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How To End The Cycle of Starting Over

By | Blog, Body Composition

How many times have you started working out? How many times have you started a new program by feeling excited, committed, and confident that this will be the time you finally get the body you’ve always wanted?

So you start, and a month goes by, then two, then three.  Everything’s going well until one day, something comes up and you have to skip a gym day.  “No big deal. It’s just one day”, you say.

Then you lose your momentum and start skipping a gym day here and there every couple of weeks. “I’ll make it up next week,” you say.

Then eventually, you start going one day a week less, until before you know it, you’ve stopped going completely. “I’m just too busy,” you say.

Why do people quit the gym? If the above story sounds like you, you’re not alone: lack of time/being busy is one of the most frequently quoted reasons for quitting the gym.

But for many of us, it’s not that we don’t have the time: it’s that we’re not seeing any immediate return on the time spent exercising and so we give up.

Time is valuable, and if we’re not getting any positive results from spending it at the gym (or anywhere for that matter), we will put our time elsewhere in activities where we do get results.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could end the cycle of start-stop, start-stop?  Whether you’re on your first fitness journey or your fifteenth, here are some important things to consider to make sure the time you spend on your fitness is well spent so you never have to start over again.

1. Commit to the Gym AND a Diet

Ever hear the expression, “6-pack abs are made in the kitchen?” It’s true: working out alone doesn’t mean much if you don’t also take control of your diet.  If your goal is weight loss, you need to burn more calories than you take in.  Yes, that means keeping track of your calories.

It gets really hard to stick with the gym when you aren’t seeing results after a couple of months.  That’s because if you’re doing everything right and being consistent, you should be seeing progress.

But before you get too frustrated, know this: counting calories works and it’s not that hard if you can get a sense of how many calories your body needs.  You can do that with the following steps.

1. At your gym or doctor’s office, get your body composition analyzed.  For counting calories, what you need to get is your Lean Body Mass (sometimes called Fat-Free Mass) and body fat percentage.

2. Use your body fat percentage to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate, the number of calories your body needs to support itself, excluding the energy needed to move and do work.  You can do that with this online calculator.

3. Once you have your BMR, you need to use it estimate how many calories your body uses in a day, including activity/exercise. That’s called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). You’ll need to multiply BMR with an Activity Factor that best reflects how active you are. Those activity factors are:

 

 4) With your TDEE in hand, now you have a much better idea about how many calories your body needs to maintain itself.  You need to adjust your caloric intake to your goals.  You must reduce your daily calories to be under this TDEE and be consistent if you want to lose fat.

To gain muscle, although everyone agrees that you need to exceed your TDEE, the amount necessary remains difficult to accurately determine. One study of bodybuilders reports you’ll need to exceed it by about 15%., whereas the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends an overall caloric increase of between 300-500 calories a day.]

2. Measure Success By Tracking Changes In Your Body

It seems logical to use a scale to track your progress.  You probably have one at home, and since you’re expecting to see weight loss changes, it makes sense to use it to track your progress.  However, using a scale can give you a false impression of your progress that can leave you feeling discouraged, or worse – make you think you’re not getting results when you actually are!

  • Your muscle gains can influence your weight change.

If you’re new to the gym and you start incorporating some strength training in your routine, you’ll likely start gaining some muscle while you lose fat.  Your muscle gains might not completely offset your fat loss gains, but they will influence your scale weight and make it seem like you aren’t making any progress when you actually are.

In this above example, this person increased their Skeletal Muscle Mass and decreased their Fat Mass.  If the muscle gains are greater than the fat losses, this can lead to an overall weight and BMI increase.  

However, this leads to an overall reduction in both body fat mass and body fat percentage.  This means that even with increased weight, overall fitness and physical appearance will improve.

  • Your diet is affecting your water retention.

If you’re on a diet, especially one that’s restrictive on calories and carbohydrates, you’re likely going to see some noticeable changes in your weight right away – but then they’ll stop.  No, you’re not hitting some kind of wall or plateau: you just experienced initial water weight loss is all.

This happens because by cutting carbohydrates out of your diet, you’re also cutting out glycogen – the energy molecule provided by carbohydrates.  Glycogen has a very interesting attribute: 3-4 grams of water bond to each molecule of glycogen.  So, when you start cutting carbs out of your diet, you’re also cutting out the excess water.

3. Set Reasonable Goals

Not seeing results after a lot of time and energy invested at the gym and in your diet is very frustrating.  However, you can let go of a lot of this frustration by setting reasonable goals.

  • Reasonable Fat Loss

First off, you can’t expect any reasonable fat loss without being in a caloric deficit – using more energy than you’re eating.  Without having an estimate of your TDEE, you’re going to be doing the fitness equivalent of grasping in the dark.

Once you have an estimate of your TDEE, you can set a reasonable caloric deficit to achieve measurable fat loss.  Although there is some variation, most experts and resources, including the Centers for Disease Control, agree that a caloric deficit of about 500 calories each day equaling to 3,500 calories a week will result in a pound of fat loss per week.

This means there’s good news and bad news.  The bad news is that 1 pound of fat a week might be a little slower than you might have hoped for.

The good news is that this 1 pound of fat is a real pound gone, and as long as you don’t fall back into habits with poor diet and little activity, you can keep off that pound of fat even after you reach your goal.

