It is important to know what you are made of. What do I mean by this? We work hard to exercise or train, eat healthy, and be active. But to what end? How do we know whether we are getting close to our goal? It is very easy to be extremely busy, yet if we are busy doing the wrong things we might not be getting any closer to our desired result.
When it comes to working on our body composition (because honestly that is what most of us are trying to do when we start an exercise program or start changing the way we eat) we need to look at some key elements. Muscle and fat. Our body has muscle, it is how our body moves and gets us around and accomplishes many fantastic things. Muscle is the engine that burns energy (carbohydrate and fat) for fuel. Muscle is very important. Our body also has fat, and fat is also important– it is stored energy. We do need to store some, but too much can cause problems, both physically and emotionally. The typical approach is to increase exercise (people usually choose an activity that they can do for long periods of time like jogging, biking, or boot camps) to burn more calories whilst eating less food so as not to take in as many calories. There is some logic to this: run the engine and keep it running as much as possible so as to burn as much stored fuel as possible. At the same time put less and less fuel into the body so that the body is forced to use up the stored fuel and ultimately lose bodyweight. If we can sustain this for a long enough time (without falling off the diet bandwagon or killing everyone around us) we lose weight. Simple, right? But what happens once (or if) we reach the weight goal? Far too often we go back to our regular habits of less exercise and less-restrained eating. And the weight comes back on. Sometimes even more than before! What do we need to do? Work out longer and harder and eat even less, right? But that didn’t really work last time, I mean, the bodyweight did go down but it wasn’t a lasting change. Why would repeating a difficult but unsuccessful method work differently the next time? Or the time after that? All of a sudden the logic isn’t holding out so well.
There is a better way. It is a way that Robin and I have been teaching and trying to educate with others since 2005. We want to actually build muscle, to increase it. Wait! Aren’t we trying to lose weight? Well, yes, but it is actually a good idea to boost up the engine (muscle) so that it can burn more calories over the long term. And we need to train in a way that will keep the muscle “turbocharged” and that means strength training with progressively heavier weights so that the body realizes that it needs to preserve that muscle for the long term. We need to reduce our calories somewhat, but it is more important that we make sure our body has enough calories to meet its functional requirements and doesn’t feel that it needs to store as much as possible due to a lack of calories coming in (restrictive dieting). This means eating quality food with lots of nutrients and not letting the body feel like it’s starving. So, we need to eat enough good fuel, strength train to build and preserve calorie-burning muscle, and then perform some type of activity so that all that awesome muscle actually burns those calories. That type of activity should include a variety, but mostly include high intensity interval type exercise, some steady-state cardio, or play some kind of vigorous sport.
Now, let’s take 2 hypothetical people: “Johnny” chose the former, “logical” method and let’s say that after 2 months he lost 20lbs. “Andy” chose the latter muscle-building method and let’s say after 2 months he lost 18lbs. They both seem to have had success but 2 more months later, Johnny will likely have gained back weight and Andy will have lost more weight and feel even more fit. The difference between the two is found in discovering what they are made of. If we could look inside each of them we would discover that Johnny’s approach did lose some body fat but he also lost considerable muscle so that when he stopped restrictive dieting his deprived body decided it was more important to store more fuel in case the food “disappeared” again. And he also has a slower metabolism since he now has less calorie-burning muscle. So in gaining the weight back, he is in a worse state than before. Andy ended his two months with less overall weight loss but it was offset by his increasing muscle mass while losing body-fat mass. As he continues his training efforts, while also NOT suffering with a restrictive diet, he will continue to lose body-fat and continue to be less obsessed by his actual weight on the scale.
Robin and I have made an investment so that we can actually look inside and see just what we are made of. We purchased an InBody Body Composition Analyzer. This machine allows us to accurately measure and compare our progress, to determine how much of our bodyweight change is actual fat loss/gain and muscle loss/gain. It is non-invasive and only takes 15 seconds to complete but the information from comparing baseline scans to subsequent scans is so valuable to accurately assess if we are on the right track to reach our body recomposition goals. We have also partnered with Healthy Steps Nutrition so that we can provide healthy, realistic meal plans that are not restrictive and also provide on-going nutritional accountability so that our members can maintain consistency in their pursuit of improved fitness. We are just about to wrap up our first nutrition challenge that incorporated the InBody scans and are excited to see what the data shows!
If you are interested in getting a baseline scan or want some nutrition assessment/accountability please get in touch with us. We would love to help you on your fitness journey and reach your goals!