Weight loss is one of the most popular motivations to begin exercising, but is by far the most misunderstood. Most people believe it is as simple as restricting the AMOUNT of one’s eating and sometimes that is the case. However, this solution is far from the norm. The deeper details of some of these types of weight loss are very intricate and likely over the head of most of the general population, so for the sake of this blog I will keep my explanations of these topics brief and superficial and will only cover the most common types of weight loss encountered in the fitness industry. I will be covering caloric weight loss, fat weight loss, hormonal weight loss, and absolute weight loss.
Absolute Weight Loss
This is the perfect weight loss type to begin with since it is the most simple to explain. Absolute weight loss covers the broadest category because it encompasses any type of weight loss. Anytime your weight drops no matter how brief that loss may be is considered absolute weight loss. Technically all of the types of weight loss that I will be covering later will fall under this category as well, but I believed it would be good to cover because it will give you an idea of how common weight loss actually is and why the number on the scale is not the best way to measure your progress.
Absolute weight loss can happen in a number of ways and most of these are fairly redundant compared to the other topics I will cover. Sweating can reduce a person’s weight by up to 10lbs leaving them very dehydrated, but after that person rehydrates, they can gain all of that weight right back. Hydration can give a false sense of success OR failure if you were to weigh yourself in the morning, exercise, and then weigh yourself in the afternoon and realize you just instantly lost a few pounds. Even going to the bathroom can potentially make you lose up to 5lbs! Of course once you eat again you will gain it all back. All this being considered, if you weigh yourself today, you could be a totally different weight tomorrow making the scale an inefficient way to measure your progress.
Caloric Weight Loss
Caloric weight loss is a result of reducing your daily consumed calories. Believe it or not, this is actually a rare solution. Everyone has a daily caloric allowance that is determined by the client’s weight and body fat percentage. Most people do NOT meet their daily caloric allowance regardless of what they eat. How often do you skip meals? If you said almost daily, you most likely never meet this caloric allowance. Everyone’s caloric allowance is very different because everyone’s body is different, but most healthy adults will need above 1800 calories per day even if their goal is weight loss. If you are heavier, this number INCREASES. If you do not meet this allowance your body begins the process of starvation. Fat’s main purpose in the body is to prevent starvation by storing energy in the body. If the body senses it is starving, it will continue to store more fat because it is uncertain when its next meal will come. Though the body consumes this fat slowly to feed the body and allow it to move, it does not consume much. Each gram of fat is 9 calories, so including the food you DO eat, it may burn 50 grams of fat(.11 lbs) to give itself energy. On top of that, the body will store more of what little food you eat as fat and the process begins again and again. So unless you are eating above 2500 calories every single day and you never skip a meal, caloric weight loss is likely not the type of weight loss you need.
Fat Weight Loss
Fat weight loss is weight loss that only involves the reduction of fat weight in the body WITHOUT the loss of muscle or bone weight. What you will find is that fat loss is a hormonal reaction that only happens when certain hormones within the body are in order. There are many different key hormones that can affect your weight loss but I will be focusing on insulin this time around.
Insulin and glucagon are the hormones that are responsible for maintaining homeostasis of blood sugar within the body and indirectly determines when fat will be stored. I won’t go into the specifics of this process, for that could take up an entire blog on its own, so for the sake of simplicity I will keep my explanation superficial. Insulin is released into the blood stream in response to a spike in sugar in the blood. Your body uses the sugar within your blood as energy. Think of it as gas for a car. Insulin’s job is to put that “gas” where it needs to go in order to keep the car running, however a car’s gas tank can only take a limited amount of gas before it is full. What happens if we have more gas than our tank can use? We don’t just spill the excess down the drain; we STORE it for later use! This stored gas represents your body fat. When insulin has finished delivering your blood sugar to your muscles, it takes the remaining sugar and stores it as body fat so that your body may use it later.
If the release of insulin can be controlled, the storage of fat can also be controlled. Insulin will only be released if there is an increase in blood sugar in the body, so by reducing the amount of carbohydrates (a fancy word for sugar) you eat per meal, you will reduce your body’s release of insulin. Cutting carbohydrates out completely would NOT be advised because your muscles still need them to exercise and function. That being said lets go back to our gas tank analogy. Lets say you only fill up your tank half way at the gas pump before the pump suddenly runs dry (eating your low carbohydrate dinner), but you have 4 dozen canisters of gas stored in the bed of your truck (fat spread throughout your body). You would naturally use those stored canisters to fill your tank up to full. With the absence of blood sugar, your body will then begin to use your body fat for its intended purpose and burn it for energy thus reducing the body fat spread throughout your body.
This kind of weight loss is the most efficient because you know for sure that the weight you are losing is fat weight and not muscle weight or water weight. So instead of trying to limit the AMOUNT of food you are eating, control the TYPE of food you are eating each meal. This kind of weight loss is difficult to measure on a scale because losing 5 lbs of pure fat takes about 6 weeks of dedication and your progress will seem miniscule, but 5 lbs of muscle is a pretty hug amount! If you are working with a trainer, they can measure your body fat percentage using calipers, ultrasound, or hydrostatic weighing. Monitoring your body fat percentage is a far better way to measure your weight loss progress than a scale.