  • Reasonable Muscle Gain

Any discussion about how much muscle you can gain and how fast you can gain it invariably brings up discussion of your genetic threshold.  It’s widely understood that you can’t (naturally) gain muscle at a constant rate forever and that beginner lifters gain more muscle faster than athletes who have been developing their bodies for years; however, what’s not so well understood is what the limit or rate is.

Lyle McDonald of Bodyrecomposition offers a model he means to be taken for general use which holds that in the first year of consistent and proper training, a beginner can expect to gain 2 pounds of muscle a month, or about half a pound of muscle a week.

Gaining muscle requires a whole different set of nutritional requirements and workouts from that of losing fat. Although both goals have their own challenges, building muscle may actually be the more difficult of the two.

Unlike fat loss, building muscle requires increasing your caloric intake beyond your TDEE and performing consistent strength-based exercises properly, while giving yourself the recovery time necessary to let your muscles grow and develop.

You’re also going to need to monitor your protein intake to makes sure you’re providing your body with enough nutrients to promote muscle growth.

Never Start Over Again

Ultimately, a healthy body is a reflection of a healthy lifestyle.  A healthy diet that involves staying active and doesn’t involve overeating will result in the appearance you want.

Tying it all together, the best way to break the cycle is to think about your health and fitness as a lifestyle choice instead of something based on physical appearance or a number on the scale.  Looking at it that way, time becomes irrelevant, as you will slowly and steadily work towards your goals.  In time, you’ll get there, but in the meantime, you’ll be enjoying all the physical benefits that living a healthy lifestyle can bring, including:

  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Better mood

As well as the more intangible ones like

  • Feeling more comfortable with your appearance
  • Having your clothes fit you better
  • Having other people notice that you’re looking more fit and healthy

Make sure your time at the gym is worth it. In fitness and health, slow and steady really does win the race!

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/92274497-how-to-end-the-cycle-of-starting-over/

How to Make a Fitness New Years Resolution You’ll Actually Do

By | Blog, Health

Raise your hand if you said something like:

“In 2016, I’m finally going to lose weight!”

If you did, you’re not alone.  According to Statistics Brain Institute, a company that compiles statistics on a variety of topics and industries, losing weight was (unsurprisingly) the #1 New Year’s resolution made in 2015.

However, according to the same research, only 8% of people reported achieving their resolution by the end of 2015.  Also not terribly surprising.

But forget 2015.  It’s now into the third week of 2016, and this year is the year that you can actually achieve your fitness/weight loss goal.  It’s completely possible; you just need to go about it the right way.

Yes, it will take hard work and dedication. No, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up everything you enjoy doing (unless what you enjoy doing is surviving on exclusively burgers and soda).  Follow the below steps and by this time next year, you’ll be celebrating the beginning of 2017 with a new, fitter you.

Step 1: Throw Your Scale out the Window

This is key. In 2016, you’re going to part with your bathroom scale. Why? Because it’s been serving you a steady stream of lies every time you’ve stepped on it in the past.

How?

You say that you want to lose weight.  But what is weight, really? It’s really just a number, and seeing a number rise or fall on the scale doesn’t tell even close to the whole story. What you’re actually trying to say when you say you want to lose weight – whether you realize it or not – is you want to lose fat. Pounds of fat.

The truth is: your body isn’t just a vessel that weighs a certain amount; it’s made up of a lot of different things, including fat, muscle, bone mineral, and body water.  This way of dividing your body into its parts is called your body composition.  When you lose (or gain weight), the actual changes in your body that your scale registers as weight changes are actually changes in one or more parts of your body composition – changes in muscle, changes in fat, etc.

Weighing yourself on the scale when you’re trying to lose weight – or worse: weighing yourself every day – can set you up for failure by not accurately reporting your progress, causing you to become discouraged.  Here’s how.

Here’s a profile of someone who is just beginning their fitness program, and is doing moderate to heavy weight lifting as part of their plan.  Here’s the same person, about three months later.

As a result of a proper diet and consistent exercise, this person has lost 5 pounds of fat. But because this person has been building muscle as well, their weight hasn’t changed at all.

If this person’s goal was simply “weight loss,” despite their positive gains in muscle and losses in fat, this person might think that no progress was made.  After months of kicking yourself into shape and being super careful about your diet, a lack of movement on the scale can be extremely discouraging.

This is why you need to focus on improving your body composition – not weight loss.  Weight loss doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know what you’re losing and gaining.

Step 2: Learn a bit about calories

“Counting calories.”

For some people, this phrase brings feelings of the purest dread.  Not only do people think it’s a lot of work, but that it also means the end of eating anything delicious.

Fortunately, keeping track of calories isn’t that hard, and depending on what your goals are, you may be able to eat more than you think.  But first, here are some basic truths on calories.

First: let’s get something straight right now – from an energy storing perspective, it doesn’t matter all that much how often/when you eat.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (bold text added):

The time of day isn’t what affects how your body uses calories. It’s the overall number of calories you eat and the calories you burn over the course of 24 hours that affects your weight.

It helps to think of your caloric needs like a daily budget.  If your needs are 2,400 calories and you “spend” a 1,000 calories on breakfast, that’s fine – it’s just that you only get 1,400 calories until breakfast the next day.

Second: everyone’s caloric needs are different; so that 2,000 daily recommended calorie intake on the nutrition label? Consider that to be the most general, vaguest set of guidelines that almost certainly will set you up for failure, especially since it was picked in no small part because it was just an easy number to remember, rounded off to the nearest thousand for convenience 1.

