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I'm an 18 year old male, who, although not unhealthy weight (originally 182 lbs) saw that too much of was in fat. Also for the past two years or so I have been doing crunches fairly regularly, and thought that reducing my overall fat might result in a nice six pack or something like it.

So now, jump to about a week ago, I got serious about this and started to increase my running (from a few miles a couple days a week to daily at 4 miles) and increase my ab workout slightly. Most radically though, I restructured my diet a lot. Before I would eats lots of relatively healthy food (pasta, yogurt, salmon, whole grain bread), and eat it till I was stuffed. Now I just eat a sorta predetermined small increment of food (usually based around salmon, yogurt, or eggs with some carbs/veggies) at each meal time, and outside of that I snack on vegetables and some fruits.

So with this strategy for about a week, it seems I have lost 7 pounds, with a fairly constant rate of about one pound each day (weighing myself each morning). I don't have a particular weight goal, just an overall reduction in body fat (which I don't have a direct way of measuring except looking down at my stomach :P) I don't think much of it is water weight (I always pee clear!)

So I suppose my primary question is how unhealthy is that sort of weight loss? It seems looking around most sources quote around 5 pounds a month as healthy... My primary worry is that loosing too much means that more of the loss is coming from muscle mass. I don't want to sacrifice all the work I've put in on my abs! Or will the fact that much of my diet is protein (~50%) protect my muscles somewhat? Other than that, so far, I feel great and have more energy than I have had in a while!

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1 Answer 1

Unhealthy weight loss is where:

  • You lose muscle mass
  • You don't provide enough nutrition to recover
  • You intentionally lose as much of your water weight at once.

By your description of your diet, it looks as if it is made up of the right stuff. The only question is if it is enough. As long as you have enough protein, it would be sufficient to protect you from the first bullet point. This article suggests that you won't use more than 0.65g of protein per pound body weight--or if you are genetically gifted, .82g of protein per pound body weight.

As far as point 2 is concerned, as long as your performance is not regressing, you have enough Calories to support your level of activity. Many weight lifters will experience a drop in the max they can lift while dieting, but I'm talking about either a sudden drop in performance or each time you exercise you continually drop performance.

On the last point, this is where people don't have sufficient water, where sweats while exercising, sit in the sauna to sweat out the water that they have, etc. Linked is an article that goes into more depth with this sort of thing. However, the more you lose the more it affects your performance in your match/competition. This article suggests that the max you should ever try to lose with this approach is 5% of your body weight.

So what's going on?

It's hard to say, but any time you change your eating habits, the first weight to come off is water weight. It's not unhealthy levels of water weight, but if you've significantly reduced your sodium intake and the amount of inflammatory foods you eat, your body will let go of the excess water that it no longer needs.

If you are having fewer than 125g of carbs a day, the next source of weight loss will likely be the glycogen stores. Depending on your body weight, this can be as much as 5lbs worth of weight. This is the reserve energy your muscles have.

Finally, as your body breaks down fat and burns it, the byproducts are urinated out. This will continue for a good while until your body finds a new equilibrium known as homeostasis. In order to keep losing weight, you will have to cycle through different approaches to keep it from reaching that equilibrium before you hit your goal weight. Also, at 185lb, you may consider increasing your muscle mass rather than just focusing on fat loss. This can happen rather rapidly.

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