The Lose Fat vs Lose Weight Challenge
As a Fitbuzzer, your body is simply made up of Central Nervous System trained muscles with a tiny layer of fat on top. And since the goal is to lose fat and not weight (Because that would include losing lean muscle, which you need to help you ‘stay’ lean), it would be in your best interest to keep that layer of fat low. But how low should you go? What’s the best way to measure body fat %? What methods are deemed useless? Well, that’s what we’re about to find out.
The lose fat vs lose weight challenge
It was in this video post where I spoke about the effects of lifting weights to get lean. In fact, lifting weights to get lean while maintaining your current diet may just be a better option than actual dieting. Because typical dieting may cause you to lose lean muscle (Up to 50%). You know, dropping 5-10 pounds of weight in a matter of days by dehydrating yourself. But that’s pointless, because you know you’re going to gain all of that back again. Keep on repeating that process and you’ll gain back MORE each time you do it, because each time will result in a loss of even more lean muscle, which you now know helps you keep the fat off. So when you hear the terms ‘weight loss’ and ‘fat loss’, be sure to understand that both terms mean two different things.
- Weight loss = Crash dieting (Why America is FAT) – Lose fat and muscle
- Fat loss = 3 Key formula (food intake based on percentage + structured weight training and cardio) – lose mostly fat and no muscle
The goal of fat loss is obviously a more challenging one to accomplish. I know because…
- You’re always looking for an extra formula (I’m not going to say magic pill. I respect you a bit more than that ). Besides, that’s part of the approach to tweaking what works best for YOU.)
- You, me and everyone else on this planet is never happy with how they look. Even if they look fantastic in the eyes of the masses.
Now, there is a reason I named this post a ‘challenge’. The reason is because most people make the mistake of worshipping the scale first before anything else. But think about this (Especially ‘lean’ guy Fitbuzzers)…
How many times have you walked up to the scale, been disappointed with the weight on the scale (You wished you were heavier) but then looked in the mirror and found that you’re actually happy with what you see?
How many times have you walked up to the scale, have been happy with the weight, but disappointed with what you see?
Well, there’s nothing confusing about either of those scenarios really. But it does highlight the reasons why you shouldn’t be using the scale as your no.1 judge for progress. The reason for the confusion is that the scale doesn’t tell you how much of your weight is fat and how much of your weight is muscle. To add to that, your weight will flucuate throughout the entire day. Which basically means the reading on that scale can never be completely accurate. It will always be a tool for gauging. As I’ve said before, it’s better to judge by what you see in the mirror and the measurements based on your body fat percentage and lean body mass.
Back to the video above…
These two charts are taken from that same page mentioned above. However, I want to clear up a few things regarding some of these charts. Namely the bodyweight vs body fat percentage charts.
The true break down of the height/weight/sex chart
You may have seen charts like the ones above before. Some charts only include what weight you should be in regards to your height. However, I’m not going to post one of those for you to see. Why? Because just like the scale, these charts are not a totally accurate.
- Height: 5′ 9″
- Weight: 110lbs
- Actual BF%: 29.8% (Going by our chart)
According to that chart (Some differ by a few percentages more) this women is considered obese. Which is wrong, because this women simply has more fat than muscle, but she is definitly not obese, because she only weighs 110lbs.
- Height: 5′ 7″
- Weight: 205lbs
- Actual BF%: 10.8% (Going by our chart)
He would be considered obese in regards to his height and weight ratio. But as you can see, he has a very low body fat percentage, probably has stacks of lean muscle mass (Which aids to his weight – This is the kind of weight gain that you want by the way. Especially for those on the No Nonsense Butt Building program who want to grow their glutes) And most likely looks like this…
Photo credit: Chad Shaw
Just like the scale, these height and weight only charts don’t factor in your actual body fat percentage. If you was a foolish person (One of the above two examples), you would go and cry yourself to sleep if you judged your progress by weight only. So if you’re using these charts as a tool, just understand that the devil is in the details.
The Body Mass Index (BMI)
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is another well known method to determine whether you’re at a “healthy weight.”
How it works
- Female: BMI is 27.3
- Male: BMI of 27.8
If you’re BMI is higher than the figures you see there, then you’re considered ‘obese’. Well one way to test how efficient this is, is to test our male and female subjects from the above example:
The BMI formula
- 110lbs = 49kg
- 1.75 sq meters = 3.06 meters
- 49kg/3.06 = 16.01
- 205lbs = 93kg
- 1.70 sq meters = 2.89 meters
- 93kg/3.06 = 30.39
Well, as you can see, the female subject from above has a favorable BMI rating of 16.01. So she’s ‘healthy’, right? Not quite, remember, this is the same lady that has a body fat percentage of 29.8%. Which is totally bad, but isn’t exactly ‘healthy’.
Then we have the male subject who is completely shredded, has stacks of lean muscle mass, a low body fat percentage, yet BMI states that he’s ‘unhealthy’. Which we know he is not. So it’s quite clear that this form of testing will not favor everyone. What we need is a solution that can be applied by anyone.
We have covered the non-effecient ways to measure your weight and body fat percentage, let’s start looking at some of the better solutions for a more accurate reading.
”The mirror is a better judgement of progress than the scale, because what you see is what you get… right?”
Wrong (Kind of..)
