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Is Your Dad Bod In-Style or Unhealthy?

By | Fat mass, Health

Men have been working out to increase muscle mass for decades. Every generation comes up with new phrases that refer to this phenomenon, such as getting “ripped” or “swole” or “yoked,” as a result of men searching for the optimal physique that has been influenced by athletes, movie stars and other public figures.  In recent years, a new opposing trend has emerged in pop culture known as the Dad Bod. Instead of marveling at the muscular look, celebrities and every-men alike have embraced a rough-around-the-edges approach to the male aesthetic.

The term Dad Bod has been used to classify men who are slightly overweight and don’t possess a sculpted frame. The positive attention this new trend has received could be seen as an effort to promote a positive self-image in men who otherwise may have had some insecurities about the way they look. Society embracing an archetype that is more attainable by a higher percentage of the male population is an uplifting occurrence and allows men to realize that you don’t have to have the perfect body to be considered healthy and attractive. The human body does need a certain level of fat to survive, as fat serves as an insulator for your core body temperature and aids with hormone production. However, with obesity rates higher than ever, it’s important to emphasize weight management and metabolic health, so recognizing body types that are close to the optimal body fat range is a good start to improving general health.

The focus on Dad Bods have provided a positive shift in visual standards and self-image, which is very beneficial for the male population, but they can also promote dangerous habits as well. Here is how you can tell if your Dad Bod is a good look or evidence of an unhealthy lifestyle:

Avoid These Behaviors

Dad Bods are thought by many to be caused by typical “dad” activities: eating a lot, drinking a lot, and exercising very little. You have probably seen on multiple occasions the “TV Dad”, sitting in his arm chair with a big plate of food and a beer, glued to his big screen. Making these activities an everyday routine can be a recipe for disaster on your health. While having the chiseled muscle tone of a bodybuilder seems like a far cry for TV Dad and other regular joes, moderation is almost always the way to go, and achieving your Dad Bod look shouldn’t exclude you from living a healthy lifestyle.

Overeating 

Overeating is a common problem in the present day, as taking in more calories than you need leads to the body storing the excess as fat. Too much body fat leads to a myriad of health issues, such as metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Overeating over extended periods of time can also lead to the development of visceral fat, which is a dense collection of fat tissue that sits in the trunk and surrounds the organs. Visceral fat is harder to get rid of, and often forms as a result of weight gain during adulthood. Its presence in the abdominal region causes the risk of hypertension to increase significantly, especially in younger men. It’s never too early to take control of your diet, as the habits you pick up during your college years can have long-term consequences and build an unhealthy base for your Dad Bod. Limit your caloric intake, and add more variety to your diet to avoid developing visceral fat around your waist.

Lack of Exercise

One way to offset the extra calories and combat the metabolic conditions that can be caused by a poor diet is regular exercise. However, even if you don’t think you carry a bunch of extra weight, a regular exercise regimen is important to ensure that you aren’t skinny fat. You don’t need to possess the muscle tone of a bodybuilder, but skeletal muscle tissue plays a large role in breaking down carbohydrates and promoting other regular body functions. The only way to develop muscle tissue is through exercise, so it can’t be ruled out even if you believe you have reached an acceptable weight.

An easy way to determine if you have solid metabolic health, no matter what body type you have, is to examine your lean muscle mass compared to your body fat. Those with Dad Bods should consider adding an exercise program to their daily routine, especially resistance training, as the benefits are too vital to pass up.

Excess Alcohol Consumption

Plenty of men have enjoyed an ice-cold beer, or two, or three… you get the point. The “beer belly,’ which is often considered the flag for dad bods, is also a common sign of years of excessive alcohol consumption. Alcoholic beverages aren’t inherently unhealthy, as moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink per day for women and 2 for men) can actually have positive health effects. The line between alcohol benefiting your health and hurting your health is an extremely fine one, as that second or third drink pushes you into excess alcohol consumption, which brings similar health problems as overeating or a lack of exercise.

The “beer belly” also refers to the collection of visceral fat, which emphasizes the need for moderation, as the collection of fat around the organs is difficult to get rid of, and carries an elevated risk of metabolic syndrome. While a perfectly trim waist does not need to be the goal for every man, avoiding adding mass through too many drinks is crucial to preventing metabolic syndrome and creating a healthy body.

Find a Happy Medium

The magic of the Dad Bod is that imperfections are appreciated instead of judged. Perfection is a goal that can’t be reached, but a healthier lifestyle is easily attainable. In order to have a Dad Bod that is also healthy, you must find a happy medium between positive body image and healthy body composition.

Applying the Dad Bod mindset to your daily choices is a great way to improve your health. Instead of tackling an intense diet, emphasize making a few healthy choices. Pick a smaller portion at your next meal or add some color to your plate with different produce options. With the obesity epidemic affecting populations all over the world, simple methods to improve nutrition can make all of the difference.