To find your individual caloric needs, you need to estimate something called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure – the amount of calories that you burn in a 24-hour period.  Generally speaking, your TDEE has two major components:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): the total number of calories your body requires to “stay on” and power bodily processes like brain activity, pumping blood, breathing, digesting, etc.
  • Activity Rate: an estimated index of how active you are over 24 hours

To get TDEE, multiply BMR with Activity Rate. For example, someone with a BMR of 1600 calories and is moderately active (exercises 3-5x a week) would have a total caloric need of around 2,480 calories, nearly 500 calories more than the traditional 2,000 calorie diet.

Use your TDEE as the baseline from how you create your diet.  “Cutting calories” doesn’t mean “starvation” – it means making a moderate reduction in your caloric intake as determined by your daily needs.

Based on what your goals are, designing a diet and knowing what’s an appropriate caloric intake does get a little more complicated, but there’s a complete guide to using BMR to creating a diet right here.

Step 3: Choose 1 Goal (from 2 options) and Plan Your Diet

source: Flickr

In 2016, you’re not going to think about “weight loss” any more.  Instead, you’re going to think about choosing from one of the two following goals: “fat loss” or “muscle gain.”  Both of these goals will have the effect of reducing your overall body fat percentage but achieve it in different ways.

But just one goal – not both at the same time? Can’t you lose fat and gain muscle at the same time? Maybe. But it will be extremely difficult to effectively do both over any extended period of time.  This is because the nutritional and caloric needs your body requires to gain muscle effectively are different from those when you want your body to lose fat.

  • Fat Loss

If you want to lose fat, you need to encourage your body to enter what’s called a catabolic state – a state when your body breaks down body tissue instead of building it.  This requires you to take in fewer calories than you bring in.

But remember: your TDEE is made of two parts, BMR and Activity Level, so taking in fewer calories doesn’t necessarily (and shouldn’t) mean you have to cut out breakfast completely or something equally drastic.  If you weren’t working out at all before, simply increasing your activity level by starting an exercise program while maintaining your caloric intake may be enough to trigger fat loss.  If this sounds like you, simply beginning an exercise program is a good way to get started.

However, most people will need a combination of caloric reduction and exercise to achieve consistent and healthy fat loss.  How many calories you need to reduce will vary based on your individual body composition and goals.

  • Muscle Gain

You can’t lose fat forever, and at some point you will need to work on developing muscle – or at the very least, work to preserve the muscle that you have already.  This will require a different diet and exercise plan than the one designed for fat loss.  Instead of getting your body into a catabolic state, you’ll want to enter into an anabolic state – a state where your body builds tissue instead of breaking it down.

To build muscle, your body needs resources.  This means proper nutrition – sufficient protein intake is critical when trying to increase muscle mass – but equally as important is eating enough calories.  There is a popular misconception that taking in excessive amounts of protein is the key to muscle gain, but in a Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition publication, high performance athletes who failed to meet their caloric needs were found to have limited lean body mass gains, despite increasing their protein beyond their daily recommended needs.

So what is a good estimate of your caloric needs for this goal?  Although nutrition plays a large role in determining diet, from a caloric standpoint, research suggests that maintaining an energy surplus of about 15% is appropriate for developing musculature.  This means, all else being equal, the moderately active person with a BMR of 1,600 calories would want to shoot for around 2,852 calories a day.

Step 4: Plan for a Marathon, not a 100-yard dash

source: Flickr

In a world where virtually every piece of information in all of human history can be searched for in seconds by anyone with a smartphone, people are used to getting the results they want when they want them.  Unfortunately, you can’t expect the same from your body.

That’s why if you hang around enough fitness people for long enough, you’ll eventually hear them talk about a “fitness journey.”  That’s because that’s exactly what fitness is – a journey. It’s not a sprint, and it will take time to make meaningful changes that last.

For example, in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, participants were divided into two groups that created a 25% energy gap between what they ate and what they burned. The first group did this by only dieting (25% caloric reduction) and the second achieving it by splitting the energy deficit by both diet and exercise (12.5% caloric reduction + 12.5% increase in energy use due to increased exercise).

The results were interesting: both groups were able to reduce their body weight by about 10% and their total fat mass by 24%, indicating that for fat/weight reduction, caloric reduction by any means is critical, regardless of how it is achieved.  For a 180 pound person, a 10% reduction comes out to 3 pounds of loss per month, which is less than a pound a week.

This can be challenging for some people – to not see any measurable changes on the scale after a week of diet/diet+exercise.  Even after two weeks, you may only see your weight decrease by a pound, maybe two.  If you’re measuring your weight by just using a scale, this can be especially frustrating (another reason why you should get rid of it).

Plan for the long term, and don’t expect to see dramatic changes right away.  And because you’re planning for the long term, that also means that you don’t need to be perfect every single day.  That’s going to put on too much pressure, cause frustration, and maybe cause you to fail.  That’s why this guide’s final step is important.

Step 5: Let Cheat Days Happen (and don’t feel bad about it)

source: Flickr

That’s right.  Break your diet every once in a while. Skip the odd gym day and go out for pizza and beer. It’s OK.

Didn’t expect that, did you?

But wait! Isn’t this how you “gain it all back”?  You hear stories about people breaking their diets and then gaining 5 pounds or more over a cheat weekend, erasing a month of hard work.

