Most traditional weight loss plans, slimming groups and ‘diets’ focus on your weight on the scales- that one number that tells us what we weigh overall. You may increase your cardiovascular exercise and reduce your calorie intake in an attempt to make that number on the scales tick down over the weeks. Some schemes and clubs may actually advise you NOT to exercise!
What these kinds of diets don’t do is focus on what your overall weight is actually made up of. They don’t really look at how sustainable the weight loss will be, the overall health of your internal systems or the composition of your body as a result of the short-term weight loss.
Your body is made up of many different tissues of different densities; in other words some tissues will take up more space (higher volume) but weigh less and some will take up less space (lower volume) and actually weigh more. This is the case for fat vs muscle. You’ve probably heard it said before that muscle is more dense than fat.
So two people may weigh exactly the same, but visibly one may look leaner than the other, purely due to their different body compositions. The visibly leaner person will more than likely have a higher muscle mass and a lower fat mass. Yet, overall both people will weigh the same on the scales.
How do you know what your body composition is?
With my clients I use a Bioelectrical Impedance system. This involves a small electrical signal that passes through the water of the body. The fat in the body is hydrophobic (hates water) and so the signals meet resistance when they hit fat. The muscle on the other hand is hydrophilic (loves water) and so the signals pass easily through the hydrated muscle. This difference in flow of the signal gives a percentage of fat vs muscle in the body. It will also tell us how hydrated a client is, roughly what their bone mass is and importantly a rating of how much of the fat is visceral (stored around the organs).
Body circumference measurements are also a very useful indicator of health (particularly waist to hip measurement ratios); overall body appearance and how a client ‘feels’ in their clothes are also important. Never overlook how you feel in your clothes. With a lower fat percentage and a higher muscle mass your circumference measurements will reduce and clothes will feel and look much better. Your overall appearance will change even if that number on the scales doesn’t budge much.
So is it possible to reduce your overall fat and increase your muscle at the same time?
The simple answer is yes. This is not just a short term fix either. By taking your focus off that big number on the scales (which may still reduce) and switching your attention to what your body is actually made up of, your fat loss will be more sustainable.
Muscles require energy to work, so they are calorie burning machines. Therefore the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn even at rest.
When you burn fat and in turn increase your muscle mass you aren’t literally turning one into the other. You are simultaneously engaging two different processes within the body: fat burning and muscle building. So how do you do this?
Training for body re-composition
6 steps to create a fat burning and muscle building body:
1. Create a modest calorie deficit each day.
Reduce by around 250kcal per day with an increase in exercise is advisable. Generally speaking, any more than this and your body is adapted to go into a starvation response. Meaning that you begin to create a fat storing environment.
2. Decrease your consumption of processed foods.
Foods that are high in sugar and high in saturated fat should be kept to an absolute minimum.
2. Reduce your overall carbohydrate consumption.
Each meal should be made up of ‘green’ carbs like vegetables predominantly and small handful servings of other unprocessed, complex carbs like quinoa, sweet potato and brown rice. Avoid refined carbohydrates like white bread, potatoes, white rice and white pasta.
3. Increase your protein intake.
Aim for a minimum of 1g protein per kg of body mass, per day. So for a 90kg person, aim for a minimum of 90g of protein over the whole day. Protein is required to repair and build muscle. You do not need protein shakes. It is possible to get this protein from your diet. See my blog post on higher protein breakfasts and snacks: To snack or not to snack? That is the ‘high protein, low carb’ question and Start your day the right way with these healthy, lower sugar breakfast swaps
4. Ensure you’re drinking plenty of water.
Keep your body hydrated. It will depend on your overall body mass, but on average you should aim for around 2 litres per day and more in warmer weather or when you’re exercising.
5. Use interval training to make the fat burning process more efficient.
By working hard and then resting over short intervals your heart rate moves between ‘zones’ (70-80% of your heart’s maximum number of beats per minute back down to around 50% of its maximum), therefore increasing your fat burning potential. Interval training is more efficient than low intensity training which take much longer.
6. Ensure that strength training is incorporated into a regime.
Don’t ignore resistance training. You won’t suddenly develop huge muscles like ‘Arnie’ and you won’t ‘get big’. Light resistance training will increase the endurance of your muscles, will modestly increase their overall mass and will ensure that your muscles are burning energy even after you’ve finished exercising.
So can I do it?
Over my 10 week programme I look holistically at a client’s lifestyle, their body composition, their eating habits, their mindset and readiness for change, as well as their end goals. I work with clients to make their transformations realistic, healthy and importantly sustainable. By using the principles of body re-composition I ensure that exercise programmes are designed to burn fat efficiently, build muscle and re-shape bodies in a healthy way. Weight loss isn’t about quick fixes. Extreme weight loss using shakes, juices, pills or injections is not sustainable and isn’t conducive with a healthy body or mind.
My approaches are based on science and treating each client as an individual person- not just a body that needs to be trained. I do not make unrealistic promises; a training programme over 10 weeks requires an honest relationship between client and trainer. It will take dedication and hard work.
I’d love to hear from you!