You’ve been working out consistently to lose weight, but when you go for your progress evaluation at the gym, your results show you’re losing muscle instead of burning fat.
What does this mean?
Muscle loss is common and is caused by several reasons such as age, certain health conditions and abnormal muscle loss is caused by malnutrition. Dietician Emily Innes says, “At the start of an intensive exercise session your muscles use mainly glucose as the fuel for energy. When your liver and muscle glucose stores start to run out, your body tries to make glucose. Fat cannot be used to make glucose, so your body uses its protein stores (ie muscle) to make glucose. After a while, your body switches from using glucose to using fat as the fuel for energy. That’s when you begin to burn fat stores if you continue exercising.”
Here’s the low down…
1/ You’re not using your muscles
Dietician, Sandi van Zyl says, the reason many of us exercise is to tone or build muscle and burn excess fat. Without supporting your work out regime with a well-balanced nutrition plan, you’re unlikely to see the desired results. Even though you might be losing fat mass at the same time, your overall body fat percentage may not reflect this due to the fact that you’re also losing muscle mass. When you do become active, you can help prevent muscle loss by eating a recovery snack or a meal within 45 minutes of your workout. This snack or meal should include both protein and carbohydrate in order to stimulate muscle repair and growth and prepare your muscles for the next exercise session.
2/ Shortage of protein
Protein is queen when it comes to weight loss and looking sexy. Innes says you need to eat adequate amounts of protein and sufficient calories to enable your body to replenish and repair the damage done during intensive exercise. “A common mistake is to eat only protein and avoid consuming sufficient calories from carbohydrate, protein and healthy fats. This forces your body to use its protein stores to provide the energy demanded by your recovering body, which interferes with muscle repair.”
“You can’t prevent the initial loss of muscle, but you can replenish your body’s protein stores by eating sufficient protein and calories after exercising. During the hours and days following your exercise session, your body will repair the damaged muscle and, if your protein intake is adequate, your body will lay down more muscle than you lost. The end result is that you gain muscle. It is also important to consume sufficient calories to supply your body’s ongoing energy needs because otherwise, your body will return to burning protein (ie muscle) to make glucose,” she says.
3/ Don’t skip recovery days
Did you know that muscle is built up during the rest/recovery days? Resting allows the muscles to become bigger and stronger as they rebuild. When you over-exercise, you cause damage to your muscles, so be intentional about your recovery days. Recovery days don’t necessarily mean being a couch potato for a day or two. You can be active by doing something that will relax your body such as yoga.
4/ Struggling to sleep?
Every night when we go to sleep, our bodies produce new muscular and nervous tissues. Lack of sleep affects the production of hormone levels that assist with muscle maintenance. This should explain why you’re feeling sluggish.