This is where your scale – if you’re still using one – really can screw you up with negative thinking and discouragement.  So you gained 5 pounds over the weekend; is your scale lying?  Not exactly. Yes you gained 5 pounds, but more than likely, it’s 5 pounds of water.

Your weight will fluctuate throughout the day based on what you eat and drink.  If you’re dieting, a pretty common/near universal strategy is to reduce your carbohydrate intake (aka “cutting carbs”).

By reducing your intake of foods rich in carbohydrates, you’re reducing your overall glycogen stores. Glycogen is a molecule your body converts into energy and is a source of short-term energy; as opposed to fat, which is typically used in cases where energy from glycogen or other short-term energy sources aren’t available.

What does glycogen have to do with scales, water, and cheat days? Everything, actually.

Water molecules love glycogen.  In fact, for every gram of glycogen in your body, there will be 3-4 grams of water bonded to it.  Your loading your body with glycogen when you’re eating your carbohydrate-dense food and drinks on your cheat day, and water is bonding to it.  So when you step on the scale the day after, it’s very possible to see yourself gain several pounds in a day.

This doesn’t mean you gained it all back.  Chances are, it’s just water and once you get back on your diet and exercise program, your weight will be back to where it was in a couple days. Watch.

5 Step Plan Review

Let’s review your 5 step plans for a weight loss plan that you’ll actually do in 2016.

  1. Throw out your scale and get your body composition tested.  If your gym doesn’t do it, join one that does. The longer you stick with a scale, the longer you’ll be frustrated.
  2. Learn the basics of calories and find your TDEE.
  3. Pick 1 goal. You can change it later.
  4. Prepare for your own “fitness journey.” Slow and steady wins the race.
  5. Have a cheat day. It will help you stay sane, and it will give you something to look forward to every week or two to keep you motivated.

Good luck!

 

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/84369153-how-to-make-a-fitness-new-years-resolution-you-ll-actually-do/

How to Tell If You’re Skinny Fat (and what to do if you are)

By | Blog, Health
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on July 20, 2018for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on July 1, 2015.
by InBody USA

The term “skinny fat” has been around for a while now, but it seems to have started trending following a feature in TIME Magazine. In it, outwardly skinny and visually healthy people were surprised to learn that they had the same medical issues as an obese person.

Bottom line, looking skinny doesn’t mean you’re healthy if you are skinny fat.

If you’re a little unclear on what exactly skinny fat means, it refers to someone who has a weight and BMI that is normal for that person’s height but has much more fat than and not enough muscle recommended for optimal health.

Many people just assume that if their weight and/or BMI is normal, they have nothing to worry about. This has a lot to do with misconceptions about BMI’s usefulness in assessing weight and health. For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), if your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.99, you are considered to be in the normal range for sufficient health. So if you have a BMI of 22, you’re automatically in the clear, right?

Not so fast – although the WHO has set these ranges, they are quick to qualify them with the following:

[BMI] should be considered as a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same body fat percentage in different individuals.

Source: WHO

The fixation on weight, thinness, and BMI is where so many people get fooled into living unhealthy lifestyles. They feel like exercising daily and eating a healthy diet doesn’t apply to them because they look skinny. But looking the part doesn’t always mean you fit the part.

As Long as I Look Good, That’s All That Matters!

If only that were the case.

Unfortunately, that attitude is exactly what causes people to become skinny fat in the first place.  The appearance of being skinny seems to outweigh being fit and healthy. However, because of the way fat can be stored, skinny fat people risk having serious health problems.

Not all fat gets stored under the skin. Fat that people can see is referred to as subcutaneous fat, but there’s a second type – visceral fat – and it’s the worse of the two.  If you’re skinny fat, you likely have a lot of this second type.

Visceral fat is internal fat that develops in the abdominal cavity, gets stored around the organs, and wraps around your kidneys, intestines, stomach, and liver.  It’s sneaky because while it’s easy to see subcutaneous fat, it isn’t so easy to see the visceral fat in your midsection.

Having large amounts of visceral fat can spell a heap of trouble, according to Harvard Medical School.  Visceral fat has been linked with:

So while on the exterior, skinny fat people might look attractive, on the inside, their bodies may be at high risk for a number of health problems and syndromes.

How can you tell if you’re skinny fat?  It’s not as easy as looking in the mirror or standing on a scale. You need to understand what your weight is made of.

It’s Not Just About Weight

How your weight is distributed determines whether you fall into the skinny fat category.  Weight alone cannot tell whether you’re skinny fat or not, which is precisely why so many people don’t realize that they are.

The term “skinny fat” is actually a popular term that describes a very real medical condition called sarcopenic obesity. This condition refers to an individual who may have what would be considered a normal/healthy weight, but metabolically, this person shares many health characteristics as someone who is overweight or obese

A person who is sarcopenic obese will have high fat mass and low muscle mass.

One of the best ways to determine whether you may be skinny fat is to have your body composition analyzed and your percentage of body fat determined.

How to Tell If You’re Skinny Fat

Once you’re able to get reliable information about your body fat percentage, you can compare it against the recommended percent body fat ranges. The recommended ranges for healthy men are between 10-20% body fat, and for women, the ranges are 18-28%.1

If your body fat exceeds these ranges, but you have a normal weight when you stand on the scale, you may be skinny fat.

There are several ways to have your body composition analyzed, all of which come with differing degrees of convenience and accuracy. Here are three ways to measure body composition:

Calipers

Probably one of the most common forms of body composition analysis. Calipers operate by pinching the fat that is held just under the skin (subcutaneous fat) and estimating the internal (or visceral) fat, which is where many skinny fat people hide their weight.