The formation of the Dad Bod trend has addressed a troubling side effect of social media, in which individuals work to develop the appearance of a successful life, instead of actually doing the work to create that success. Embracing your Dad Bod means separating the stigma of working out, which is now viewed as obsessive and self-involved. Exercise should be viewed as a therapeutic activity which is used to improve emotional and physical health. Working out doesn’t have to completely transform your appearance. It can just transform your quality of life.

Maintain Your Healthy Dad Bod

You have a Dad Bod, which wasn’t a big deal 10 years ago, but now is the desired look. That’s a great position to be in, but don’t let the trend negatively affect your health. Remember that having a Dad Bod doesn’t preclude you from making healthy choices. Moderation in eating and drinking is key, and exercise is a valuable addition to your daily life. Instead of seeking perfection in your appearance and lifestyle, just appreciate how you look and strive to improve your unhealthy practices little by little.

The Dad Bod trend is an encouraging development in the world of self-image. If used correctly, a positive shift in social norms and overall health can occur. The “perfect physique” should be whatever Bod you have now, but your health and body composition can still be a work in progress. Strive for regular improvement, not perfection. That’s what the Dad Bod is all about.

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Evan Hadrick is a former collegiate track athlete who graduated from the University of Miami and currently works as a track & Field/Cross Country coach and athletic administrator in Dallas, TX. You can read more of his work at StateoftheU.com, where he is an assistant editor contributing sports commentary about University of Miami athletics.

How Body Fat Sabotages Your Immune System

By | Fat mass, Health

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that no one likes being sick.

What if there was something you could do to improve your health and reduce your sick days?

As it turns out, having a healthy body composition contributes to a stronger immune system, helping you to resist minor infections and reduce your risk of getting serious diseases, like heart disease and diabetes.

What’s a healthy body composition? Put simply, there are two main areas of focus: sufficiently developed muscle mass and a body fat percentage in a healthy range  (10-20% for men; 18-28% for women).

Unfortunately, over ⅔ of Americans are classified as overweight, with a shocking 1/3 of Americans classified as obese . Americans are on average heavier than any other time in history. There has been a similar increase in heart disease and diabetes diagnoses. That is why the CDC says obesity is an epidemic in this country.

How does this tie back into the immune system and your health? It all has to do with the nature of body fat.

What Happens When Your Immune System Activates

When your body gets sick – due to a bacterial infection, a virus, etc. – the body’s defense system gets triggered, causing inflammation.  This is thanks to your “innate” immune response: your body’s all-purpose defense mechanism that serves as the first wave of defense against foreign invaders.

The infected area becomes red and swollen due to increased blood flow, which can be unsightly and uncomfortable. Think of what happens to your nose when you get a cold. That’s inflammation.

This reaction is caused by white blood cells called macrophages and the proteins they emit called cytokines (this word will be important in a minute). These cytokines encourage inflammation.

You may have not thought of it this way before, but inflammation that’s triggered by your immune system is typically a good thing. That means your body is releasing the appropriate hormones and proteins, activating your white blood cells to start the recovery process, and working to defeat the infection.  If there wasn’t any inflammation, your body would be in serious trouble.

So if inflammation is what naturally occurs when your body’s immune system is triggered, how does inflammation relate to body fat, body composition, and obesity?

When Inflammation Becomes Permanent

When white blood cells cause inflammation, it’s a sign that your body’s immune system is properly functioning. Inflammation begins, white blood cells attack the foreign invader, the invader is neutralized, and the inflammation subsides.

This is how your body’s defense system naturally works. However, white blood cells aren’t the only type of cell that have the ability to emit cytokines.  A second type of cell that can emit cytokines and cause inflammation are adipocytes or fat cells.

Most people know that your body stores excess calories as fat so that you can use it later for energy if food becomes scarce.  

Just recently, scientists have learned that fat is an active endocrine organ, one that can secrete a whole host of proteins and chemicals, including inflammatory cytokines.

What happens when your body keeps adding on more and more adipose tissue?  Cytokines are released by your fat cells, triggering inflammation. In fact, obesity is characterized by researchers as “ a state of low-grade, chronic inflammation.

This means that increased fat cells puts your body in a constant state of stress/immune response. Your body is always in a state of inflammation; your immune system is permanently “switched on.”

Think of your body’s immune system like your body’s crack team of defenders, highly trained and designed to repel any and all foreign invaders.  In this scenario, your adipose cells are like enemy agents planted in your home territory. Their mission is to spread fear of an attack at all times, and they trick your defenders to be on high alert at all times.

As you might have guessed, perpetual, never-ending inflammation isn’t good for the body.

Sabotaged Immune System

Obesity causes a state of chronic inflammation, and this causes your immune system to become compromised.  Chronic inflammation is a serious issue and can lead to the development of minor and serious illness and conditions.  Here are a couple examples:

  • Influenza (the flu)

You may remember several years ago that there was a particularly deadly strain of the flu virus called H1N1.  As hospitals started to fill up with the sick, doctors in Spain noticed something: overweight and obese patients were beginning to show up in disproportionate numbers in intensive care units, and they were staying for longer than people who were not obese or overweight. Increased inflammation due to increased pro-inflammatory cytokines appeared to be a leading factor contributing to their increased flu risk.

