Why Weight Loss is a Flawed Goal


Are you shedding fat or just losing weight?

The types of fuel you ingest enter into different metabolic pathways in order to be broken down safely. There’s a “downstream” reaction for each different type of nutrient, with varying degrees of effects on our health. Some promote health and leanness while others cause inflammation, form triglycerides, damage hormone receptors, and cause you to get out of shape.

Even intuitively, we understand that one hundred calories from an apple will affect our body differently than one hundred calories from a candy apple. One will have a higher glycemic index, raising our blood sugar higher and requiring more insulin to control. If you’re diabetic, you’re all too aware of this effect.

The notion that “a calorie is not a calorie” was recently tested by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, led by Dr. David Ludwig.

The researchers fed their subjects diets with the same amount of calories—only some diets were higher in carbohydrates and some in fats. As it turned out, the people who ate a diet lower in carbohydrates ended up effortlessly expending more calories than those on a low-fat diet. Subjects on the low-fat diet needed to exercise for an hour a day to match the calories expended by those on the low-carbohydrate diet.

If you’re overweight, it’s true that it is important to lose weight. Yet the truth is that not all weight-loss is created equal. It’s better to lose pounds from fat than from muscle. You can be thin and unhealthy. Your body composition makes a difference.

In fact, your muscle-to-fat ratio is one of the most important measurements of your health.

Having more muscle on your body is healthier for a number of reasons. More muscle helps in glucose uptake, which helps your body manage its blood sugar. One study found that muscle mass is inversely correlated with insulin resistance. Added muscle can also raise our basal metabolic rate.

Consider the long-term study of post-menopausal women conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative. Over seven years, the average weight lost on a low-fat diet was only one pound. And yet the average waist circumference—one way to measure belly fat—increased. This suggests that the subjects didn’t only fail to lose body fat, but may have gained more fat than they lost muscle.

Answer honestly: If you could embark on one of two diets, one that burned more fat and one that burned more muscle, which would you choose? Most sane people would choose the fat-burning diet, the one that improves body composition without compromising lean muscle tissue. That should be the goal of any plan.

Building and Preserving Lean Muscle

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