This is important: You Want to Burn Fat, Not Lose Weight.
The number one goal of people who joined us in the TransPHORMation Challenge is to “lose weight.” Seems easy enough, just jump on a scale and if the number goes down you succeeded. There is one major problem with that. When you jump on the scale, that device has no idea what you may be wearing, what is in your pockets and most importantly whether your body has more fat or less fat. This is a key point that many people do not understand. I myself did not for many years.
Most people actually want to change their body composition. Not just lose weight. By this I mean gaining muscle, losing fat or both. This will give the toned… athletic… shapely look that most people invision in their mind when they think of how they want to look. This means the number on the scale should not be how you determine success or lack of success from the effort you put in. To be blunt, the number on the scale means very little.
You want to lose fat and maintain your muscle mass. To do this, you want to set yourself up for success. You do so through proper supplementation. Along with a quality nutrition plan and consistent exercise. Which typically means an increase in your exercise each week and cutting back on your caloric intake.
This is where a number of factors enter into the discussion. The more aggressive you are with cutting calories … the more important eating protein becomes. Your body needs a certain amount of protein each day. Here is a bit more information on how much protein the human body can absorb. By having adequate amounts of protein you will help your body preserve lean muscle tissue, stay full longer, and ultimately set your body up for better fat loss results. Remember though, just because you cut back on the number of calories you consume doesn’t mean your body automatically will need less protein. As you cut calories your protein should stay relatively about the same.
Your body composition is largely dependent upon your gender and age. Middle-aged men (18 – 40 years) should strive for a body composition around 14 – 18% while women should strive for around 23 – 28%. In simplest terms, your body composition consists of your fat mass and everything else, oftentimes referred to as fat-free mass. When one goes up, the other goes down and vice versa. I have said many times that losing weight is not necessarily that hard as you simply need to cut back on how much each and weight loss will occur.
Unfortunately, this can wreck your body composition. Which ultimately makes it harder for you to continue losing fat and maintain your changes when you stop restricting your caloric intake. I am sure you know someone who has “rebounded” and gained all of their weight back. Sometimes more. I myself have lived through this multiple times. Let me tell you, it is not fun.
The best option to track progress during your transPHORMation is to have an accurate body composition assessment completed. I realize that is not possible for many people. No worries, the best non-scientific way to assess body composition changes is to observe how well your clothes are (or aren’t) fitting. If your jeans or belt are getting tighter, a very likely reason is that your body composition is changing. Sure you may have dried them too long in the dryer, but that can’t be the reason every time you put them on.
Most gyms and fitness centers have simple ways to assess your body composition. I suggest looking at a local university and see if they have an Exercise Science or Kinesiology program. If they do, ask if they can measure your body composition.
If you are in the St. Louis-area, Lindenwood University has a state of the art DEXA scanner that can measure your body composition. Our program is committed to connecting with our community and becoming one of the leading programs in the country for Exercise Science and Human Performance. Look me up on the Lindenwood University website and give me a call.
This post was written by Chad Kerksick, an Assistant Professor of Exercise Science at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. Dr. Kerksick is a nerd for exercise physiology and particularly enjoys discussing strategies to lose fat and enhance performance through diet, supplementation and exercise.
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