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Losing LBM and Losing Weight

Posted May 15 2008 10:02am

This is a guest post by Mehdi. He blogs about how to build muscle and lose fat through strength training at StrongLifts.com. He’s available for personal training.

Angie asked me if I could make a guest blog answering one of her client’s question. The question was:

“I assume it’s ok that I am losing Lean Body Mass (LBM) while I am losing weight?”

Losing LBM vs. Losing Weight. The sum of the weight of your muscles, bones, organs, … anything except your body fat, is called lean body mass. LBM is the sum of everything in your body other than fat.

Excess weight is always excess fat. You can’t really lose bones or organs. So if you’re losing LBM while losing weight, it means you’re losing muscle mass. The question is thus: “If I’m losing LBM while losing weight, am I losing fat?”


Why Losing LBM Is Bad.
The biggest nutritional mistake you can do is trying to lose weight by undereating. The thinking behind going on low calorie diets is: “if I eat less food, I’ll weigh less”. Correct, but you won’t look the way you want.

Fat is emergency storage for your body. If you don’t eat enough daily calories, your body will hold on to the fat and burn muscle for energy. You’ll get the skinny + fat look. Skinny & weak because you lost all muscle, but still fat.


The Right Approach.
The first step is a change in thinking. Lose the weight scale and the low calorie diet. It’s not only better in terms of results, but also for your health. The correct way:

  • Focus on Fat Loss. Water retention and bowel content influence your body-weight. Eating a lot of carbs for example can cause water retention (that’s why you lose a lot of weight the 1st week on Atkins, it’s a low carb diet). Stop weighing yourself, and measure what you’re after: fat loss. Use the 5$ fat caliper from accumeasure.
  • Maintain Muscle. Muscle burn more calories than fat. Muscles look also better than fat. 2 people with the same body-weight can look different because one has more muscle/less fat. That’s why BMI doesn’t work: it says nothing about your body fat/muscle mass.


How to Lose Fat.
Increase and maintain your muscle mass. Optimize training and diet to increase your fat loss. Like this:

  • Get stronger. Get into strength training. More strength is more muscle. More muscle is more calories burned. Do compound weight lifting exercises like Squats & Deadlifts. Start light, add weight each workout. Check StrongLifts 5×5 if you don’t know where to start. Don’t worry, you won’t get bulky.
  • Diet. Eat whole foods 90% of the time, processed food 10% of the time. Eat every 3 hours to increase your metabolic rate. Eat protein with every meal: your body burns more calories digesting proteins than carbs or fats. Eat veggies/fruit with every meal. Stop eating carbs, except post strength training. Drink 2 cups of water with each meal.
  • Cardio. HIIT is better for fat loss, but tends to be hard combined with strength training. I recommend moderate intensity cardio (breathing heavier than at rest, not gasping). Start with 15mins post training, add 1min each session until you get to 40mins.

Cardio without strength training and diet is useless. Diet without strength training is also useless. Strength training & diet without cardio works but takes longer. For best results combine all three for 3-4 months and you’ll be who you want to be.

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