You lost the weight – what about this flabby extra skin?

By: Quinton de Bruin

As we set our sights on losing a truckload of weight and having this beach body that is tighter and more toned, we don't consider or picture the reality of extra loose skin. Not only have you put in the hard yards to cut down on that weight, now it seems there is another hurdle, being this skin that needs to disappear or tighten… and fast!

The good news is that you don't necessarily need surgery to get rid of this problem – skin can really tighten and show off your hard work. What we fail to consider when hitting the workouts hard is that the body we go into the start of a weight loss program with used to have tight skin over the bones and muscle, now it has been stretched and is accommodating a layer of fat under the skin. When you lose weight rather quickly the skin hasn't had a chance to shrink and wrap nice and tightly over those abs you have recently discovered! The good news is it can happen and with a few tips below, it will happen relatively quickly.

Is what we are worried about in fact skin or simply excess fat that is hanging on for dear life? We all have 'stubborn' deposits of fat that take longer to burn off than others. For men, this sits around the belly and for women it is usually the hips, thighs and butt. We spoke before that body part targeting of fat loss is unfortunately not an option, that is up to our body to decide where we will be losing the fat from. We need to determine whether it is a genuine case of extra skin or you are being misled by soft body fat instead.

To find out, pinch the body part where this appears, if you can grab more than a few millimetres of skin between your fingers, there is still fat to lose. This doesn't mean you don't have excess skin, it simply means there may be less work to do in that department. Another useful measure is that for men a body fat percentage below 10% and ladies below 20% indicates that the body fat is minimal and the looseness is likely skin.

To assist in getting this skin tighter, the first thing to do is to ensure you are getting enough protein in your diet. High protein intake among other things keeps the skin health and youthful. Protein foods such as cottage cheese, milk, nuts and fish contain collagen and elastin which are two necessary ingredients that keep the skin plump and elastic. Protein also helps with building more muscle and getting stronger. On the note of building muscle, when you reduce your body fat, building up your muscle mass assists in 'filling the gap' in behind the skin. So even though weights have helped you burn that fat away, a bit more will help to tighten the skin also.

A tip you can take on right now, is to up your water consumption. Staying hydrated is not only essential to your overall health but it also a critical component of maintaining skin elasticity.

There is also the prevention approach which means taking the extra skin factor into consideration when starting your program. You can avoid this flabby skin by aiming to lose weight slower (in the region of 1 kilogram per week). This gives the skin (which is an amazing organ) the time to shrink as your shape changes. Ensuring that your program includes exercise designed to increase your muscle mass (weight training) means you are replacing the fat store gap with muscle.

The bottom line then on loose skin after weight loss is to have a game plan that looks something like this:

1. Get really lean (10% body fat for men and 20% for women)

2. Build muscle

3. Eat a high-protein diet

4. Eat plenty of veggies and some fruit

5. Drink lots of water

The great thing is that over time this can all come back into shape. The time it will take is determined by how long you have been carrying the extra weight for. This of a balloon, when you first take it out it is tight and difficult to blow up, once it has been inflated it is a lot easier. When it has been inflated for some time, then it takes a bit longer to come back to its original shape.

The small print: now is probably a good time to encourage you to have a discussion about your personal situation with your doctor, a nutritionist and the Body and Motion trainers to work out how best to achieve any challenges you have in mind. The thoughts in these blogs are my own personal opinion and shouldn't be taken as direct advice. Some of the choices around what I consume or what activity I partake in may not be endorsed by Body and Motion. However, the team will always be keen enablers of your fitness goals! Talk to us today.


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