What does it mean when you lose weight? Most people see the number on the scale go down and feel a sense of accomplishment, but there is so much more behind these numbers. If you lost 5 lbs, where did it come from? Was it body fat, muscle, or water? Ideally, we would all love to be burning pure body fat. This is never the case and it’s important to understand why. Let’s dive into what it really means to lose weight, what we are losing, and how we can change what we lose.

When our bodies are in a caloric deficit, we begin burning extra calories that we have stored. The first to go is glycogen which is stored carbohydrates. Storing glycogen requires a lot of water and burning the storage removes the water as well. This is what is referred to as ‘water weight.’ Your water weight can fluctuate daily because glycogen replenishes quickly. Glycogen is stored in muscle tissue so the more muscles you have, the more glycogen you can store, and ultimately, the more your water weight can fluctuate.

Once glycogen is gone, your body will begin to burn both fat and protein for energy. There will always be a combination of both getting burned, but the ratio is dependent on a number of factors. The first factor you must consider is your diet. Throughout the day, there is a constant need for protein to repair all of your organ systems. If you are not getting an adequate amount of protein in your diet, your body will take that protein from muscle. This is especially true if you aren’t exercising which you may recognize as loss of muscle mass. 

The amount of resistance training you are doing is the second factor in what gets burned for energy. Adding simple resistance exercises to your routine helps to shift to more fat burning than protein. Research has shown combining resistance training with a calorie deficit causes a greater reduction in body fat percentage. This is because resistance training pushes the muscles into building mode, causing you to add muscle instead of burning it. If the muscles can’t be used for excess energy, then your body has to use fat.

The last factor on whether you burn more fat or protein to consider is your genetics. Some people will naturally burn more body fat than others due to their genetics and this factor is obviously impossible to control. The  important thing is finding what works best for you as an individual.

Experiment with different dietary and exercise changes and see what makes the biggest difference for you. The best changes will always be sustainable changes. Here at Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic, our focus is on helping you find sustainable changes. At our Rochester, NY office, our nutritionist will help develop a plan that fits into your lifestyle. Give us a call to schedule a free consultation.