There's a difference between weight loss and fat loss. For those of you who read magazines or blogs promising miraculous weight loss, you might be led to believe that losing weight is just as good as losing fat. Ah, but the real evidence of health is having a good balance of fat and lean body mass. You read it right, it isn't healthy to lose too much fat or too much lean tissue. In fact, losing too much fat (below 9% for women and below 5% for men) can actually lead to death much faster than being obese. The real question, and the one that really hasn't been answered definitively yet by modern science, is what ratio of fat to lean body mass is best for your body?
"No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office." -George Bernard Shaw
Which Weight are We Weighing?
Although I may not be able to specifically answer the very individual question of what body fat percentage vs. lean body mass (connective tissue/bones/muscle) percentage your body functions best at, there are many different charts that give us ranges to shoot for. If you'd like to know what these ranges are for your age group and sex, here's a link. What I find more interesting is that although these charts would lead us to believe that we can all fit into a little category, each and every one of us has a unique body that can both be manipulated to perform and change, and that will also find a way to lean toward its own set-point.
Data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study out of Dallas, TX found that men who were physically "fit" (scored in the top 80% of one's age group while performing a treadmill walking test) had death rates one-half those of lean unfit men. So, even though they had a significantly higher body weight than others, because they were active and fit, their likelihood of living longer was still double! Our body weight is a measure of our total mass regardless of what that mass is composed of. When we look at body fat, we are looking at both subcutaneous fat and the fat that protects and surrounds our organs. Our lean body mass is made up of muscle, connective tissue, organs, bones, and really everything besides fat. In theory, the less excess fat we have, the less work our body has to do to overcome our total mass to move and play and live. However, without adequate fat, our organ systems shut down, our hormones deregulate, we don't think as clearly, and we have no energy reserves to do anything beyond very minimal activity (unless you are eating 8 times a day).
To reach a balance of healthy body fat and an active, flourishing amount of lean tissue, you must eat a diet rich in colorful vegetables and fruit, lean protein, omega 3 fats, and you must do some form of regular activity that forces you to resist your own body weight and beyond. We build muscle tissue when we stress the muscle enough that it lays down more muscle fibers so it can meet the challenges we impose upon it the next time we place a demand on it. This requires that we come within a few repetitions of near failure, and that we do different things to challenge the muscular system all the time.
We love resistance training and have found it to be a great compliment to nearly all of our clients lives outside of the gym to help them improve performance in other activities, reduce injuries, improve metabolism, and give them more energy. And, when one thing improves, it's easier to gain momentum to make other health changes too!
Please feel free to respond with your thoughts or comments on health, wellness, or your energy anytime. We love it when this newsletter is shared and forwarded to friends or when readers give us their suggestions or ideas!
Have a beautiful week!
In love and health,
Nicole Irlbeck and the Restoration Fitness Crew