Getting consistent results from test to test can be an issue as well because each test administrator will have a different degree of skill than the person who conducted the test before. Even if it is the same person conducting the test, there is always the risk of human error (pinching softer/harder, etc.) with each test.

So, although this is probably the most accessible way to measure your body fat, it won’t be the most accurate. This is because calipers only actually measure the subcutaneous fat and then use prediction equations or tables based upon your age to guess the visceral fat.

Clinical Tests

It is possible to have your body composition determined in a clinical setting using tests and procedures such as hydrostatic weighing and dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). However, these procedures both require specialized equipment, and in the case of DEXA, exposes your body to low levels of radiation. Although both of these tests are regarded as being highly accurate, because of the limited access, they may not be the easiest to access for regular testing to track changes in body composition.

BIA Scales and Devices

BIA devices are devices that use small electric currents to measure body composition. These are the body composition results of someone who fits the skinny fat/sarcopenic obese body profile:

Below are results from an InBody Test, a medical body composition analyzer:

This section is taken from the InBody Result Sheet. 

For this person, who is a 5’4” female, 135.3 pounds is just above her ideal weight, but within what is considered normal (BMI 23.2).  However, it’s clear to see that this person does not have enough Skeletal Muscle Mass and has excessive body fat. If you do the math, this person has a body fat percentage of 35.0%. This surpasses all upper limits of percent body fat ranges, which are usually around 28%.

BIA devices are quick, easy to use, and depending on the manufacturer, can be quite accurate in determining body composition results for all areas of the body – including the abdominal area, where visceral fat builds up over time.

Visceral Fat area over 100 square meters increases the risk for metabolic syndrome.

When using a BIA device, it’s important to look into how the device you are using determines body composition and how accurate its results are.  Some handheld devices may only directly measure your arms and estimate the remainder, while others may only directly measure your legs and estimate the upper body.  Whenever possible, use a BIA device that directly measures the entire body for the most accurate results.

If you find out you are skinny fat through body composition, the next step is to figure out how to improve.

How Do People Become Skinny Fat?

Image Credit: LifeSpan

First, you need to understand how you may have become skinny fat.

Essentially, the net result of losing muscle mass (and decreasing metabolic rate) and gaining fat mass due to maintaining the same caloric intake with a lower metabolic rate creates the skinny fat condition.  Diet and exercise (or lack thereof) play key roles here.

Carbohydrates and foods that are high in calories are great for creating energy potential in the body, but if that energy is not used through activity and exercise, it will become stored in the body as fat.

Similarly, muscle mass decreases over time when the muscles are not being used. If you work in a 9-5 job that requires you to be seated and not move around for most of the day, skeletal muscle mass is likely to decrease over time.  Fat mass will also increase as mobility decreases.

Sitting all day, eating an unhealthy diet, and skipping workouts is a recipe for muscle loss and fat gain.  Many people have sedentary lifestyles due to work and are prime candidates for muscle loss and fat gain if they don’t do anything to guard against it.

However, this isn’t the only way muscle loss and fat gain can occur.

Michael Matthews over at Muscle For Life, in an exceptionally well-researched piece, has another take on how people become skinny fat. Instead of losing muscle because they don’t exercise, he shows that people can lose muscle because they don’t diet and exercise the right way:

Conventional weight loss advice:

  1. Severe calorie restriction
  2. Excessive amounts of cardio
  3. Minimal weightlifting with an emphasis on high-rep training
Source: Muscle For Life

If you try to cut calories, while at the same time run on a treadmill an 1 hour a day 5 days a week, your body may not have the energy it needs to perform.  After a certain point, your body will start metabolizing muscle because it needs energy once the other options are exhausted. Weight loss will occur at the expense of both fat and muscle loss, which will do very little to improve body fat percentage and becoming less skinny fat.

Now that you understand the cause, here is the solution.

How To Overcome Being Skinny Fat

It all goes back to improving your body composition.

People who want to be thin and healthy need to increase their muscle mass and reduce their fat mass.  

This can be done in a number of ways, such as eating a protein-rich diet, but one of the best ways is to increase Skeletal Muscle Mass from weight training that focuses on heavy, compound exercises.

Why weight training?  Lifting heavy weights is the best way to increase muscle growth, and correspondingly, Lean Body Mass.

With increased lean body mass, your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) increases. In plain speech, the higher your BMR, the more calories your body naturally burns when it is doing nothing (i.e. sleeping).  The more calories you burn at rest, the greater the fat loss.

If you are worried that building muscle might make you look bulky instead of skinny, don’t!  Muscle is much denser than fat, meaning that if you weighed the same as you do now, but you had more muscle than fat, you would actually appear thinner.  Except in this thin body, you would be healthier.

Most people don’t know that muscle is also heavier than fat.  So, perhaps ironically, if you were to increase your muscle/Lean Body Mass to the point where you were able to reduce your body fat percentage significantly, you may actually weigh more than you did when you had a skinny fat body.

This is why understanding your body composition is so important.  If you were just measuring your weight with a scale and judging your appearance in the mirror, you may have never known you were potentially at risk for health problems.

Also, misunderstandings about building muscle/gaining weight due to muscle may have led you to avoid strength training altogether and instead focused on insane levels of cardio coupled with calorie restriction. This is how many people become skinny fat in the first place.

