Some well-meaning folks might tell you not to worry because “muscle weighs more than fat”? Really? What does that even mean? Is someone trying to tell you that the extra 5 pounds of fat you might be trying to drop actually weighs LESS than five pounds of muscle? How can that be? That’s what I’m here to talk about today. The scale does not have to be your enemy, but it also doesn’tt have to be your only measure of your health and fitness. The scale is not the only measure of your body composition and it’s your entire body composition that measures how you feel, how you look and how you weigh yourself.
I might get a little long winded here so bear with me . . . or take a break and come back!
Basically, a pound is a pound. A pound of potato chips is going to weigh the same as a pound of dumbbells. However, the make up of that pound is what matters. The muscle density is MUCH different than fat density. Muscle is about 18% denser than fat so that one pound of muscle is going to take up a lot less space than that same amount of fat. Look at the photo above and see how much more space the fat takes up as compared to the same amount of muscle. The truth is that when placed on a scale, one pound of fat is going to weigh the same as one pound of muscle – just like one pound of bricks is going to weigh the same as one pound of feathers. Where the confusion comes in is that muscle and fat differ in density (muscle is about 18% more dense than fat) and one pound of muscle occupies less space (volume) than one pound of fat.
I want us to stop the madness on the scale. If you get on the scale daily and beat yourself up because the number does not drop, let’s re-think the goal. The scale is NOT the end all be all. In fact, it can be darn deceiving. Our bodies fluctuate from 2-4 pounds a day depending on our hydration, how much sleep we have had, what types of food we’ve eaten, how much sodium we’ve had and, for females, what time of the month it is. The scale does not give a reading on body composition. Have you ever looked at a photo and stats on a person and thought, “Wow, they look great but weigh more than I’d thought” or something along those lines. That’s because it’s all about body composition and the ratio of lean body mass or muscle as compared to fat. Someone may weigh less on the scale but actually look larger and less fit than someone weighing more.
The goal for all of us should be to be healthy. I think I can say that without getting too much disagreement. Being healthy will come from having more lean muscle mass – not from trying to be skinny or reaching the lightest number possible on the scale.
If the focus is on having more muscle your body will have a leaner look, reduced risk of injury, more strength, better balance, more energy, better self-esteem, improved metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
So, here I’m going to get a little “sciency”‘ because this really does matter. Each pound of fat in your body represents 3,500 calories of unused energy. So, to lose one pound you have to create a deficit of 3,500 calories by either burning them off with exercise, eating 3,500 calories less or a combination of the two. The beauty of having more muscle is that one pound of muscle burns more calories while you are sitting on the couch that that same one pound of fat.
Therefore, looking at body composition is so much more than a mere number on the scale. If you have been trying to drop a few pounds and have been exercising and eating right it can be so frustrating if the scale does not budge. But, you have to remember that your total body weight includes not only fat and muscle, but your bones and organs, fluids and everything else in your body. If you ARE losing fat and gaining muscle the number will be the same but the body composition will be completely different – and that’s a good thing! Remember, if you are switching out the one pound of fat with a pound of muscle, that pound will take up less space and appear smaller. If that continues you will appear smaller and firmer and drop inches.
So, now that we know that the scale is not the end all be all, we can even put it away. You can judge your progress with how your clothes fit, before and after photos, body composition testing and, best of all, how you feel.
Take a look at the photo below. The image on the left shows the woman weighing 127 lbs. The woman on the right weighs more, at 136 lbs, but notice how much leaner she looks. Her abs are flatter and more defined and her booty looks lifter and firmer. The added muscle makes her appear much leaner. She also looks stronger, more fit and much more able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
So . . . .PUT IT AWAY!
Have a GREAT weekend! We are liking our UGA Win today!