Have you heard of the term catabolism? If not, please read on. This is an important biological fact to understand when it comes to the topic of weight loss, information you need so that you can choose a healthy weight loss plan, rather than an unhealthy, quick weight-loss diet.

Catabolism simply means that your body consumes your lean muscle tissue for energy (read this for molecular info). Doesn’t sound appetizing, does it? Especially when you consider that a large component of having a strong, healthy body includes your lean muscles! Think about it: do you desire a thin, skinny, weak body, or a healthy, trim, lean, strong body? I am definitely striving for option #2!

Please don’t be taken in by the fact that you can lose a lot of weight very quickly be eating a high protein, low or no carb diet. Remember that much of that weight you lose will be your muscle tissue. Believe me, you want to lose fat from your body, not muscle! Muscle actually helps to burn fat, so the more of it that you lose, the less effective your body will be at burning fat.

Conversely, this is also a reason to engage in strength training in addition to regular cardio workouts. You don’t need to become muscle bound, but you do want to gain muscle tone in order to gain more fat burning power.

So how does catabolism occur in your body? When you choose a high-protein diet that practically eliminates all carbohydrates, then your body starts “eating” your lean muscle tissue to obtain glucose, glucose that would normally be supplied through carbohydrates. However, since you aren’t eating carbs and are instead eating large amounts of protein, catabolism will be the result.

You see, contrary to popular belief, carbs aren’t “bad”, your body needs them to function properly. However, please do not confuse healthy carbs with unhealthy carbs. Your body will obtain glucose from healthy carbs such as whole grains (I like regular oatmeal, not quick cooking, they’re too processed), sweet potatoes, rice, or bananas. There is an extremely large difference between ingesting healthy, whole carbs, and simple carbs, such as sugared, floured, processed carbs. Those simple, processed carbs convert to sugar almost immediately, which spikes your insulin level and slows your metabolism; not good for weight loss! 😉

Please note, that even whole carbs still break down into sugar (glucose) in your bloodstream, however they do not create an instant insulin spike, hence they aren’t slowing down your metabolism. This is a very important point to understand if you are interested in weight loss. You’ll want to keep your metabolism up and burning if you want to lose weight, and you will do so by eating whole carbs (with a protein) in order to avoid a spike in your insulin level, and by building muscle (and keeping it!).

Besides the fact that those processed, simple carbs will slow your metabolism, and therefore your weight loss, they can also lead you down the path towards a binge since they contain addictive ingredients (processed sugar and flour). That is a different topic, however it is just another reason to stay away from processed, pre-packaged, sugared, floured, and fatted food; that food might taste sweet, but it just isn’t going to help your metabolism and weight loss, much less your health.

You can avoid catabolism from occurring in your body by choosing a daily diet containing not only lean protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, but also moderate amounts of whole, healthy carbs. It is best to eat those carbs (such as a potato) with a protein, since you could still spike your insulin levels by eating carbs alone. Just make sure that you don’t eliminate carbs all together.

If you’d like a recommendation for a healthy eating and exercise plan that will help you lose weight and not cause catabolism in your body, I highly recommend the Six Week Body Makeover plan by Michael Thurmond. You can read this post for more information, or find it in the eMiniMall below: