Why Losing Fat May Make You Look Fatter
I’ve seen this time and time again when people begin their fat loss journey. At some point while shedding the pounds, it is very possible that you may end up looking a bit flabbier than you previously did.
First off… DON’T PANIC!!
We’re going to talk about why this happens and what to do about it.
Why You Might Look Chubbier
A calorie deficit is king when it comes to fat loss. You MUST take in less calories than you burn to shed the unsightly fat.
This cannot be avoided.
However, when you are in a good calorie deficit, your muscles can also deplete their glycogen (Glycogen is essentially the carbohydrate fuel stored in your muscles for activity).
When your muscles are full of glycogen, you look more full and powerful.
When depleted of glycogen, your muscles can look flatter.
Think of it like filling a tire with air. The tire hasn’t lost material (muscle), it just has less air (glycogen).
Now this is crucial because when your muscles are depleted of glycogen due to your calorie deficit, it creates an effect where you look like you have less muscle relative to your body fat… This means you will appear fatter than you actually are.
Glycogen Depletion Rate Compared to Fat Loss Rate
You know how some people claim to have lost 5-10 pounds during their first week of dieting? This is due to a combination of water weight AND glycogen. Water and glycogen bind together in your muscles and are stored there. When you start dieting, this glycogen and water combo gets depleted and your muscle volume plummets.
They may have also lost a few pounds of fat as well, but it ‘looks’ like they have gained fat even though the scale says otherwise.
The mirror can be very deceiving.
Glycogen and Muscle Mass
Your body can only store so much glycogen which means it has a limited amount of glycogen you lose. Your glycogen stores do deplete rapidly while dieting, but do not worry!
As long as you are strength training, you will preserve muscle mass. Ever see someone with an arm in a cast? When the arm is done being in the cast, it is considerably smaller and has lost muscle. Why? Because it wasn’t being used!
So make sure to strength train while dieting. When you are finishing cutting fat and go back to eating a maintenance your muscles will fill back up.
So no worries!!
When you Will Appear Leaner
When your fat loss exceeds the weight you’ve lost in glycogen and water weight, then you will finally start showing the fat loss you’ve achieved.
The first month or so can be a rough patch for a lot of people. Especially if you are basing your success by what you see in the mirror.
Don’t become discouraged!
This is only temporary and after that short visible road block you will start to see for yourself that you have in fact lost fat.
When you are Lean Enough
Listen, you want to look lean and defined even with your muscles depleted. This is a great indicator to know that you have achieved an ideal state. That way, once you go back to eating at maintenance your muscles will fill out, making you look even better!
Wrapping It up
That first month or so of dieting can be rough. Especially because according to the mirror, you may look worse. Don’t lose heart!
Measure your waist and use the scale. These two are a powerful combination for keeping track of fat loss.
You WILL look better visibly, it just takes time for your fat loss to exceed your glycogen/water loss.
Once that happens, the mirror will start to show you what the scales and waist measurements have been telling you. That you have achieved significant fat loss!