Which Weighs More,
a Pound of Muscle or a Pound of Fat?
Trick question? I think not. Well, obviously a pound weighs a pound so literally speaking I guess it’s a trick, but this question is intended to help me make a very profound point. As you strength train to condition and grow your muscle while simultaneously losing fat, the number on the scales may not show a big change. Here’s the thing though, your body’s appearance will change, your clothes will begin to fit better, and your friends and loved ones will begin to notice how awesome you are looking!
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That’s because you are doing much more than losing weight. You are manipulating and improving your “body composition.” You see muscle is denser than fat and so it takes up less space. That is why a 140-lb person with 18% body fat will look thinner and healthier than a 120-lb person with 30% body fat. Make sense?
This is also why I tell my clients not to freak out over what the scales say, especially in the beginning phases of implementing strength training into a total fitness plan that includes cardiovascular/aerobic exercise and proper nutrition. In fact, you should pay more attention to your body fat percentage than you do the scales. At the very least you should never weigh more than once a week and consider girth measurements along with your body fat percentage to better track your progress.
So just what is body composition, you ask?
is the makeup of the body in terms of the relative percentage of fat-free mass and body fat. Your weight on a scale consists of two dimensions: (1) body fat or adipose tissue; and (2) fat-free weight or muscles, bones, blood, organs, etc. Fat-free weight represents all the rest of the body’s weight, excluding fat, i.e., muscles, bones, organs, and nervous tissue.
Body fat is the body’s primary reserve of stored energy and is stored as triglycerides both in fat (adipose) cells located between the skin and muscles all over the body, as well as within skeletal muscles. Percent body fat represents the percentage of total body weight that is carried as fat.
In my humble opinion, this information renders the height-weight tables of yesteryear obsolete, or at the very least inconsistent and inaccurate, since they do not take a person’s body composition into consideration. For instance, a bodybuilder could be considered obese according to those charts. Likewise, a person who is well within the accepted range may be over-fat by body composition standards.
Perhaps equally unreliable is the BMI (Body Mass Index). I rate that a close second when it comes to numbers that freak people out. Like the height-weight chart, the BMI uses total body weight in its calculation, and, therefore, does not discriminate between over-fat and athletic or more muscular body types, rendering it an inaccurate number as far as I am concerned.
So we have three widely used standard assessments, all utilizing the same flawed protocol. The scales (unless they are the kind that give body fat percentage), the height-weight charts, and lastly the BMI do not take body composition into account; consequently, they DO NOT give an accurate picture of your level of health and fitness.
However, these numbers can serve a very useful purpose. They can give you a baseline number to use to track your progress. In some instances if they are way high, they can also serve as a wake-up call that you need to get yourself in gear and start a health and fitness plan. If they get your attention and help prod you into action, then maybe they're not all that bad. And like I said, they can be used as a number to watch change as you implement your new and improved lifestyle choices, i.e., cardio training, weight training, healthy food choices and such.
If you’d like to know what your BMI is, you can go to my
Body Composition page
and check your BMI by entering your height and weight.
How much fat does one need? In general, the body-fat percentage of a fit individual falls in the range of 21% to 24% for women and 14% to 17% for men. For a more specific range see the charts on the aforementioned page by clicking on the body composition link above. As you can see, achieving and maintaining a healthy body composition is an important part of health and fitness.
EXERCISE OF THE MONTH
This month's featured exercise is the Assisted Pullups or the Assisted Dip. I would be willing to bet that if you have never seen or used this machine that it intimidates the crap out of you. Am I right? Hence, this little part of my newsletter will make this also your very, very lucky day. Because this machine is so awesome that you definitely need to be using it in your routine! Nothing will help with your back development like a well-executed pullup. Unfortunately, most people do not possess enough upper body strength to do them sufficiently. The same goes for arm and chest development and dips. Well...(drumroll please...) thanks to this nifty machine literally anybody can do a pullup or a dip.
Pullup/Dip Assist Machine
Muscle Groups Worked Pullups: Lats, Middle back, Biceps.
Muscle Groups Worked Dips: Triceps, Chest, Shoulders. Click
for a video of how to use this most awesome machine.
TIP: Remember, the weight that you select will be the amount of assistance that you receive...not the weight that you are lifting. In other words, the weaker you are, the more assistance you will need. Hence, therefore, and thusly, the heavier weight that you select, the easier the exercise will be. Got it? Good! Now get to the gym and try it out! Enjoy!
THE PONDER POND
Okay, peeps! This is the inspirational part of the newsletter known as the "Ponder Pond" where you're welcome to take a swim in the sweet waters of inspiration.
This month's video
is a complete switch-up from my normal touchy/feely vids. I happened upon this video and absolutely LOVED it and had to share it with you today. All this stuff is super-annoying and should be avoided at all cost during your gym-membership career. I thank you, and all those who share the gym with you will also thank you.
TO BUY MY BOOKS OR READ MY BLOG
Be sure and check out my new blog site! Just
to head on over and give it a read! I will be posting a new blog in the next few weeks.
Please sign up for my mailing list and subscribe to my blog so that you can be informed when I post a new blog. I am a believer in less is more so don't worry about being inundated with posts telling you every time I had a snack or a new thought. On the other hand, I hope you find the wait between posts worthwhile as I plan to speak directly from my "writing" soul and I look greatly forward to it.
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Thanks so much for subscribing to this newsletter and for reading it and for your support. Our relationship is reciprocal as I live and learn from all that happens in my life, just as you live and learn through yours. We are truly in this together, and I empathize with your challenges as I do my own. I promise to hang in there and learn and grow along with you, and I hope that sharing through my writing maybe helps you a smidge. If it does, that is my payback. It is why I continue to do what I do.
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From my heart to your health,
Linda Burke, CPT