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Does rapid weight loss lead to muscle tissue loss?

For years, bodybuilders have claimed that if you lose more than 0.5 kg -1 kg per week, you lose muscle mass. Find out if it's true or not.

Why do you keep hearing that 1 kg is the maximum weight you need to lose weekly? If you train hard, taking care of calories and diet, shouldn’t you be able to burn more fat without affecting your muscle tissue or health?

The statements and methods to lose weight very quickly can be found everywhere, which is why these questions deserve an answer! Do you want to know where the statement with the maximum weight loss of 1 kg per week comes from, and what do you have to do to lose more weight? Read on.

Why only 1 kg per week?

The truth is that 1 kg is not the maximum weight you can safely lose in a week. It’s just a general recommendation and a starting point to set a weekly goal. It is also achievable, being based on average results.

The exact amount of fat you can burn depends on many factors. For example, weight loss is relative to body size. The more body fat you have, the more you will lose more than 1 kg per week. So, we could slightly individualize the recommendation by saying that you can lose up to 1% of your weight per week.

Weight vs. body composition

Losing weight is meaningless if you do not talk about body composition; the ratio between muscle mass and fat, but also the weight of body water. Ask any boxer about losing weight fast and he will tell you that it’s easy: you can lose 5 kg in one night to fit in a category. Just sweat the weight.

Maybe you also saw ordinary people who followed an extreme weight loss diet, following a prolonged fast in which they consumed only lemon water, or something like that, and lost a lot of weight in the first week. But you can safely bet that most of the weight loss was water and weak muscle tissue, and that the lost weight will be quickly restored.

The good part about such practices is that the rapid weight loss in the first week motivates many (even if that weight comes from the eliminated water).

But where does the figure of 1 kg per week come from? Beyond the recommendations of nutritionists, it’s about math. Taking into account the calories burned and eaten by an ordinary person when he wants to lose weight, the average is this: 1 kg of fat burned per week. This means that others will lose less weight and others more. 1 kg is just the average.

How to lose more than 1 kg per week

Yes, you can lose more than 1 kg per week. But it is easier at first and as the diet progresses it becomes more and more difficult. So how do you lose more than 1 kg per week?

Extraordinary results require extraordinary methods! Extraordinary methods mean an extraordinary effort, ie a very strict diet and higher caloric burns through workouts, because you can reduce the number of eaten calories up until a certain point, without being severely affected by hunger and weakness. Simply put, you need a higher caloric deficit!

If you maintain your weight at 2500 calories a day and you want to lose 1.5 kg per week, you need a huge caloric deficit of 1500 calories. That means eating only 1,000 calories a day. You will lose weight quickly as long as you can maintain that caloric deficit (and this only at the beginning, because over time the weight loss rate will decrease). Many people do not last long with so little food, and usually everything ends with excess food. It is neither practical nor pleasant to reduce calories so much, nor healthy.

The other option is to train for hours per day, literally. It is a perfectly viable option, if you are a performance athlete and you have specialized people around you to motivate and guide you. But when you have family and other things in everyday life, such a thing is not possible.

It is not practical to train a lot every day nor to reduce the caloric intake to 1000 calories per day.

Fast weight loss: less food or more intense workouts?

There are more and more high intensity interval training (HIIT) programs that burn a lot of calories and increase metabolism. But as you increase the intensity of these workouts, you need to be careful not to overtrain or get injured. Therefore, a strict diet, with an aggressive caloric deficit, must be part of the rapid weight loss plan. But there are risks here as well, because a too strict diet slows down the metabolism, leads to loss of muscle tissue and decreased energy and motivation.

In order to be successful in the long run, you must follow a moderate approach through which you lose weight easily and constantly, following a balanced nutritional plan, in which you do not demonize entire food groups. To lose weight, you create a caloric deficit by burning more calories than you consume.

But to lose weight fast when you need to be very defined at a certain date or simply to show that you can lose more than the average, a good method is a strict diet based on carbohydrate cycling, followed by a short period of time.

The cyclic aspect means that after 5-6 days of a very strict diet both in terms of calories and carbohydrates, you have a day when you eat a lot of calories and carbohydrates, to replenish the body and revive the metabolism. In essence, it helps reduce the signs of hunger perceived by the body during a severe diet. There is also a psychological break from the diet.

Such a diet involves high protein intake, which prevents muscle tissue loss and tempers hunger. Also, high protein intake increases thermogenesis. The diet should include enough vegetables and fruits with low glycemic indexes, to balance the energy scale and to have a sufficient intake of nutrients. Healthy fats, such as fish, are also added, while carbohydrates are almost completely eliminated, except on the day of refilling.

A diet high in protein and very low in carbohydrates leads to an acceleration of the weight loss process, but it is also useful when you want to eliminate stubborn fat. But keep in mind that rapid weight loss is due to a very high caloric deficit, not due to very low carbohydrate intake. But low carbohydrate intake helps to get the satiety feeling due to protein, which makes it easier to follow the diet.

It is possible to lose much more than 1 kg per week, but the difference between rapid weight loss and long-term fat burning must be understood. There is no magic in losing weight fast, just math. It all comes down to high intensity training and a smart and restrictive diet. Finally, it all comes down to caloric balance.

Image source: jefit.com

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