If your fitness goal is to lose weight, should you focus more on building muscle or losing fat?
The answer is losing fat!
The higher your body fat percentage, the more you should focus on losing fat. As a general guideline, the recommended body fat percentage for general health is less than 25% for women and less than 18% for men.
Many people who are aiming to lose weight want to see more muscle definition and look “toned.”
But most people don’t realize they already have muscle. Your muscles are already there, underneath the fat layer. What you’re trying to do is lose some of the fat that’s on top of the muscle so you can see more of the muscle underneath.
How do you maintain the muscle mass underneath while you’re losing fat? That’s the big question.
As you’re losing weight, it’s important to check your body fat percentage so you can see what you’re losing. Check your body fat percentage every two to four weeks to gauge your progress.
There are three main ways to maintain your muscle mass as you lose fat…
Number one, you have to ensure your calorie intake is not too low. If you try to starve yourself into weight loss, you will lose weight, but you also lose muscle. And it doesn’t quite look the same.
To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit, meaning you’re eating less calories than your body needs to maintain its weight, but your calorie intake cannot be so low that you’re also losing muscle.
Muscle helps to add shape and strength to your body, so it is very noticeable when someone loses weight while losing muscle. When you lose weight too quickly, muscle loss is often a by-product!
Number two, eat adequate protein to maintain your lean mass. If your protein is not high enough, again, you will lose weight, but you will also be losing muscle.
Number three, perform strength training exercises regularly. Strength train at least three days a week, because the more you use your muscles, the less likely you are to lose your muscle while you’re losing fat. Train each body part at least once per week.
To sum it up, your goal is not necessarily to build muscle. If you build muscle without losing fat, you get bigger because you’re adding muscle, but you’re not reducing the fat. If you keep adding muscle without reducing fat, that means your calories are too high and need to be decreased.
Your goal should be to lose fat and maintain your muscle as you lose the body fat. This will help you see more muscle definition underneath.