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How Do I Know If I'm Losing Muscle Mass Vs. Fat?

author image Cheryl Grace Myers
Cheryl Myers has has a master's degree from Saint Leo University and currently writes for several publications including Fit Pregnancy, Guideposts and Parent's Magazine.
How Do I Know If I'm Losing Muscle Mass Vs. Fat?
Waist measurement can tell you if you are losing fat. Photo Credit Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

Your weight might be decreasing, according to your scale, but you want to know if you are losing body fat or muscle mass. Your scale reading doesn’t always give you the confidence you need about your weight-loss success. You can take an educated guess on how well you are doing on your new weight-loss program. There are three ways to track your progress: Analyze your symptoms, review your eating and exercise patterns, and recognize the signs of weight loss.

Step 1

Use a body fat analyzer to see if you are losing fat rather than muscle. A fat analyzer is a non-invasive tool with a digital screen that will tell you how much body fat you have. You need to use the tool before your new diet or exercise program starts so you have a benchmark or point of reference to compare your progress. Some of the input information you need to answer for the fat analyzer is your gender, weight, height and activity level. Refer to the analyzer’s user manual for proper operation.

Step 2

Take off your shirt and measure your waist with a tape measure before breakfast each morning. Where your body stores fat varies and depends on a variety of influences such as body type and hereditary factors. However, the stomach is a common problem area where fat accumulates. If your waist measurement decreases, it ensures you are losing stomach fat. A tape measurement is a more accurate display of fat-loss progress, but you might notice that your clothes are looser and fit better in the waist.

Step 3

Track your exercise patterns. If you are participating in more cardiovascular exercises than strength-training exercises and have adequate protein intake, you can safely assume you are losing body fat.

Step 4

Keep an eye on your diet. A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet improves body composition by helping you to lose fat and gain muscle, according to a 2005 study conducted at the University of Illinois in Urbana, protein not only helps repair and build muscle mass but also prevents muscle loss. If you are losing weight and following a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, you can be sure you are losing fat rather than muscle mass.

Step 5

Take note of your energy levels. If your body is burning fat for fuel, your energy levels and moods are stable. When your body runs on carbohydrates for fuel, you tend to feel the energy and mood swings throughout the day.

Step 6

Weigh yourself on a scale. This is not the most accurate method of determining your weight loss, but when taking all the other factors into consideration, such as waist measurement, diet and exercise patters, mood or energy levels, and results of fat analysis, you can value the number given on the scale when it reads a lower weight.

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