Stories like these led  researchers in Canada to analyze the flu records for the previous 12 years, stretching from 2008 back to 1996. They found that people who were obese were more likely to come into the hospital for respiratory diseases than those who were not obese. They concluded that obese people were an “at risk” population during flu seasons due to their compromised immune response.

  • Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading killer of adults in the United States.  Although there are many factors that can contribute to heart disease, recent research has pointed to inflammation caused by obesity as one of the most significant factors contributing to its development.

The main culprits are, again, the cytokines produced by excess fat in the body.  These cytokines cause inflammation of the walls of your arteries, causing damage to the arteries and increasing pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. When you have high blood pressure, it means that your heart isn’t pumping blood effectively, and it starts to enlarge. An enlarged heart is a significant risk factor that can lead to heart failure if steps aren’t taken to remedy it.

  • Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition characterized by insulin resistance – the inability of your body to remove excess sugar from your blood. Just like heart disease, there are many related factors that lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes, and obesity has long been associated with the development of diabetes.

However, with the discovery that fat is an active tissue that can secrete cytokines and wreak havoc on the immune system, researchers have been able to show a link between obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Increased inflammation was shown to disturb a whole host of processes and the endocrine system. When obesity and the subsequent inflammation is left unchecked for a long time, it increases the risk of developing insulin resistance, and eventually diabetes.

Who’s At Risk?

A compromised immune system and inflammation aren’t issues that only concern overweight people.

Many people know that being overweight and obese is unhealthy and can lead to serious diseases over time.  Admittedly, poor diet and low levels of activity contributing to heart disease and diabetes over time in obese people isn’t exactly news.

Unless you start to take into account what the word “obese” actually means.

Classically, obesity has been defined by having a high Body Mass Index (BMI), a way of expressing the relationship of your weight vs. your height.  If your BMI exceeds 25, you’re labeled “overweight,” and once your BMI increases beyond 30, you progress into different levels of obesity.

Doctors have used BMI for obesity assessment for years, but unfortunately, BMI has led to confusion by inappropriately labeling people as obese or overweight when they are not, or healthy when they should be aware of their obesity risks.

Obesity doesn’t always simply mean “fat.” What obesity does mean is the excess accumulation of body fat, but what’s excess for you might not be for someone else. It is possible to have a “normal” BMI but a lot of excess fat; this is called being “skinny fat.”  Crucially, skinny fat people share many of the same metabolic risks as people who have high BMIs, including the risk of inflammation and a faulty immune system.

This is why you should look at having too much body fat not only as a problem for people who are visibly overweight, but also for people who don’t have enough muscle relative to how much body fat they have.

One way to determine whether you’re at risk is to have your body composition analyzed.  This assessment method will reveal your body fat percentage, a number that you can use to understand if the amount of fat you have is healthy or excessive for someone of your size.

How To Get Your Immune System Back In Line

Fortunately, because researchers have been able to identify body fat (and particularly, internal visceral fat)  as a major cause of inflammation and a compromised immune system, they’ve also been able to measure improvements when body fat is reduced. The goal to getting your immune system to function properly again is to stop it from being perpetually triggered.

In a study that followed obese patients who lost weight with caloric restriction and bariatric surgery, the researchers observed a significant reduction in immune system activation, which means less inflammation.  This reduction in immune activation occurred before and after surgery, which indicates that surgery isn’t always necessary: just the reduction of fat mass – and specifically, visceral fat.

Improving your body composition through a mix of strategies that promote fat loss and muscle gain can allow you to reduce your fat mass in a healthy manner that doesn’t require drastic measures like bariatric surgery.  Although this process can and will take time, the effects of having an improved and healthy body composition are immense, not the least of which is reducing overall body inflammation and having your immune system function properly again.

Healthy Immune System, Healthy Life

We’ve gone over a lot of very technical stuff here, so let’s go over the main points for you to take away.

  • Excess Body fat sabotages your immune system by leaving it permanently triggered
  • Inflammation caused by body fat makes you sicker and more vulnerable to disease
  • You can reduce and reverse these changes by reducing your body fat
  • Anyone can be at risk, depending on their body fat percentage, not their weight

No one likes being sick, and no one likes having to manage diseases like diabetes that stick around for a lifetime. To help you avoid these problems, one of the best ways to determine if your body fat is excessive and/or causing inflammation is to have your body fat percentage determined.

Once you have your body fat percentage, you can compare it against the normal ranges for men and women.  For men, you’ll want to be no higher than about 20% body fat; for women, try to stay under about 28%. These ranges may vary slightly depending on whichever source you consult, but these are good guidelines and agree with the ranges set by the American College of Sports Medicine and American Council on Exercise.

If you reduce your fat mass to a healthy range, you will subsequently reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. Having a killer “beach bod” may not motivate you, but what about a healthy body and fewer sick days?

Everyone should see the value in that.

