By John L. Boos, L.M.T., N.S.C.A., C.P.T.
You may not believe this, but I can’t stand sounding so downbeat and cynical. I love the feeling of vitality. I love my energy level. I love being able to do things now that I could when I was 20 years younger. I love talking upbeat and positive about healthy living and fitness. Overall, I can be fun and inspiring, but I am also a down-to-earth and practical realist. My article title is a fact that is supported by all of the latest studies and research. As a whole, 55% of the American population is overweight and 35% are obese.
Obesity is defined by a body composition ratio of lean tissue (muscle, bone, blood, etc.) to fat tissue (adipose tissue). This lean tissue to fat tissue comparison is relative to body weight. If you weight 150 pounds and your body fat is calculated to be 25%, then that means of the 150 pounds, 37-1/2 pounds of that is fat. The remainder is un-fat tissue, known as lean tissue.
Approximately ½ of the lean body weight is muscle and the remainders of the lean tissue are bone, blood, liver, lungs, brains, etc. (of an average untrained person). Therefore, our 150-pound person with 25% body fat embodies 112-1/2 pounds of lean tissue, or about 56 pounds of muscle and 56 pounds of other lean tissue. Of course, you must keep in mind that this is an average untrained person (if one exists).
It is obvious that you can only alter the amounts of fat tissue and muscle tissue. Nothing much can be done about the lean tissue that is not muscle, although the function of this tissue can be greatly affected both positively and negatively by varying the percentages of fat and muscle. This is another lecture entirely and requires a bit of time.
Clearly, not all 150-pound people are the same. Suppose you weight 150 pounds and have a 15% body fat. Let’s assume your twin is also 150 pounds, but is 25% body fat. Your body composition would consist of 22-1/2 pounds of body fat, while your twin’s would be 37-1/2 pounds of body fat. That’s a 15 pound difference, yet you both weigh 150 pounds. It’s apparent that unless you have a liver the size of a basketball or the bone structure of a gorilla, you must have 15 more pounds of muscle tissue.
The 150-pound twins may weigh the same, but they look entirely different and wear different clothing sizes. This happens when one has 15 extra pounds of muscle spread out evenly throughout the body, while the other has 15 more pounds of fat around the hips, thighs and waist. It’s a no-brainer which is healthier, better looking in clothes (and out of clothes), has a much higher resting metabolism (where most calories and fat are burned), and has better self-esteem.
Even if your body weight hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years (but chances are it has gone up), you are much fatter than you think, unless you’ve been weight training properly to maintain your muscle tissue. Let me give you some facts about getting older and body composition.
Each decade after the age of 25, the average untrained person loses about 5-7 pounds of muscle tissue.
Each decade after the age of 25, the average untrained person gains 5-10 pounds of fat tissue.
The above muscle and fat tissue quantity changes occur because each decade after the age of 25, the average untrained person’s resting metabolism declines between 2 and 5 percent.
You can be 45 years old and only 10 pounds heavier than you were in your early twenties, or maybe no heavier at all, but things are in no way the same.
Let’s look at the above facts. In the last two decades, you would have lost 10 pounds of muscle tissue because of a slower metabolism due to this muscle tissue loss. There is not enough muscle to burn the fat at rest. Because of this lost fat burning ability, the fat gets stored. (The fact is that all fat must be stored in adipose tissue before being broken down and used in the muscle tissue as fuel.) Hence, you stored 10 pounds of fat in place of the lost 10 pounds of muscle.
If you took up couch potato sports-watching, and added chips and dip, you may have added 10 pounds of additional fat as a bonus. Let’s assume the person who traded 10 pounds of muscle for 10 pounds of fat weighed 150 pounds and had 20% body fat when he was 25 years old. That means this person was carrying a total of 30 pounds of fat. Now that he is older and never trained to maintain his muscle mass, he is now 10 pounds fatter and has 10 pounds less muscle. This results in a 40-pound gain in fat. His previous 20% body fat went up to 26% (26% body fat in a male is considered obese). His body weight stayed the same, but his metabolism dropped, sugar intolerance increased, muscle strength decreased, endurance went down, and the body took an overall giant step toward aging. Let me also add, his clothes don’t fit the same.
The real truth is that most people pack on a lot more fat because they’re engaging in the wrong type of exercise and diet. My advice to the masses is to step off the scale and step in front of a mirror. If you want to lose excess fat, do it right and keep it off. Get your body fat checked regularly. Get a physical by an M.D. and an assessment of your condition by an educated, experienced exercise instructor. Be sure to get the coaching you need to succeed. Life is a gift. Don’t abuse it by wishful thinking. Embrace it with passion!