So, now you know the facts.  Just because someone looks skinny, don’t just assume they are healthy.  Don’t aspire to be skinny, aspire to be healthy.  Because at the end of the day, being healthy is always attractive.


Why You Need to Know Your Body Fat Percentage

By | Blog, Body Composition, Health
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on October 1, 2018for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on April 20, 2016
by InBody USA

 

Do you know what your body fat percentage is, right now?

What range is considered ideal for your gender?

Or why you should even care?

Your body fat percentage is a value that tells you how much of your body weight is made up of fat.  In terms of your overall health, your body fat percentage can be one of the most useful numbers available to you, more than how much you weigh and even more than your Body Mass Index (BMI).

You might argue that you can just rely on visual appearance, everyone knows what an overweight or obese person looks like. When you get to that point, you know you need to start making a change in your lifestyle. Unfortunately, once you get to the overweight/obese stage your risk for developing health complications will have increased and weight loss becomes difficult.

If you are interested in developing or maintaining a healthy and productive lifestyle, measuring and understanding your body fat percentage is incredibly important.  

Here are three reasons why understanding your body fat percentage can positively impact your life.

#1 Get The Context Of Your Weight

Knowing how much you weigh tells you very little because two people can have the same weight but have completely different body compositions and health risks. Your body fat percentage (PBF) puts your weight into context, telling you far more about yourself than how heavy you are.

Here are the body compositions of three types of people, all around the same weight (~154 pounds) and height (5’10”). To make each of these easier to talk about later, we’ll give them each a fictitious name.

Bill has a body weight of 154.0 pounds and a PBF of 28.3%. Notice the large differences between the bar for Body Fat Mass (BFM) and SMM (Skeletal Muscle Mass). Because of this very large difference, Bill likely falls into the category of what is popularly calledskinny fat.”

Ted has a nearly identical weight to Bill – less than half a pound in difference – but has a PBF of 15.6%, almost 13% less than Bill! This is because, unlike Bill, Ted has average amounts of muscle and fat for a 5’10” person.

Within about a pound of both Bill and Ted is Brian, with a body weight of 154.8 and a PBF of 10.1%.  The bars for his SMM and Body Fat Mass are the complete inverse of Bill, who had a skinny fat composition.

Now it’s true that even without these charts, it would be quite obvious to tell skinny fat Bill from athletic Brian just by looking at them.

However, the more extreme examples of Bill and Brian are helpful to illustrate how three individuals with roughly the same scale weight and BMI can have wildly different body compositions— something that scale cannot reveal.

Of the three individuals, Bill stands to be the most at risk for health problems because of his high PBF and low muscle mass, but especially so because his weight and BMI are considered normal. Bill may not be aware that he has increased risk for developing health complication, because visually he looks fine.

Without the context body fat percentage provides, it’s very difficult to understand what your weight means when you stand on a scale and whether or not you should consider making changes to improve your body composition.

#2 Decide How To Start Improving

man stretching

Understanding your body fat percentage helps you decide which of the two goals that reflect healthy body composition changes – increasing Lean Body Mass and decreasing Fat Mass – you should be working on.

It’s difficult to point to any single “ideal” percentage because what may be ideal for a bodybuilder may be different than what’s ideal for a soccer player. For this reason, ranges are used to give people an idea of where they stand in terms of health.

  • For men: 10-20% is considered normal/healthy
  • For women: 18-28% is considered normal/healthy

These ranges may vary depending on who your source is. The American College of Sports Medicine has ranges that may differ from the Mayo Clinic (more on that later in the next section)

Knowing where your body fat percentage falls in these ranges can be very helpful for you to decide how to improve your overall composition.

For example (and this may come as a surprise): many overweight/obese people actually already have a significant amount of muscle development compared to an average person of the same height.

Now, while strength training can be healthy and useful for everyone, a program based on bulking up and developing huge muscles may not be the best method for improving the body composition of someone who is overweight. That’s because the diet that encourages muscle mass growth typically requires being in a caloric surplus (eating more than your body needs to maintain its weight).

This person would benefit from a more conventional weight loss strategy. While it is true that fat loss can occur while strength training and gaining muscle, for someone of this body type, results will likely be achieved faster by a combination of restricting calories, increasing energy use, and weight lifting to maintain – not grow – muscle.

For someone like Bill, who is not overweight but still “overfat,” the opposite advice may apply.

Based on the relative lack of muscle compared to other people of the same height, Bill can likely get the quickest and most positive body composition changes by focusing on strength training to build muscle, not losing fat.

The reason this approach is better for this person and not someone who is overweight or obese is due to the lack of developed muscle.  While an overweight person already has a lot of muscle due to the need to support a larger frame, a smaller person will need to actively work to develop this muscle while maintaining or reducing the amount of fat mass they carry.

#3: Reduce The Risk of Heart Disease

healthy heart pulse

Understanding your body fat percentage has uses outside of fitness, too. Keeping your body fat percentage at a healthy level can help reduce your likelihood of getting serious health risks, specifically, heart disease.

Heart disease is most often caused by a buildup of plaque on the walls of your arteries. This occurs when small pieces of cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) damage your arteries, causing them to harden, forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout your body.

What does body fat have to do with your heart? Quite a lot, actually.

According to new research published by the Mayo Clinic, having a healthy body fat percentage has a significant effect on your cholesterol levels – increasing the good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) which helps to remove the damaging LDL and lower overall total cholesterol. This means less artery-clogging cholesterol in your bloodstream, which means less stress on your heart.

