By: Miami Beach Personal Trainer Ted Ryce
Many people have heard the saying that, “Muscle weighs more than fat.” That’s actually incorrect. What they really mean is that muscle is more dense than fat.
Density is determined by the amount of weight (mass) and how much space an object takes up (volume).
What does that mean?
That means if you have 5lbs of muscle and 5lbs of fat, the muscle will actually take up more room.
Why is that important?
Because the scale, body mass index (BMI), and how your clothes fit may not indicate how much fat you really have on your body!
Forget About Your Weight
Weighing yourself and body mass index (usually taken at your primary care physician’s office) just don’t tell the whole story. In fact, there is a condition known as Normal Weight Obesity. Normal Weight Obesity known colloquially as “Skinny Fat” means that you have what’s considered a normal weight yet you still most if not just as many of the risk factors of the people who are obviously obese from looking at them. Why? Because you have too much fat on your body.
To quote one study done in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:
“We have identified a new syndrome—the normal-weight obese (NWO) syndrome—in women with normal weight and body mass index but whose fat mass is >30% of their total body weight and whose risk of developing obesity-related diseases is likely increased.”
The study also talks about how people with Normal Weight Obesity have more pro-inflammatory chemicals implicated in heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Read the study here.
Better Measurements for Body Fat
The best way to determine your body fat % is a full body scan like the DEXA scan. However, you have to have access to one and be willing to set up an appointment and pay around $50-100 for one. If you are on the obsessive side of knowing what you body fat is then I recommend going for it. You can go at regular monthly intervals to make sure your exercise and nutrition program is working for you.
What I personally do for my clients is use a combination of weight, circumference and skin-fold measurements. Using these metrics together gives a good indication of whether a client is losing fat. Even if you don’t use a personal trainer, I recommend that you go to one that uses these tools so you get an accurate assessment of whether your program is working for you or not.
Why Is This Important?
I’m not just writing about this topic to be cool, relevant and interesting. I’m writing about this because I talk with people and train clients on a daily basis who continually sabotage their efforts to improve their health and the way they look because of misunderstanding the limitations of using weight or BMI to determine whether they’re losing fat.
For example, a woman who starts lifting weights, puts on a few pounds then proceeds to freak out when she looks at the scale because the numbers went up. She then complains to her trainer and eventually quits and begins doing “cardio” 5 times a week and her body never changes. Some men are like this as well. They start to get anxious when their weight increases as they put on muscle.
The way you FEEL about your weight is irrelevant to what is actually going on in your body. That’s why airplane pilots use their instrument gauges to determine their altitude and position relative to the ground as opposed to what they feel. Instead, use a combination METRICS to paint a more objective picture of how your exercise and nutrition program is going.
Have Faith in Exercise
I want you to have FAITH in exercise even if the results you experience at first don’t coincide with your ultimate goal. Exercise WORKS. It’s not magic. It’s a simple case of stimulus and adaptation.
Have faith in knowing that if you are doing the right forms of exercise and eating properly, that you will eventually look better and improve your health.
Do you need more help than what I offered here? If so, contact me for in-home personal training or an online training program that will get you results.