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Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss
Dieting without exercise will result in a loss of muscle tissue as well as fat. When most people say they need to lose weight, they are really wanting to lose fat. When on a calorie deficit, your body operates on a “use it or lose it” approach. It will dip into your fat stores and use them for energy, but it will also look for other ways to reduce your overall energy needs. It takes energy (calories) to maintain your existing muscles, so if you’re not using them, your body will begin to get rid of them.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! You will still have enough muscle to move normally and complete daily activities, and you may not even notice the muscle loss. However, your raw strength will decrease. You may find lifting heavy objects more difficult.
Losing Fat While Maintaining Muscle
If you want to lose fat while maintaining your muscle, you’ll need to make sure that you incorporate exercise into your weight loss plan. You’ll also need to make sure you eat enough protein.
Both cardiovascular exercise (running, swimming) and resistance training (weights, cable machines, body weight exercise) will help you lose fat while maintaining muscle.
The additional benefit of maintaining your muscle is that your body will be forced to burn more fat for energy, since it can’t reduce your energy needs through losing muscle mass.
Defining Your Goals
Again, muscle loss isn’t necessarily something to worry about. You may not even notice muscle loss because your body is lighter and no longer requires as much muscle to perform everyday actions.
However, if your goal is better fitness and overall health, or you are trying to achieve a more toned or curvy look rather than a skinny physique, you should incorporate exercise into your weight loss plan. Remember, it’s up to you and what you want. Make sure your plan is aligned with your goals.