Muscle VS Fat

Why do we get hung up on the number on the scales?

Is it actually important? It is so easy to fixate on weight (and how much we’d like to lose) when the real issue is how much body fat we are carrying around.

Are you confusing weight loss with fat loss? Which do you want to achieve?

We’ve grown up using the bathroom scales as a measure of healthiness. It is hard to shift the habit of using such an easy and quantifiable number as a level of fitness, well being and, to a point, personal happiness. But this is a flawed measure.  

We have trained people who, after months of dedicated strength and cardio workouts have ended up weighing the same. But they have noticed big changes in their shape – belts needing extra holes, new clothes being bought in smaller sizes. How can that be? Are they not healthier? If the number on the scale doesn’t change… how can they be?

It’s all down to the fact that muscle and fat have different size for the same weight – one kilo of each obviously weighs the same, but the muscle takes up less physical space.

So why is weight and the number on the scales the wrong thing to focus on? Hopefully that picture clarifies things for you.  Clearly muscle takes up less space than fat for the same weight.

So, if you are eating well, exercising more than before and you’re still not losing weight perhaps a change of perspective is needed.

How are your clothes fitting? This is just as valid a measure for progress as the plinth of doom (scales).

When we take on a new personal training client whose primary goal is to lose weight, we ask them to choose an item of clothing they own and would like to fit in. We get them to try it on now, and then do so again after a period of time – 3 or 4 months. Then they can see what progress is being made. All too often we witness the frustration that the weight isn’t coming off as quick as they would like – yet on trying on that pair of jeans or a dress there’s often a pleasant surprise.

While it is true that muscle burns more calories than fat, sadly it is not such a great increase that simply being able to sit there burning more calories should be the main aim of exercise. Instead, focus on the fact that lean muscle is healthier, and it takes up less room. Your body shape will improve and you’ll be carrying less fat thus reducing the health risks associated with having too high a body fat percentage.

Now, how is it that we build lean muscle? It’s fairly easy: lift weights. Strength training helps to increase and build muscle thereby reducing fat by increasing your metabolism so you can burn more calories per day.

How to measure progress? Keep track of training (diary), how are clothes fitting, how are your energy levels.

What gives you a true level of fitness and health? Do these things give you a good measure of progress? Yes – it might be a little more complicated or subjective than a number on the scales. but which is a better monitor of your health – how you feel, your energy levels, and what clothes you fit into, or a number on the scales?

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