 

Eating Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

By | Body Composition, Fat mass

If you went to primary school in the 90s, you probably remember this diagram from a nutrition class.

food pyramid nutrition

 

Released in the U.S. in 1992, the food pyramid was designed as an easy way for people to remember which foods they should be getting their calories from and the relative importance of each. Carbs were healthy and good, and so they formed the base; fats were bad and placed at the top. The fat category lumped everything together from healthy fats like Omega-3s and olive oil to saturated fats and sugar. This concept helped trigger the fat-free craze. Although this concept seems pretty normal to us now, at the time in the late 1970s it was actually considered quite radical – so much so that then-president of the National Academy of Sciences, Philip Handler, described the proposed shift as a “vast nutritional experiment.” Essentially, the Dietary Guidelines suggested that people eat less fat and get more calories from bread, grains, rice, pasta, etc. This was intended to protect Americans from weight gain and heart disease. This is why the “high carb, low fat” diet seem familiar and normal to you, and probably why you think eating fat makes you fat.  

What was the result of this recommendation?

Beginning at around the time when the guidelines were first recommended in 1977 and their release to the public in 1980, the percentage of Americans classified as obese increase almost 20% as they followed the government’s advice to cut fat and increase carbs. Why have obesity rates in the United States skyrocketed over the last 18 years? Because the idea that “fat makes you fat” is wrong. Fat is just another nutrient source, same as carbohydrates and protein.  What makes you fat is taking in more energy (calories) in a day than you use. That’s called being in a caloric surplus.

While this might seem like a somewhat challenging thought, fat isn’t solely to blame for weight gain, and it’s not fair to even say it’s a major factor in weight gain.  At fault is a confusing mishmash of terminology, the negative connotation of fat over the past generations, and a pesky little diagram that’s been imprinted in the minds of generations of Americans.

Let’s take a look at how fat got a bad rap to see what you really should be thinking about when you’re trying to lose weight.

Eating Fat Is Not the Same as Becoming Fat

Part of the reason people get confused and think that the fat they eat makes their body store fat is because we use the interchangeably to describe both body fat and dietary fat.

  • Body Fat = Adipose Tissue

The fat that is stored by our bodies is more accurately called “adipose tissue.” Adipose tissue stores are made up of primary adipocytes or fat cells and are responsible, among other things, with storing excess energy for times when you’re not able to give your body the energy it needs in a given day.

Body fat/adipose tissue is essential for survival.  Anyone with a body fat percentage of 0% would not be alive. When you cut your body fat level down to what’s called your “essential fat” – the fat needed to maintain a healthy and functioning body – complications arise.

Take the example of bodybuilders, who in a sense could be defined as “professional body fat cutters”.  When bodybuilders get into competitive shape, they try to lose as much body fat as possible in order to achieve more muscle definition.  Often, this can lead to some health complications that they don’t frequently advertise.

For example, in a 2013 study a competitive male bodybuilder preparing for competition was continuously observed 6 months prior to competing and 6 months after. During that time frame, the bodybuilder was able reduce his body fat percentage from 14.8% to 4.5% by competition time.

In the process of losing all this fat, the researchers observed various complications:

Of note, many of the physiological changes observed including an elevation in cortisol, reduction in testosterone, reduction in testosterone, reduction in immune function, alterations in mood status, and decreases in physical performance and maximal heart rate that occurred during the preparation period are consistent with markers of overtraining.

Rossow, et al (2013)

Contrary to popular belief, the study shows that a very low body fat percentage can disrupt important biological process and can actually be detrimental to your health!

  • Dietary Fat = Macronutrient

The fat you eat is dietary fat and is one of the three essential macronutrients your body can get energy from.

When we talk about calories, we’re actually talking about some combination of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Let’s examine a standard nutrition label. What do you see?

Although they’re not labeled as such, you’ll see the three macronutrients listed there – which we’ve underlined – along with the grams of each.  Each macronutrient contributes a certain numbers of calories to the total caloric content of the food.

  • Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram

You can actually multiply the grams by the calories and add them together to get the total calorie number listed at the top of the label (this one actually comes out to 232, but the government allows rounding to the nearest 10).

This bears repeating: fat is a macronutrient. It isn’t necessarily bad on its own.  Furthermore, you need dietary fat. That’s because your body can make all the fatty acids it needs, except for two: linoleic acid and linolenic acid.  These two necessary substances have to be found in your diet.

Would you believe that people actually used to eat more fat than they do now and at the time obesity rates that were much lower? It’s true, they did, and it’s true – obesity rates used to be much lower.  So if increased fat isn’t making you fat, what is?

What’s Actually Making You Fat?

Too many calories, probably from carbs.

Eating more calories than your body uses and needs in a day causes you to gain weight, and Americans continue to eat more and more calories with each passing year.

According to the USDA, from 1970 to 2000, the total number of daily calories that Americans ate increased by 530 calories, an increase of 24.5%. During the same time period, the percentage of Americans categorized as obese increased dramatically.

What happened?

Americans started to eat more calories.  This is surprising when you consider that carbohydrates contain less than half the calories (4 Cal) that fat (9 Cal) does, gram for gram. Shouldn’t shifting away from fats and towards carbs just reduce overall caloric intake, just by simple math? It doesn’t work that way if you just eat more carbohydrates. You see, consumption of a high carbohydrate diet can trigger something called “reactive hypoglycemia.This is a condition experienced by people who do not have diabetes and are otherwise healthy. Among its symptoms is a feeling of hunger. 

