When it comes to weight loss, most of us know the drill. All you have to do is ramp up your exercise routine and tone down your calorie intake. But that’s actually just the beginning.
The truth is, not all pounds are created equal. While you know that muscle is more beneficial for your body than fat, your body doesn't necessarily differentiate between the two when it’s in weight-loss mode. And because fat requires less energy to maintain than muscle mass, your body isn't quick to let go of it. So, what does this mean for you? It’s important to recognize that some of your healthy habits may actually be backfiring.
To help your body hold onto that valuable, calorie-building muscle and shed stubborn fat, make sure you steer clear of these fitness faux pas:
1. Cutting too many calories
Your body requires a baseline level of calories to maintain essential bodily operations, including breathing and proper organ function. If you’re consuming less than this amount, known as your basal metabolism, your body will go into starvation mode and begin burning tissue—including muscle—just to survive. While basal metabolism varies based on weight, experts recommend that no one consume less than 1,000 calories in one day.
2. Protein deficiency
People have a tendency to focus solely on caloric intake in their efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Consuming enough protein is essential for not only building lean muscle, but also supporting fat loss. If you are losing weight and not consuming the recommended level of protein intake, chances are you’re losing more muscle than fat. Experts recommend that you consume about .7 grams of protein per pound of body weight, every day.
3. Ignoring strength training
Strength training is the only way to maintain and build muscle. Fitness plans that exclusively include low-calorie diets and cardio do not support muscle growth and can actually lead to muscle loss. Research indicates that people who weight train in addition to dieting lose about twice as much body fat than those who only did cardio.
4. Not eating after workouts
If you don’t refuel after workouts, you’re less likely to experience full muscle recovery. Failing to repair broken down muscles can result in muscle loss. Experts recommend consuming 20 grams of protein within 15 – 20 minutes of working out. The longer you wait to refuel, the less effective muscle repair will be.
5. Too much cardio
There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing, right? Wrong. High-intensity cardio can actually burn muscle, especially on calorie-deficient diets. A good sign that your cardio routine may be causing muscle loss is a decrease in performance. If you find that after a few sessions, you can no longer maintain the same distance at the same intensity, it may be time to dial it back or increase your caloric intake.
6. Lack of sleep
It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Sleep is important for every facet of life as it helps to maintain healthy energy levels and supports exercise intensity. Sleep also has a direct effect on hormone levels. Not only do low hormones affect performance, they can also lead to high cortisol levels. Too much cortisol can increase the chance that your body will store carbs as fat. To avoid this, focus on getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
Is your workout supporting muscle growth?
Nowadays, it’s easy to feel like there is just too much fitness information and too little time. How do you know where to start? How do you know if you’re reaching your full fitness potential? That’s where GMC’s Fitness & Performance experts come in. With experienced specialists, customized services and the latest in care options, you can enjoy exercise like never before.