Not Our Typical Fitness Article
I typically write my fitness articles with a lot of in-depth look at the science behind the particular topic and a strong dive into the details. This one is going to be a little different. Rather than pushing all the evidence (which there is plenty), I’m going to write this as if I were just talking to you. I’m doing it this way because this is a conversation I have over and over with women wanting to lose weight. Of course, when they say ‘weight’ they almost always mean body fat. Our culture tends to use those two terms interchangeably. This misuse of terminology is at a minimum indicative of the flawed mindset with many, and at worst a direct contributor.
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Let me explain. When someone wants to lose weight (in the most common sense of the statement) they are really saying they want to look better. They want to slim out their figure and cut down their body fat. It’s about appearance and health. It’s not really about a number on the scale, however, somewhere along the line, it has become about that number. Especially for many women. They seem to fixate on an ideal number they have determined they look best at and work towards seeing it displayed on the scale. While actual weight has plenty of considerations and uses this use is flawed.
Let’s Be Vain
For the sake of this topic and goal let’s be vain. Rather than worrying about the number on the scale be concerned with the reflection in the mirror. It may surprise many to learn that you could have the exact same weight and look like two different people. It’s all about body composition. A fit woman at 175 vs a fat woman at 175 will look drastically different, and of course, you have every variation of composition in between the extremes. If you focus on being fit rather than lose weight your results will be amazing and long-lasting as compared to shedding weight via the latest diet fad.
But How Can I Tell!
You may be wondering how can you really tell if you’re improving your physique? While the mirror is a very good reference it’s also likely that many will see themselves less favorable than they actually are. No worries, there is actually a simple solution for this and one you should absolutely do to help you see you’re actually putting on some lean muscle mass. Taping. Taping is the simple procedure of measuring various body parts and keeping a journal with those measurements so you can reference how well your body recomp is coming along. At a minimum, I would recommend taping the following locations, but by all means, feel free to do more.
There are plenty of articles out there that will walk you through this procedure such as this one here. I would recommend doing so at least every month, but every two weeks is probably an ideal timeline.
Back to the Scale
Something very important to note here is that as you go through this type of body recomp where your fat percentage is decreasing and your lean muscle mass is increasing the scale can be relatively unreliable and in fact make you think you’re doing poorly by showing a weight gain. Do not be alarmed if you stay relatively stagnant on the scale or even have some gains. You are building muscle and losing fat. At this point, you need to be going by your strength improvements at the gym, your reflection in the mirror, and your measurements for your measure of success.
Gain Muscle and you’ll Lose the Fat
This is such a hard message for some to accept. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve had women tell me they don’t want to end up all muscular. First, let me say you won’t! If becoming muscle-bound was that easy 90% of the male population would look like Arnold Schwartzenegger. You’re not going to accidentally turn into Ms. Olympia. What you can do though is build a little muscle and strength with some effort that will serve you in many ways. Through this simple body recomposition, you would be surprised how much your looks can change. Adding a little muscle in various areas will make you look more fit without even losing any fat. This is because the muscle will provide better curvature (where it should be) and as a result will make you look leaner. This is not to say you’ll all of a sudden look lean, but with the additional muscle, you will look leaner. But, that’s just a side benefit and nothing compared to the true reward of muscle growth.
Muscle Eats Fat
Muscle eats fat is a little saying I try and reinforce for those I have this discussion with. When you think of it through this mindset it tends to help you better understand what your accomplishing. The effort put into gaining muscle through strength training in and of itself will start to melt away your fat. Contrary to a lot of beliefs out there resistance training burns a fair amount of calories in and of itself. This is especially true if you’re doing it right and really pushing your muscles to the limit. While the act of building muscle benefits your fat loss goals the actual muscle gain itself does as well. As your body composition begins to change and add muscle a lot of things happen internally, your metabolism improves and you’re filling your body with a stronger competitor for calories. In the end without getting into the science and studies just think ‘Muscle Eats Fat’ and you’ll fair well.
It is important to note here that your overall body composition is directly related to energy intake (calories) and energy output (activity). I say this because I don’t want to downplay the importance of also eating right and with an appropriate calorie intake. The intent of this article isn’t nutrition so I won’t dive too much, but realize that calorie deficit is still ideal when you’re wanting to drop some fat, just don’t overdo it and also make sure you’re getting good protein intake to give the muscle growth and edge at the same time.
In conclusion, I hope you take away from this article the desire and understanding that muscle growth is complementary to fat loss and should always be considered (and most often implemented) when trying to shed body fat. Ditch the scale for a bit and use the mirror, and hit the weights. If you give this method a fair try I guarantee you’ll become a believer.
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Modern Warrior Project Co-Founder
As a 20-year Army Special Operations veteran with numerous deployments and extensive S.E.R.E. and Personnel Recovery expertise, he is a respected leader and trainer with extensive experience in planning and executing high risk, low visibility evolutions in volatile and austere areas across the globe. He is married to Jennifer Blevins of Beaumont, Texas and is the father of five.