and shut any light from coming into your bedroom. These little rituals will all make a difference. Try them out and see what works best for you.
  5. Are you actually exercising too much (hint – cardio)? Excessive amounts of cardio will actually hinder your weight loss results. This is because large amounts of cardio causes stress in the body, namely activating a hormone called cortisol. This is our flight or fight signal, and too much of it via exercise that’s hours long, will shed muscle for energy, and increase body fat. The body is actually under stress, and working it’s magic to keep you topped up with fat reserves in case it’s needed later on. This is mainly the reason why I do suggest HIIT, as it stresses the body in short bouts, but it’s actually a highly effective strategy. It doesn’t burn your muscle for energy. It taps into your body fat. Steady state cardio for hours does the opposite! Pick and choose your cardio well, and if you enjoy it, opt for walking. Walking is very powerful, and can be used as an incidental exercise during the day.

    I always say, every little bit counts. So make those bits count a lot.

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