To be clear: this research isn’t linking this to overall weight or even total fat mass. These positive effects are linked with the amount of body fat you have compared to your current weight. The body fat percentage ranges needed to have this positive effect have an upper limit of 20% for men and 30% for women.

While the research doesn’t suggest that this is any type of complete preventative for heart disease – many lifestyle factors, as well as genetics, play into whether you will develop it or not – it does suggest that you have some degree of control over reducing your risk factor by maintaining a healthy body fat percentage and consuming a diet that promotes healthy cholesterol levels.

Know Your Percentage to Take Control of Your Health

Perhaps one of the best things about your body fat percentage is that it compares you to yourself.

If you just track weight, this invariably leads to comparing yourself to someone else. Even though there could be significant differences in height, muscle mass, genetics, or other factors, all people hear when they talk about or think about their weight is the number.

That’s what’s so great about your body fat percentage. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh; the only thing that matters is what that weight is made up of. You could be overweight (and even have a BMI that tells you that) but if you’re a woman with a healthy body fat percentage of 25%, why care?

To take control of your health and fitness and gain the positive benefits of living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the first step is to get your body composition measured.  Find a facility near you that offers body composition testing, get your body fat percentage, and start tracking it to start living better!

5 Reasons to Stop Weighing Yourself Everyday

By | Blog, Diet
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on October 17, 2018for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on September 11, 2015
by InBody USA

Losing weight is hard.  It requires working out regularly, making sure you get enough nutrients in your diet ( like protein). If you’re like most people, you want to see results that justify your hard work.  And that result, more often than not, has to do with seeing that number on the scale go steadily down. So you step on the scale every day because you need a reason to keep going.

Everything is fine until the unthinkable happens:  the scale stops going down. Or, after one “cheat day” you find yourself 8 pounds heavier and you think, “Oh no! Everything I’ve done for the past 2 weeks is for nothing!”  Repeat this a few times and before you know it, you’ve given up on working out and you’ve dumped your diet.

Sound familiar?

The truth is, you were probably making progress before you quit. Don’t give up.  You probably just got discouraged because you did what no one should ever do: you let the scale trick you.

Here are 5 reasons why you scale is a terrible tool for weight loss and how it can make you give up.

First and foremost…

1. You’re confusing “weight loss” with “fat loss”

It’s a safe bet to assume that when people want to lose weight, what they really want is fat loss.  The problem is, many people use the words “weight loss” and “fat loss” interchangeably, which are two separate concepts.

Losing overall weight isn’t hard – you’ll drop a few pounds of water weight if you sit in a sauna for a while. Fat loss is harder to achieve, depends on several factors, and it takes more time than you think to truly lose it.  Here are a couple key points about fat loss to consider:

  • When you lose weight, you lose more than just fat.  

Muscle and water (in addition to water weight) are two major components that make up your weight, and when you lose weight, you can lose some of each.  How much of each you lose depends in part on how much fat you have to lose when you start. Heavier people have more to lose than thin people, and they will lose more weight from fat than muscle than thin people.

  • You can drop weight but dropping actual fat takes time– more time than you think.  

Many people set fat loss goals for themselves that are unreasonable.  The truth is, without going on an unhealthy near-starvation diet, you can only expect to lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week at best.

Don’t expect to lose 10 pounds in a week, because even if you do, it’s not going to be all fat.  Losing muscle is not good for your health, and you will want to preserve it as much as you can.

But what about the people who do claim to lose 10 pounds in a week?  There are reasons for this, beginning with…

2. Your glycogen levels are changing, which can cause large weight swings in either direction

Glycogen is a short-term energy source that your body taps into when it needs immediate energy.  Although it is produced from many different types of foods, foods rich in carbohydrates like bread trigger glycogen production more than any other food source.  It’s a very good energy source, so much so that this is the major reason why marathon runners have “pasta parties” the day before the race: it’s to fuel up on glycogen!  You might also know this by another term: carb-loading.

In terms of your weight, however, glycogen has a very interesting attribute: 3 to 4 grams of water will bond to each gram of glycogen.  You always knew that diet played a big role in both fat and weight loss, but once you understand the role glycogen and water have with each other, a lot of things will make sense to you.  For example:

  • This is why people lose weight on carb-restricting diets like the Atkins diet

The Atkins diet and other diets similar to it (ketogenic, paleo, etc.) revolve around one major concept: restricting carbohydrates, and by extension, glycogen. Once your glycogen levels become depleted, there is less water for the glycogen to bond to. This is why many people who go on ketogenic-style diets appear to lose pounds very quickly: much of the initial weight loss is simply water.

  • This is why people believe they’ve “gained it all back” after cheating on their diet

Here’s a common situation that everyone has probably experienced at least once: after going on a strict diet (most likely low in carbs and high in protein) for a couple of weeks, you treat yourself to a weekend where you ate all the carbs that you missed so dearly.

Weighing yourself monday morning, you find that you’re 8 pounds heavier. Sad face. Good news: you didn’t waste any of your hard work!  It’s glycogen that’s fooling you and it’s mostly just water weight.

It’s deceptively easy to refuel yourself on carbohydrates and replenish your glycogen levels.  A typical endurance athlete, for example, requires around 500-600 g of carbohydrates a day to perform at optimal levels.