You might have heard me say something along those lines before. But the truth is, the mirror can also become your worst enemy. Because when we talk about the mirror, we’re talking about the mirror using only your eyes to gauge progress. And you won’t be able to notice your real daily and weekly changes, unless your body is changing at light speed, which is never a good thing, wether that’s losing or gaining weight. Honestly, the only real world method of knowing if you’ve changed or not is when your peers tell you that you have. Of course, you can always take progress pictures when you KNOW you have reached a new goal weight (From being in a near obese state) and then analyse the changes. But it’s always best to include a practical and accurate method of testing your body composition for measuring progress.
Underwater Weighing (Hydrostatic)
”Hey, I thought you said practical. This doesn’t look or sound practical at all”
OK, this method isn’t totally practical in terms of measuring your body composition. But it has been labeled as the ‘holy grail’ in comparison to some other methods. The main reason for this is because when you are dipped under water, the fat on your body will float and the muscle on your body will sink. However, there are some disadvantages to this method…
- Men have denser bones than women.
- Young people have denser bones than older people.
- Some races have denser bones than other races.
- You have to be able to blow all of the air out of your lungs before going in the water, otherwise your body fat percentage will appear to be higher than what it really is.
- It can be expensive.
But overall, it’s worth doing once in a while. Or just to have a little bit of fun . But for a more practical approach, the next method is what you may want to add to your mirror solution.
Skin fold measurements (Pinch, pinch, pinch)
Before I get into this, let’s first understand our types of fat.
You’ll find essential fat in your liver, heart, bone marrow, nerves, brain and in all other organs of your body. It’s called essential because your body needs it to insulate and protect against heat loss as well as storing energy. It’s ‘internal’ fat, which is why it’s almost impossible to drop to zero BF%, despite how much you hear that term thrown around.
This is the fat that deposits right underneath your skin and is where most of your body fat is stored.
With the later, it therefore makes for a near accurate measurement of body fat testing by pinching folds of fat in 3 or 4 locations around your body.
But how accurate is it?
Well it is true that you can use this method doing it yourself by purchasing skinfold calipers. However, you do have to be ‘skilled’ to get the best results. Which is why for some newer self testers, it may be best to start with an experienced professional.
However, once you do become fairly skilled using this form of self testing (After a bit of practice and avoiding human errors such as taking a horizontal fold when it should be a vertical fold), the next step is to ensure that your testing method is reliable and consistent. Because this is a game of progress. And if you can’t measure your progress effectively, then you’re wasting your time. So, here’s a few pointers…
- Make sure you use the same tester, wether that is yourself or a professional
- There will always be room for error. It doesn’t matter if your body fat percentage reads 15% when it’s really 19%
- The only thing that really matters is that you notice a reduction or increase in body fat percentage. That’s what this process is all about
This method works best for those who are in the 15-35% body fat percentage range. The selling point being that this method is practical in addition to using the mirror and progress pictures to track progress.
Now, I’ve talked about how to calculate your lean body mass and overall desired weight before. It’s not something that you should overaly obsess about. However, it is important to work these figures out in terms of goal setting.
How to calculate your lean body mass
To kill all kinds of confusion with these terms, your lean body mass is simply the total weight of your body minus the fat. I always talk about that maximum 50% of lean muscle that you could lose if you screw up and start crash or starve dieting, and by using this formula, you will be able to tell if you’ve gained or even lost muscle.
- Your body fat percentage (Acquired from using one of the above methods)
- Your bodyweight (The scale)
Lean body mass calculation
- Bodyweight: 170lbs
- Body fat percentage: 14%
- Multiply your body fat by your weight to find the pounds of fat
- 0.14 x 170 = 23 pounds of fat
Then minus the fat from your total weight for your lean body mass
170lbs – 23lbs = 147lbs
Calculating your ideal weight
”Heeey, I thought what I weigh doesn’t matter, or isn’t as important as I once thought?”
Well, that is true. However, it’s important to calculate these for goal setting purposes. After all, you have to know your destination before stepping out on the journey right?
- You are female
- Your weight: 170
- Your body fat%: 14%
- Your fat weight: 23 lbs.
- Your lean mass: 159.1 lbs. (total weight – lbs. of fat)
- Your target body fat percentage: 11% (.11)
- Determine your percentage of lean mass at your target body fat by subtracting your desired body fat from 1: (1 -.11 = .89)
- Divide your current lean mass by your percentage of lean mass at your target body fat percentage to yield your ideal weight: (147/.89 = 165)
- Your ideal weight at 11% body fat is 165 lbs.
It doesn’t matter how big or small the goal is. You can simply plug your details into this formula and start working towards your goal weight.
You now know that it’s better to be ‘obsessed’ about what your body fat percentage is than what your weight on the scale is. In fact, don’t obsess over anything, that’s a horrible word. But in short…
- The mirror
- Progress pictures
- A practical way to measure your body fat percentage
- The scale
- Height and weight only charts
- Strictly using BMI
There are also tons of other methods to measure your body fat percentage. Many of which I haven’t even listed here, such as:
- Bio- Electric Impedance Analysis
- Total body potassium
- BIA Body Fat Scales and hand grip tests
- Total body electrical conductivity
- Isotopic dilution
- Urinary creatine excretion,
- Total body calcium
- Total body nitrogen
- Total plasma creatinine
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Neutron activation analysis
- Dual photon absorpitometry
- Circumference & Anthropometric
Many of these are high technology methods that can give some very accurate results. But for the sake of your sanity and to ensure that you don’t ‘obsess’ over anything, just keep it simple on your quest to lose fat vs losing weight on this fitness journey.
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