Guess what’s the best way to make that hunger go away? Eat more carbs – your body will be craving them.  And since carbs were supposed to be the largest macronutrient source anyway, most people didn’t think twice about having a snack that consisted of bread, rice, or something else carb-heavy.

By advising people to eat less fat and eat more carbohydrates, the government actually made the obesity problem far worse.  Recognizing the sharp increase in obesity, the food pyramid was revised in 2005 and ultimately retired in 2011 in favor of what the USDA now calls “My Plate,” which gives people a much better visualization of the relative importance of each food category by showing roughly how much space each should take up on a plate.

 

To be clear, neither carbohydrates nor fats on their own cause you to gain weight – it’s just that you tend to eat more calories when your diet is focused on carbohydrates over fat.  Being in a caloric surplus causes you to gain weight. A carb-heavy diet makes it very easy to be in a caloric surplus.

So I Can Throw Away the Low Fat Options?

If you’re smart about it, yes, but you still have to be careful.

Remember, it’s not the fat itself that’s making you fat; it’s the extra calories that you don’t need that makes you fat.  While it’s very easy to eat extra calories on a carbohydrate-based diet, it’s also very easy to add on extra calories from a fat diet too.

At 9 calories, fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient by far.  This means that if you’re looking to lose fat, the low-fat options are still fine choices – not because of their low fat content, mind you, but because of their lower caloric content.  

The fat isn’t making you fat due to just being fat; it’s the extra calories from fat (as well as all the macronutrients) that is causing you to gain weight.

What this means is, if you are responsible with your diet, you can choose foods that contain fat, guilt-free.  You just need to be smart about your caloric intake throughout the entire day.

For example, if you really like the taste of whole milk and have been forcing yourself to drink 1% milk because you think you’re supposed to, you can drink whole milk guilt-free so long as you know that that whole milk contains 46% more calories than 1% milk and you understand that you’re making a deliberate choice to get more calories from milk than from somewhere else.

This means that if you choose to get more calories from milk (and by extension fat), you have to cut calories elsewhere.  If you’re like most Americans, you can probably find foods containing carbohydrates, that if you’re being honest, you can probably do without.

The current (2015-2020) Dietary Guidelines for Americans agrees, as it does not encourage a low-fat diet any longer.  It even encourages a lower intake of carbohydrates.

Optimizing Your Diet

Ultimately, the only person who has any real influence on how you divide your nutrient intake/calorie limit is you.

A lot goes into planning, preparing, and following a diet. Trying to balance what you like to eat with what you should be eating to maintain a healthy weight and body composition can be tricky. Don’t punish yourself with a extremely low-carbohydrate diet because it will probably be unsustainable. But if you want to make improvements, a good guide would be a diet that is low-sugar and low in saturated fats and high in healthy fats (like Omega-3s) and protein.

When you have a good idea of what your individual caloric needs are, which you can learn by using a combination of your Basal Metabolic Rate and your activity level, this will become a lot easier.

Understanding how fat and the other macronutrients make up these calories will only further ease the problems with designing a nutrient dense balanced diet. Remember, fat isn’t bad on its own.  Focus on building a diet that you actually want to eat, keep it within a reasonable number of calories, add in more physical activity, and you’ll be closer to your weight loss goals than if you simply just reach for packaging that promises “low fat” or “reduced fat” foods.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/90571521-fat-doesnt-make-you-fat/

Can You Target Belly Fat (or any fat area?)

By | Body Composition, Fat mass, Fitness

Everyone has their problem spots.

You might build up fat in your belly pretty easily, but your friend might get it in her arms.  Your mom might complain about her hips getting bigger. Your brother might have fat in the upper body.

Everyone wishes that they could just magically reduce fat mass in a certain area. But unfortunately, you can’t. Targeting fat, or “spot reduction,” is a myth, and there’s no shortage of clinically-validated studies that disprove it.

For example, in 2007, researchers at the University of Connecticut examined a group of 104 subjects and had them perform resistance training on their non-dominant arm (so if a subject was right-handed, they exercised their left arm).

At the conclusion of the 12-week study, MRI scans revealed no loss in fat between either arm.

So arms are out (as are legs), but what about the one a lot of people really fat: belly fat?

Well, in a recent (2011) study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, participants were divided into two groups and asked to perform abdominal exercises. The control group was allowed to train relatively unsupervised, while the experimental group was put on a controlled abdominal exercise workout plan.

The results for both groups?

“Six weeks of abdominal exercise training alone was not sufficient to reduce abdominal subcutaneous fat or other measures of body composition.”

Vispute et al, 2011

No matter how many crunches or planks you do, you can’t target the fat that hugs your belly.  You might develop some very strong ab muscles, but the fat will stay put.

So what can you do to get rid of stubborn fat in your problem spots?  Are we to conclude that there is no point in working out different parts of your body when you want to lose fat? How does fat loss even work?

