Healthy Weight Loss 101

Weight loss may result from fat loss, water loss or muscle loss and just numbers going down on scale can not be considered as a healthy weight loss. Keep reading to know the most sustainable weight loss approach.

By URLife Team
09 Mar 2024

Over the years, chances are most of us must have come across some trending fad or wacky weight loss tips, like having celery juice daily or relying on special "weight loss cookies" for meals. With so much advice flying around, if you’re someone trying to figure out what would work best for you and what is the most healthy way to lose weight, we’ve got some tips. Keep reading to understand the difference between fat loss and muscle loss and what is good for you. These well-researched, and evidence backed healthy weight loss tips are for those with the right mindset and a personal goal of weight loss.


Regardless of your motivation for pursuing weight loss, it's crucial to comprehend how to lose weight in a healthy manner. Learn about the physiology of fat and muscle loss, and explore safer methods to achieve weight loss.


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What Happens to the Body When You Start to Lose Weight?

When you start to lose weight, initial reductions often involve water weight as your body depletes glycogen stores. Glycogen stores are like energy reservoirs in your muscles and liver. Your body converts carbohydrates into glycogen, which it uses for quick energy. During weight loss, glycogen depletion often leads to initial water weight reduction. Followed by this, the body depletes extra fat. As your fat deposits decrease, metabolic processes release stored energy and the body functionality improves over the time.This can lead to changes in hormones and appetite regulation, improved insulin sensitivity, reducing inflammation, and positively impacting cardiovascular health.


Rapid weight loss can lead to muscle loss because the body may prioritise breaking down muscle tissue for energy in the absence of sufficient calorie intake. When you lose weight too quickly, especially through crash diets or extreme calorie restriction, the body responds by tapping into its protein reserves, which include muscle tissue. This not only compromises your muscle mass but can also slow down your metabolism, making it more challenging to sustain weight loss in the long run.


Consistent physical activity and a balanced diet are essential components of a healthy weight loss approach. Regular exercise, particularly a mix of cardiovascular and strength training, helps preserve lean muscle mass. Including an adequate amount of protein in your diet is crucial for muscle maintenance and repair. A balanced diet ensures you get the necessary nutrients for overall health and helps prevent nutrient deficiencies that might contribute to muscle loss. By combining these elements, you promote sustainable weight loss, preserving muscle mass and supporting your body's overall well-being.


Related Post: How Going Slow Can Help You With Weight Loss


A 2018 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that participants who lost weight due to calorie restriction had a reduction of their lower-extremity lean mass. In contrast, those who achieved weight loss due to exercise maintained their fat-free mass.


Occasionally, during weight loss, individuals reduce not only their fat levels but also muscle and fluid density. This can result in a reduction in lean body mass and adverse health implications.


According to a 2018 study published in Nutrients, the negative health implications of a loss of lean body mass could be

  • Lowered metabolism
  • Fatigue 
  • Declines in neuromuscular function
  • Interrupted emotional and psychological health
  • Increased risk of muscle injury


Moreover, the metabolic decline that occurs following a loss of lean body mass can regain fat mass and cause unfavourable changes in body composition.


Therefore, shedding excess weight and fat is crucial for steering clear of obesity and its associated health risks. Yet, it's equally vital to maintain lean body mass and muscle mass to ensure optimal bodily functioning.


Related Post: 5 Benefits of Exercise That Have Nothing To Do With Weight Loss


How to Achieve Healthy Weight Loss?

Healthy weight loss focuses on reducing body fat while preserving or even gaining lean mass. This is achieved through a combination of proper nutrition, regular physical activity, and a sustainable lifestyle.
According to a 2018 study, popular diets such as low carbohydrate, ketogenic, and high-fiber diets result in weight loss  as well as a reduction in lean body mass. However, a high-protein diet resulted in more fat loss and less lean mass loss.


To ensure fat loss and muscle preservation, it's crucial to create a moderate calorie deficit – consuming fewer calories than you expend – rather than opting for extreme calorie restrictions.


A well-balanced diet that includes an adequate amount of protein supports muscle maintenance and repair. Incorporating strength training exercises into your fitness routine helps build and preserve muscle mass while promoting fat loss. Consistency is key; gradual and steady progress is more sustainable and healthier than rapid weight loss. Additionally, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and managing stress contribute to an overall healthy approach to weight loss. Remember, the goal is not just to lose weight but to improve body composition for long-term well-being.


A 2021 article in Nutrients concludes that certain demographics, such as post-menopausal individuals, older adults, those with metabolic conditions, and athletes, may face a higher risk of losing fat-free mass while undergoing weight loss.


So, there is no one size fits all strategy and the best approach includes a comprehensive strategy of evidence-guided calorie and macronutrient intake and resistance exercise.


Related Post: Mistakes That Are Slowing Your Weight Loss Goals


3 Ways to Lose Fat While Maintaining or Gaining Muscle

Consume Plenty of Protein

Protein plays a crucial role in various body functions, including the production of enzymes for digestion, energy regulation, fluid balance, and support for the immune system. It's particularly important for preserving existing muscle and promoting new muscle growth, especially during weight loss.


According to a four-week study, young men followed a low-calorie diet with either 0.55 or 1.1 grams of protein per pound of body weight, combined with intense exercise training. Both groups lost significant weight, but those with a higher protein intake lost more fat mass and gained more muscle.


This study highlighted the impact of high-intensity resistance exercise paired with a protein-rich recovery snack. It emphasised the importance of maintaining a calorie deficit with limited fat intake while consuming sufficient carbs for exercise fuel.


For those who cannot afford the time for weight training, incorporating ample protein into a reduced-calorie diet may not necessarily help you gain muscle, but it can assist in preserving muscle and help with fat loss.


Incorporate Exercise

Exercise is known to be the most effective way to encourage fat loss rather than muscle loss.


As per the 2018 study published in Nutrients, resistance training prevents muscle loss induced by caloric restriction in obese elderly individuals.


The study concluded that older adults with obesity who engaged in cardio and weight training at least 3 times per week while following a calorie-restricted diet retained 93% more of their muscle than those who did not exercise.


Undoubtedly, relying on exercise alone is a successful approach for preserving muscle mass during dieting. However, enhancing your results can be achieved by combining exercise with increased protein intake.


Related Post: Fat Loss Vs Weight Loss : Which Is Right For You?


Follow a Reduced Caloric Diet 

By consuming fewer calories than your body expends, you create a calorie deficit. Your  body begins to use stored energy, which often includes burning fat for fuel. It's important to strike a balance by reducing calories sensibly, ensuring you still meet your nutritional needs. Aim to moderately reduce the number of calories you consume by 500–600 per day to minimise muscle loss while still facilitating fat loss.


Research suggests that consuming fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy may help achieve weight loss and maintenance.


This approach, combined with a healthy diet and regular physical activity, can contribute to gradual and sustainable weight loss over time. Remember, it's not just about eating less but making nutritious choices to support overall well-being.


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


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