Let’s set the scene: You’ve been training really hard, lifting weights and doing your interval training. You’ve been eating really well. Your clothes fit better, your arms have got more definition and you’re even starting to get some definition on your legs. It’s Monday morning, it’s time to weigh yourself and you are sure that there will be weight loss. You hop on the scales and… nothing, or worst still you are 500 grams heavier! What the hell is going on?!?
The concept of muscle weighing more than fat is not new, but I think we need to clarify things a little better. What we need to understand is that 5kg of fat or muscle is still 5kg regardless of what it is. The key difference is that 5kg of muscle is smaller in volume than the larger, lumpy, soft 5kg of fat (see picture below). So when people say muscle weighs more than fat, what they mean is that you need more fat to make 5kg than you do muscle. Which is why the number on the scales may be the same but your body composition (the way it looks) has changed.
So you can have two people who are of the same height and weight but who look very different because their bodies are composed differently. One might have 35% body fat whilst the other has only 19% body fat. You can also have someone who is heavier but looks better (i.e. more toned) because not only have they changed their body composition they have also added lean muscle mass to their frame whilst reducing body fat.
For example 2 years ago when I got over my lack of enthusiasm for strength training and started lifting heavier weights I had 22% body fat and weighed between 49 to 50kg. I now weigh 54kg but only have 15% body fat. So yes I am the heaviest I’ve been my whole life but I am stronger than I have ever been. I’m not as skinny as I used to be because I have much more muscle definition.
At the start of a training program most people (especially women) make the mistake of misunderstanding the difference between weight loss and fat loss. Of course being overweight and having excess body fat is a threat to our health, but what we also must understand is that being skinny (or lighter) is not always synonymous with being healthier or fitter. Think Amy Whinehouse or Kate Moss… yeah not so healthy but definitely skinny!
The point is that you need to try to not be influenced by the scales all the time. Of course if you are 15 to 30kg overweight then we can rest assured that most of that is fat and the scales are fine, but if we are talking about ‘loosing’ 2-8kg then the scales will do nothing but emotionally deflate you if you are only using this as a representation of your progress. Check your body fat percentage, see how your clothes fit and get body circumference measurements for a more accurate figure of your progress.
Having said all that, remember that it takes effort and discipline to loose body fat and gain muscle. So if you have put on 2kg on the scales, have been eating poorly, not exercised and your clothes don’t fit well then don’t kid yourself into thinking it must be muscle, if the shoe fits it’s probably fat!
Therefore this month I will:
> Get my body fat percentage checked
> Choose a pair of pants that haven’t fitted in a while and use this as my benchmark
> Get my circumference measurements
Adriana Solorzano – Director & Personal Training Manager