To answer these questions, we have to start with how fat gets there in the first place.

How Fat Mass Is Created and Stored

Body fat by itself is not bad; you need it to survive.  However, excess body fat can cause health problems ranging from diabetes to hypertension to metabolic syndrome to a host of other serious problems.

Body fat mass is created when you are in a caloric surplus – taking in more calories than your body needs, or in plain speech: “overeating.” This is true for all humans, regardless of whether you’re male or female.

Here’s the thing: it’s actually a lot easier to get into a caloric surplus than you might think.  Just because you’re eating until you feel full doesn’t mean you’re eating what will keep your body weight stable.

The 2,000-calorie diet you’re likely familiar with was designed to be the best estimate of people’s daily caloric needs, but since everyone has a unique body composition, 2,000 calories may be too little – or too much, especially if you’re inactive.

How can 2,000 calories be too much? Take the example of someone who is metabolically obese but has a normal weight – someone popularly termed “skinny fat.”

Body composition analysis reveals that this person (a female) has a body fat percentage of 35%, over the normal range for women. However, a closer look at her composition reveals that she bears the hallmarks of skinny fatness: a “normal” weight caused by underdeveloped muscle and overdeveloped fat.

She also has 88 pounds of Lean Body Mass, corresponding to a BMR of 1231 calories.

Assuming she lives a mostly sedentary lifestyle with no exercise, her Total Daily Energy Expenditure would be roughly 1477.2 calories.

This would mean that if she kept to a 2,000-calorie diet, she would be in a caloric surplus of 522.8 calories a day – meaning she could expect to gain roughly a pound of fat every week if she remained consistently on this diet every day.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or women; fat accumulation occurs in the same way. Where it ends up, however, can be a different story for both men and women.

  • Android Obesity

Android obesity is a subset of obesity that most frequently occurs in men.  It is characterized by weight gain in the midsection and upper chest and gives men a more rounded look. This is sometimes called “apple-shaped” obesity.

Men store more of their fat here because of their hormones, specifically, their testosterone levels.  Women can also experience android obesity after menopause due to the decrease of estrogen in their bodies relative to testosterone.

  • Gynoid Obesity

Gynoid Obesity is another subset of obesity that most commonly occurs in pre-menopausal women.  It is characterized by fat accumulation in the hips, legs, and buttocks.  Because the fat accumulation generally takes place in the lower half of the body, gynoid obesity is referred to as “pear-shaped obesity.”

While everyone gains it the same way, fat accumulates  in different places depending on gender, hormones, and other factors. Having fat show up in some places but not others creates the desire in people to want to target fat, which can lead them to look for strategies that help them do it.

Is there really no way to target fat?

Here’s What You Can and Can’t Target

Let’s take a look at targeting certain areas by exercising an area more than another.

What actually happens when you work out a muscle group?  You challenge your muscles.  Muscle fibers get torn and rebuilt, and with proper exercise and nutrition, they become more developed.

Although this can lead to localized blood flow in the exercised muscles leading to some interaction with the subcutaneous fat, the effects are very minimal and don’t contradict the studies that discount spot reduction.

In order to lose Fat Mass, you have to use more calories than you take in. This is called being in a “caloric deficit.” For example, if your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is 2200, and you consume 1800 calories, you’re in a caloric deficit of -400 calories.  If you can maintain this over time with proper nutrition, you’ll lose Fat Mass.

When you lose fat, you generally lose it in across your body at the same time.  You can’t target any particular area over another.

However, fat loss does occur in some areas more rapidly than it does in others.  Case in point: visceral fat.

Visceral fat is the fat you don’t see.  It collects in your abdominal area and surrounds your internal organs.  This type of fat is very dangerous in large quantities, and as associated with several serious health complications including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Metabolic Syndrome, high blood pressure, and more.

It’s also dangerous because it’s not typically visible.  People can have significant amounts of visceral fat but not know it because their weight/appearance doesn’t give it away. These people are sometimes called “skinny fat.”

There is some good news, however.  Although you can’t “target” it per se, visceral fat is particularly responsive to cardiovascular exercise, so if you start significantly increasing your running, biking, swimming, or whatever your cardio exercise of choice is, you can expect to “see” a reduction in visceral fat.  One study has even shown that for people whose BMIs exceed 25.0, cardiovascular exercise alone, even without a caloric deficitcan have a positive impact on visceral fat reduction.

To Target Your Fat – All of It – Get Back to Basics

If you have problem fat areas, you should let go of the idea that you can target them by doing exercises in that area. It’s been proven conclusively that you cannot do this, and the sooner you let it go, the sooner you can focus on what does work: proper diet and exercise.

So to target your problem fat areas, you need to target your entire body and follow the same basic guidelines for effective fat loss that will last.

  1. Get Your Body Composition Determined

This is an important first step, and one that a lot of people skip: get your body composition determined. This will allow you to learn your body fat percentage, which will reveal valuable information about your body, including:

  • How much Fat Mass you have
  • How much Lean Body Mass you have

With that information, you can find out even more useful information, such as:

  • Your Basal Metabolic Rate
  • Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure

These two are particularly important because they’ll help you determine how many calories your body needs in a day.  If you need help with figuring that out, here’s a guide to get you started on planning a diet using your body composition data.

