5

Inspired by reading this site (👍) I started a calory deficit combined with strength training for some months and tracked my weight and body circumferences.

I see that I keep losing weight while my circumference plateaus.

Could it be that I lose muscle? Are there any indicators to tell if I lose muscle except expensive body fat percentage measurements?


As I have seen in other questions that lack of concrete background is often critized, so I try my best

This is a record of

  • my weight in kg (yellow curve),
  • the smallest possible circumference just below my thorax when I retract it as much as I can (W1 purple), and
  • the largest possible circumference when I push my belly out (W2 green).

Please ignore the big jump around 11.09. for weight due to recalibrating my scale.

enter image description here

In addition I was at 21% body fat at the beginning of the record (the less inaccurate of electronic measurements where you have to hold two handles).

Background:

I am 39 years, male, 173cm tall, working in IT, i.e. sitting all time.

My initial state (1 month before record starts) was:

lifestyle: quite unhealthy regarding nutrition and involved no sport (maybe except occasional bike commutes 2 times a 20min per week).

I didn't feel bad about or had any health issues though.

E.g. I had 5 junk food meals and 8 alcoholic drinks per week, drank sugary sodas daily, ate chips etc.

physique: weak and some belly and love handle fat (aka skinny fat)

At day X (1 month before record starts) I decided to to get rid of my belly fat and adapted the following changes quite consistently:

food:

  • no sugary sodas, no juice
  • eating almost zero processed or sugary foods, exceptions being (1) having a handful of quinoa for breakfast, and
  • (2) using moderate amounts of processed, sugary spice sauces to add taste to roasted vegetabes
  • eating much more vegetables
  • eating very low carb including almost zero simple carbs, cut out bread, white rice, wheat pasta etc.
  • also my complex carb intake lower than my total carb intake was before. I only eat brown rice and pasta as minor addition to veggies less than once a day
  • eating much more protein in form of salmon, thuna, chicken, eggs and protein-rich vegetables
  • therefor shifted away from other darker meats
  • eating fats quite tolerantly but almost only in form of non processed plant oils (sesame, olive).
  • eating only until I'm full or even staing a bit hungry
  • max. 1 cheat meal per week, where these roles don't apply

sports:

  • started gym cycle training with machines (not real weights, but those which simulate weights)

I do 2 sessions a week, a session being 4 cycles of 6 exercises. every exercise is 1:00 active plus 0:30 rest. I do these with the heaviest loads I can handle with proper form and as slowly as possible, e.g. for butterflies I do 4 reps in the 1:30 window. the training really feels exhausting.

Also I have to say that I had a quite intense phase of bicycle cardio in the unrecorded phase between day X and record start. I'm not sure if that might be relevant for the question.


Any help and comments are strongly appreciated :)


Edit: While answer given below is perfectly fine, the concrete solution to my problem was something they couldn't tell, but I can now and add it here:

I later found that the fat went away from other regions not included in my waist measurements, especially my butt and legs. Did need some time to find this out as it is not visible in the mirror from a frontal perspective


Also, risking to be offtopic, I'd just like to add this: Just did a second BF measurement and it turned out I got down from 21% to 13% body fat without loosing any muscle (and even gaining a bit) in a couple months. This is mainly due to the valuable information I got from reading through this community, so I just wanted to say "thank You" again 👍.

3
  • 1
    Btw machines are real weights :) don't underestimate them as tools for stimulating muscle.
    – Luciano
    Oct 10, 2023 at 13:27
  • 1
    Yeah I agree. I'd even go further and say for hypertrophy, machines are generally superior. Smaller, easier increments allow for easier progressive overload and the fixed path of machines creates more stability allowing better isolation and often better range of motion. Of course that's only if bodybuilding and hypertrophy is your goal, if you want to get strong and have a heavy bench, obviously you got to do bench press.
    – Ethan
    Jan 1 at 13:08
  • 1
    ...plus pivots and pulleys provide even and consistent resistance profiles that free weights and gravity cannot.
    – Ethan
    Jan 1 at 13:09

1 Answer 1

3

In my opinion, the most important metric for muscle growth is performance I.e tracking strength increase. Muscle mass and strength are not perfectly correlated, but it gives you a decent idea of if, and how well, muscles are growing.

To know specifically if you are losing fat, of course a weighing scale doesn't not difference between fat and muscle, so the only way is to measure body fat percentage. The skinfold caliper test is more accurate but more expensive amd harder to find, whereas as the BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) test is cheaper easier to find (found in most gyms), but isn't as accurate. If you're a bodybuilder accuracy is important bit for an average person getting into shape they provide decent enough representation of bodyfat percentage to usefully gauge whether you're losing fat or muscle, and how much your losing.

Personally I believe all you need is a mirror and the ability to track your calories and macro's. If you're eating plenty of protein, in a calorie deficit but not too extreme, and training regularly there's not reason you shouldn't be losing weight and maintaining if not gaining muscle.

6
  • Thanks for Your feedback. I do indeed feel like getting stronger, but lack the experience of knowing if that is significant: I increased the weights by around +2.5 kg over the first 2 months.
    – donde
    Oct 8, 2023 at 17:38
  • when You say "If you're eating plenty of protein, in a calorie deficit but not too extreme, and training regularly there's not reason you should be losing weight and maintaining if not gaining muscle." did You mean "If you're eating plenty of protein, in a calorie deficit but not too extreme, and training regularly there's not reason you should NOT be losing weight and maintaining if not gaining muscle."?
    – donde
    Oct 8, 2023 at 17:38
  • Yes, thank you, that's what I meant. The answer has been edited.
    – Ethan
    Oct 9, 2023 at 12:11
  • 1
    re: mirror : I'd include taking a photo every 2 weeks with the same light, it's easier and more objective to track progress by comparing photos.
    – Luciano
    Oct 10, 2023 at 13:24
  • 1
    Thank You, I later found that the fat went away from other regions not included in my waist measurements, especially my butt and legs. Did need some time to find this out as it is not visible in the mirror from a frontal perspective.
    – donde
    Jan 1 at 9:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.