Lose the Scale, but Watch Your Clothes

More muscle mass, less body fat true fitness goal

Sheri Colberg-OchsBy Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD

Diabetes management and prevention often revolve around losing weight as the cure. However, the emphasis on weight loss alone is misguided for several reasons, and you should instead monitor the beneficial changes in your body composition (i.e., lower body fat, greater muscle mass).

Your scale weight often does not tell you the whole story.For example, engaging in regular planned exercise can lead to muscle mass enhancements and overall weight gain, not loss, even though you lose fat. Muscle mass is the tissue where you can store the most glucose/carbs as glycogen, so having more definitely benefits your carb storage capacity and insulin action. I personally have had many research subjects who start aerobic and/or resistance training workouts and gain rather than lose weight, at least initially, due to their expanding muscle mass. Their body composition is changing for the better, though, and they actually have more muscle mass and less body fat as a result of the training (and usually better blood glucose control).
Exercising alone should not give you a free pass to eat everything in sight, however. It is entirely possible to overeat and overbalance the calories you expend during exercise by treating yourself afterwards (although that is not the usual reason for the scale weight increase with training).Most people expend 300-600 calories per hour of aerobic work, but can unknowingly eat more calories than expended in an hour of exercise when consuming even just a small order of French fries.On the flip side, you can potentially expend more energy moving more all day than just during gym or planned workouts, so the real key to ultimate weight loss through physical activity is to spend the rest of the day taking extra steps and doing more spontaneous physical movement.

Diet Without Exercise?

It's also a bad idea to diet without exercising regularly. Why? Emphasizing weight loss alone without exercise is likely to cause you to lose muscle mass along with fat, leaving you with less muscle and a lower metabolic rate when you're done.If you regain the weight (like 90-95% of people eventually do), you will end up with a higher percent of body fat than if you had never lost any weight in the first place, along with higher blood sugar levels when you do eat carbs.

Muscle mass gains from resistance work with weights or bands may be of greater importance for diabetes control and prevention and pre-diabetes reversal, particularly if you're currently sedentary. In one study on people with type 2 diabetes, 4-6 weeks of moderate (40-50 percent of maximal) resistance training improved their insulin sensitivity by 48 percent, even without causing any measurable changes in their body fat. Similarly, men newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes doing 16 weeks of progressive resistance training just twice a week gained muscle mass, lost body fat, and greatly enhanced their insulin action all while eating 15 percent more daily calories.



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Last Modified Date: June 24, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
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