  1. Using Your TDEE, Plan a Diet For Fat Loss

Your TDEE will be an extremely useful number for you. You can think of it like a “calorie budget.” You can “spend” your “budget” on different foods and beverages throughout the day, with the goal of “saving” calories at the end of the day (your caloric deficit). How you “spend” your budget is up to you, but you will still want to make healthy choices throughout the day.

There are numerous diets that you might follow. Don’t follow any that ask you to eat a certain number of calories or one that worked for someone that you know. These won’t necessarily work for you.  Use your own, personal TDEE as a guideline to determine how much you should be eating in a day.

  1. If you plan to work out to increase your TDEE, include cardio and strength training.

Cardio, particularly HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio, can be an effective way to increase your TDEE, and if your diet holds constant, will increase your caloric deficit and lead to fat loss.

However, just focusing on cardio alone isn’t a good idea. If you only run, bike, or do some kind of other type of cardio exercise without any strength training, you can start to lose Lean Body Mass (which your Skeletal Muscle Mass is a part of).

Losing Lean Body Mass and Fat Mass at the same time will make it a lot harder to improve your body composition and will keep you from getting the look you want. Fortunately, studies have shown that incorporating strength training can preserve Lean Body Mass while you’re in a caloric deficit to lose fat.  Don’t neglect the weights!

By getting back to the basics of dieting and exercising properly, you’ll chip away at your problem areas slowly but surely.  Try not to focus on short term goals and avoid any shortcut diets that advertise “weight loss secrets”, “diet hacks” or any other scam-sounding diet. If you want a guaranteed way to target your fat – all of it – get back to basics by improving your body composition.

 

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/93300161-can-you-target-belly-fat-or-any-fat-area/

BIA: Once Flawed, Not Anymore

By | Fat mass, Health

In the world of body composition analysis, bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) is almost a dirty word.

Although well-known and popularly used in consumer home/fitness equipment, BIA technology has been disregarded for years when it comes to medical or professional purposes.  And for good reason: many early BIA devices had serious design flaws.  Even today, many people immediately dismiss BIA technology as technology that can only give ballpark estimations, even in the best of circumstances.

However, BIA has come a very long way over the past few decades.  So far, in fact, that some bioelectrical impedance devices are now producing results that nearly mirror results generated by DEXA, an industry-regarded gold standard.

Really? Yes, really.

Imagine if you could determine body composition with a device that used technology which had all the convenience of traditional BIA, but combined it with the precision and reproducibility of a gold standard procedure.  Imagine if that device was small enough to be placed anywhere: a doctor’s office, a gym, even a bedroom.  Imagine if that device could track your results forever and illustrate your progress over time.

Today, devices like these exist.

If you haven’t interacted with BIA technology recently, or the last time you encountered it was in a Fitness Science textbook in a college class years ago, consider this your crash course update on modern, 21st century, BIA technology.

Why BIA Gets a Bad Name

Many of the valid concerns people have about using BIA technology stem from outdated, older technology.  If you’re concerned about the accuracy of BIA devices, you probably have very legitimate reasons.  These devices fall into three general groups:

  1. BIA Scales
  2. Handheld BIA Devices
  3. “Whole Body” Impedance Devices

Let’s look at each one to see what the concerns are and where they come from.

  • BIA Scales

When people think about BIA devices that measure body fat, many of them think about something that looks similar to this:

 

 

This is a traditional digital scale that incorporates BIA technology to determine body fat percentage.  To use it, you must enter your age, height, and gender.  Some devices require body type, too. Then, you stand on the scale while it measures your weight.  Once the scale has all the required data, it computes your body fat percentage using BIA technology.

However, the accuracy of such a device has some serious flaws.

First of all, what many people may not realize is BIA scales such as these only send a current up one leg and down the other.  This means that impedance (the metric that all BIA devices use to compute results) is only directly measured in the legs.

The upper body and arms?  Estimated based on the results for the legs.  This means that roughly 40% of your Lean Body Mass is used to determine a body fat percentage that is supposed to account for 100% of your body.

If you feel skeptical about trusting your results from a BIA scale, you’re absolutely correct to do so.

  • Handheld BIA Devices

Handheld BIA devices – such as the ones carried by many gyms – are no better, and due to the relatively smaller size of the arms compared to the legs may actually be even more unreliable.  Those devices operate similarly as BIA scales, except instead of measuring the legs, handheld BIA devices send the current from one arm to the other and then estimate everything from your chest down.

This means that these devices are guessing what your overall body composition is based on the composition of your arms.  This can lead to inaccurate results.  If your arms are the most muscular part of your body but you carry the majority of your fat in your midsection, a handheld BIA device will not be able to account for that.

Because handheld BIA devices don’t just report muscle and fat for the arms and give results for the entire body, these results are not trustworthy. Handheld BIA devices only directly measure the arms. Everything else is just estimation and guesswork.