500-600 g of carbohydrates might sound like a lot to you at first, but consider that unless you actually are an athlete, your carbohydrate needs are a lot lower than you think.  Add this to the fact that:

Since many popular foods are so rich in carbs, it’s not very hard to refill your glycogen stores in a day if you aren’t watching your carb intake, or are choosing not to for a special occasion.

By refueling on carbs, you’re replenishing your glycogen levels, and water is binding to it.  So, you haven’t sabotaged your goals; you’ve probably put on water weight. Watch how fast you will lose body water again if you reduce your carbohydrate intake.

However, glycogen isn’t the only molecule that can retain water.  There are others that influence your water and your weight, which leads to the next point…

3. You’re retaining water due to your salt intake

Salt (or more accurately, sodium) is everywhere and extremely hard to avoid.  It might not surprise you that a single patty cheeseburger contains over 500 mg of sodium (nearly a quarter of the daily recommended levels), but would you be surprised to know that the ranch dressing you’re putting in your salad contains over half that, as much as 270 mg? Or that a tablespoon of soy sauce that you’re using in your healthy, vegetable-only stir-fry has 879 mg of sodium?  Little surprise that the Mayo Clinic estimates that the average American consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium a day: close to double what’s recommended.

Sodium is linked with water retention, and it is the job of your kidneys to expel unneeded sodium out of your body.  Until your kidneys are able to do that, you will temporarily be holding onto extra water. If your daily water and sodium intake habits change from day to day, this can contribute to water retention, which will cause fluctuations in your daily weight.

So, if you were on a diet but flooded your body with more salt than you normally have, you can expect to see a temporary increase in weight.  It doesn’t mean that all your hard work is for nothing; it just means that you’re experiencing additional water weight because of the extra sodium in your body.

However, there are other factors other than diet that can lead to weight fluctuations including…

4. Your muscle gains are outweighing your fat loss

If you’re strength training as part of your strategy to reduce your body fat percentage, you’re doing something right!  Adding resistance training (or any type of strength training) to your fat/weight loss plan is a great way to protect and preserve muscle loss as you subtract fat from your frame.

However, if you’re new to weightlifting and you’re pushing yourself hard, you’re going to see the number on the scale go up!  Why?

This is because as you are losing fat, you are replacing that weight with muscle.  Your weight may not go down, but your body fat percentage will.

For example, let’s take a 117-pound woman and assume she has 38.6 pounds of fat mass, 78.4 pounds of Lean Body Mass, and 42.3 pounds Skeletal Muscle Mass.  That’s consistent with a body fat percentage of 33%, which is slightly over the normal range for women (which ends at 28%).

Now let’s take that same woman and say that she begins a comprehensive fat burning program that includes dietary changes, cardio, and strength training.  After 3 months, she now has 32.6 pounds of fat mass, 84.4 pounds of lean body mass due to a 6-pound increase in SMM. She still weighs 117 pounds, but now her body fat percentage is 27.8% – a big drop from her previous result of 33%, which brings her into the normal/healthy range.

You may be thinking right now “Oh, but this woman would know that her efforts were successful because she should look different and feel different with 6 pounds of fat loss and a 6 pound gain in skeletal muscle mass.”  But remember, it took her three months to get there.

Do you think she would looked and felt different right away, with only a scale to measure her progress?  Without measuring your body composition, would she have known if that she was making any progress in skeletal muscle mass gain or fat loss after, say, one month?  6 weeks?

You can imagine the frustration she could have felt by not seeing the scale move at all. She would probably give up before she reached the three month mark. This is why measuring body composition is so important.

These first four all point to one unifying, very important reason why you shouldn’t weigh yourself every day, which is…

5. You’re weighing yourself at different times of the day, under different conditions

If you’re weighing yourself whenever you feel like it without being consistent in terms of what time you weigh and what you’ve done during the day up to that point, the scale is going to mislead you every single time.

Generally, people’s weight increases during the day due to the food and drinks they consume.  Food and drinks also produce waste, which can also lead to additional weight gain throughout the day.  Naturally, this weight gain is temporary, but if you weighed yourself in the morning on an empty stomach, and then without thinking weighed yourself 5 days later in the middle of the day, you can’t compare those weights against each other.

Also, if your diet has changed in between your weigh-ins, that can cause significant weight changes.  Did you eat an unusually large amount of carbs the day before?  You could potentially see very large swings in your weight. But if you remember how glycogen bonds with water, this won’t bother you anymore because you’ll understand that it’s just water weight.

Did you just finish exercising?  You probably lost some water, leading to temporary weight loss.  Were you drinking water while you were working out? Your muscle cells may have absorbed some of it, causing your weight to respond accordingly. If you are going to rely on the scale, make sure you weigh yourself under similar conditions everytime.

Don’t let the scale trick you!

There are so many things that can affect your weight, so you should never get into the habit of weighing yourself every day.  So if not that, what should you be doing?

  • Look for consistent, steady, and gradual changes in your weight every 2 – 4 weeks

As difficult as it sounds, if you are using just a scale to determine your progress, you have to space out your weigh-ins.  If you still aren’t seeing weight changes in that period of time, you need to take another look at your diet and exercise plans and potentially make some adjustments.

  • Get your body composition analyzed and track your body fat percentage

Because your weight is made up of many different elements and can fluctuate for so many different reasons, assessing your weight by tracking your body composition is a much better way to determine how you’re meeting your goals.

Don’t let the scale trick you!  If you diet and exercise properly with enough patience and determination, you will reach your goals.

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