Hey Angels and Alphas,
As people age, there is a certain amount of lean muscle and function less that occurs during a process called sarcopenia. It starts in your 30s, and it picks up steam with every decade. Although this is a completely normal progression, there are a couple of actions you can take to either speed it up… or slow it down.
For example, being sedentary for a long period of time can give sarcopenia a boost, causing a loss in lean muscle mass when compared to someone who stays active.
And you know what’s another big fuel for sarcopenia? Yo-yo dieting.
Studies have suggested that weight cycling can have a horrible ripple effect on your strength and function. We’ve already highlighted how yo-yo cycles are tough on your health in a variety of ways (specifically your hormones, heart, and metabolism.)
Now, we can add muscle loss to that list.
In one of those studies, researchers have looked at about 200 people with a mean age of 52 and an average BMI of 38. They were basically categorized into three groups:
- People who don’t cycle weight
- People who cycle weight
- People who cycle weight a lot (more than 5 cycles in their life)
Cycling of weight was defined as a voluntary loss of weight of more than 6 pounds, followed by an involuntary weight gain of the same amount… within a year.
Although using BMI as a measure has had some significant limitations, the actual point of the study was to examine the loss of muscle rather than just BMI averages. That means researchers have looked beyond the scale and average BMIs and have actually measured muscle strength through things such as handgrip exercises, bone mineral density, and percentage of lean muscle to fat mass.
They found that the more weight cycling someone did, the higher the risk of low muscle mass. The people who did not cycle weight experienced the least amount of muscle mass loss.
Basically, if the study participants had stayed at the same weight, even if they were technically overweight, they would have had less muscle mass loss. According to most experts, this is because of how the body tends to put that weight back on.
When you regain some weight, you’re almost always adding more fat than you usually had. This can be problematic for the people who lose muscle mass when they lose weight (which is something common with crash diets or significant calorie restriction.) When the weight comes back on, the muscle doesn’t come back with it.
What does this mean for you?
Most people hate adding more fat back on because of how it looks and feels. But what’s worse is how this affects your body.
Fat mass can actually prevent amino acids from working properly within your muscle tissues. Basically, you don’t synthesize protein as well as you would without the same amount of fat mass. This means your muscles aren’t getting what they need to maintain or build strength.
That can put you at a higher risk for a condition called sarcopenic obesity. And this can get worse and worse if the cycle of yo-yo dieting continues.
But here’s some more bad news: yo-yo dieting will tend to build up that fat you always regain easily in your midsection. This is called visceral fat, the more “dangerous” type of fat that wraps around your vital organs, and it’s directly linked to conditions such as stroke and heart disease.
With yo-yo dieting, you might think you’ll be putting on more time and energy into getting healthier, but you’ll only end up less healthy than you started.
Here’s what we can do about it:
Given the massive amount of evidence about the dangers of cycling weight – including it literally shortening your life – it makes sense that you would completely drop yo-yo dieting and focus on the slow-and-sustainable route instead.
Obviously, you should be focusing on just building good habits and staying within your calorie means, as well as tracking your progress with a journal or an app. But what you’re eating should be only one part of your overall plan for weight loss.
So not only should you drop yo-yo dieting altogether, but you should also focus on getting enough sleep, hydrating more, de-stressing, training your strength and endurance, and finally, just being patient. Stay away from episodes of cycling weight, but this will be much better for you and your health in the long term.