WTH!?! My weight went down but my body fat went up!?!
You're busting your butt in the gym, eating in a calorie deficit, and watching the number on the scale go down. All is good!!!! Then you go get your body composition done and see that while you lost weight, you gained fat.
Losing weight is all good but gaining body fat is not. For one, who wants to have more fat on their body? For two, carrying more fat - especially visceral fat that surrounds your organs - can have some negative health consequences. A higher body fat percentage makes you more at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many other unfortunate health issues.
So how do you avoid this from happening? Here's a few ways to do just that!
1. Strength training - weight lifting is the number one way to build muscle and lose fat. Period. While running might help you shed fat, you're not as likely to build muscle from running. So making sure you have an adequate strength program in place during your weight loss phase, will ensure you are maintaining or building muscle. Aim to either keep your strength level the same or increase if possible. Meaning adding weights to exercises over the duration of your weight loss program.
2. Incorporate LISS - Low Impact Steady State Cardio is very underrated. The idea of just walking is less appealing when trying to lose weight than HIIT or running. We've been programmed to believe that we need to sweat, get our heart rates up and spend hours doing cardio in order to burn fat. Not true!! In fact, slow aerobic cardio like walking, bike riding, swimming, or elliptical at a steady state uses your Type I muscle fibers which are extremely fatigue resistant, and promote more blood circulation to help clear lactic acid and metabolic waste. It also improves your aerobic energy system to support more intense workouts, better recovery between sets, and more results in the gym. Which means we are more able to build muscle and burn fat! On top of that, any LISS, or movement in general will help to increase your daily calorie burn.
3. Eat enough protein - most people, women especially, aren't eating enough protein to support their goals. If you're lifting weights, trying to build muscle and burn fat, you need protein. Why? First, protein boosts your basal metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories throughout the day. Second, it helps repair your muscles and supports muscle growth. Thirdly, protein promotes satiety, which keeps you from overeating. So how much protein do you need? Research shows that to maintain or build muscle you'll want to fall somewhere in the range of .8-1.2 gram per pound of body weight. If you're obese, you'll want to use your healthy goal weight or lean body mass to find your protein intake. Focusing on the quality of protein matters too. Making sure you're getting in lean proteins to avoid overloading your fat macronutrient is important.
4. Don't cut calories too much - Yes, calories in vs. calories out does matter. In order to lose weight, you do need to be in a calorie deficit. However, research shows that too large of a deficit is not the most ideal way to lose fat and preserve muscle. Instead the The ideal caloric deficit for most people is a more moderate range between 15-25% below their maintenance level. Having too low of a deficit can cause, metabolic slow down, hormonal adaptions, disruption in sleep quality, low energy, poor workout performance, along with other things. So making sure you're eating enough is key to preserving muscle and optimal health!
Losing fat is a great goal! However, keep in mind that maintaining muscle should be the number one goal as it's going to help you keep the fat off and stay healthy!