  • “Whole Body” Impedance Devices

What about conventional BIA devices, the ones that require you to lie down and have a technician attach adhesive electrodes to the whole right side of your body?  Surely those must be accurate.

Just like scales and handhelds, these devices don’t measure the entire body, even though they might appear to do so.  However, instead of completely missing the upper or lower half of the body like BIA scales and handhelds do, these devices operate differently – but are just as flawed.

In the case of conventional BIA devices, four electrodes are placed on the right half of the body.   The current is sent from the arm, through the body, and out through the leg.  This is somewhat misleadingly referred to as the “Whole Body Impedance” method.

Why misleading? Take a look below:

Although “whole body” might suggest that these devices actually measure the whole body, in reality these machines only directly measure approximately half (usually the right side) and then estimate the remainder.

The core problem with these devices is that they treat the entire body as a single “cylinder.”  This means that when the machine is collecting information, it treats your arms in the same way it treats your trunk/torso; never mind that the trunk’s composition is significantly different than an arm (it contains the internal organs, for instance, and contains a greater amount of Lean Body Mass).

This is a problem when measuring fat and muscle.  Although similarities among genders exist, everybody and every body is different.  Men tend to collect the majority of their fat around their abdomen (android obesity), whereas women tend to collect in the arms and legs in addition to their midsections (gynoid obesity).

What would happen if a particular person didn’t conform to these assumptions? False readings and inaccurate results.

The Future: DSM-BIA

For many people, the devices described above are the only BIA devices they are familiar with.  That’s why, including for those described above, people have very good reasons for dismissing BIA technology. 

However, the industry has recognized the flaws in these BIA devices for some time and, in the last few decades, has responded.

Direct Segmental Multi-Frequency Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (DSM-BIA) is a new, modern approach to BIA technology that, for the first time, directly measures the entire body.

Unlike any of the previous methods or devices above, devices that employ DSM-BIA do not leave any section of the body unaccounted for.  In order to do this accurately, the body is divided into 5 segments and the impedance for each segment is measured independently.

Once the impedance values for each segment are known, the device interprets the raw data and translates it into useful values such as:

  • Body Fat Percentage
  • Total Body Water
  • Lean Body Mass

Because all 5 segments are measured independently of each other, this allows for more advanced analyses.  The below example shows the amount of Lean Body Mass in pounds in each segment of the body:

Using a device that employs DSM-BIA technology allows a doctor, researcher, or fitness professional to paint a more complete picture of a client’s body composition.  It allows each segment of the body to be measured independently, just as DEXA does, but does it much quicker and more conveniently than DEXA –a major advantage of using a BIA device.

Why Trust This Tech?

DSM-BIA represents a major improvement over all previous BIA devices.  But in order to understand this technology and be confident in the results, you’ll need a brief overview on the basics of how BIA devices work.

All BIA devices operate by sending a small electrical current through fluid, which in the human body, is body water.  The current enters and exits via electrodes that come into contact with the skin.  As the current travels throughout your body water, it encounters muscle cells, fat cells, skin cells, etc.  Each of these has a certain ability to oppose the current slightly as it travels on its path towards the exit point.

Once the current finally reaches its endpoint, it will have lost some of its voltage on its journey through body water.  From here, impedance is determined.  BIA devices, including DSM-BIA devices, take impedance values and translate them into useful information that people can readily understand, like Body Fat Percentage and Lean Body Mass.

If all BIA devices use the same basic principle, then what makes DSM-BIA different?

Consider the example of the “Whole Body Impedance” devices.  While on the one hand they appear to be measuring the entire body and delivering trustworthy results, on the other, they treat the body as though it were a single tube of water, irrespective of body shape.  This means that the opposing effect that the current experiences as it travels through the body gets lumped together as a single impedance value.

This is a problem because due to the width of the arms and legs vs. the width of the upper body, impedance values actually vary quite significantly.  Impedance values for the arms and legs can be 10+ times greater than those for the trunk, as shown below (TR = trunk):

 


As you can see, the values for the trunk are much, much lower than those of the arms and legs.  A “Whole Body” impedance device would have taken all five of these values and lumped them into a single “whole body” result.  This is where Whole Body impedance gets its name and where it gets its inaccuracy.

As for BIA scales and handheld BIA devices?  A BIA scale will produce results that would look like this:

 

 

The handheld BIA device will only be able to measure the arms:

 

 

You should notice something: neither of them will measure the all-important trunk.  Only devices that use DSM-BIA paint a complete picture, and only DSM-BIA devices will deliver results that stack up against the gold standards.  All other devices can only offer estimations at best.

An Easier, Better, More Accurate Way

DSM-BIA technology represents the future of body composition analysis and BIA technology.  Older BIA devices have major design flaws that limited their reliability and the reproducibility of their results; DSM-BIA technology has responded to those flaws.

By improving BIA technology, DSM-BIA devices blend the precision expected from gold standard devices with the convenience and ease-of-use provided by traditional BIA devices.  It is possible to have the best of both worlds, after all.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/bia-technology/39971073-bia-once-flawed-not-anymore/

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