Glad to see that you’re reading this and, hopefully, trying to get that beach body. Or, you know, set yourself up for future success.
Since roughly mid-March, my goal has been to approach a caloric surplus and build muscle mass. I set a target goal for myself (175 pounds) and a body-fat percentage that I’d be comfortable around (18%). Now, since it’s a little past mid-May, I decided to weigh myself this morning and found my weight to be 174.8 and my body fat to be 18.8%. For some of you, this may seem too high. But I like this comfortable zone, and I enjoy eating.
There’s a difference between body-weight and body-fat, and as you progress in your fitness journey, it’s imperative for you to understand this.
Bodyweight is your weight whenever you step on the scale. It’s your entire body, so this isn’t complicated.
Body-fat is the the amount of adipose tissue in your body, compared with muscle mass; the percentage of your body not composed of your bone, muscle, vital organs, or water. You need body fat to maintain life and reproductive functions, but too much leads to obesity and then further health issues. There’s a couple ways to measure your body fat. I mentioned that I use a body-fat scale, which utilizes bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). It send an unnoticeable electrical impulse through direct contact with the skin under my feet. If you’re unfamiliar with the word ‘impedance’, it means to effective resistance. Fat is a terrible conductor, due to a lack of water, so the BIA accounts for the entire body and then relays what it could not measure as body fat. BIA is widely popular, but sometimes it’s not the most accurate if you’re dehydrated or you’re weighing yourself after exercising. That’s why I suggest obtaining your body-fat in the morning. (The most accurate method is underwater weighing.)
Glad we’re a clear on this. So how do you lose body-fat while retaining muscle mass?
NUTRITION. Yeah, here comes the hard part. The majority of nutrients from food fall into three ‘macronutrient‘ groups: fats, carbohydrates, and protein.
Fats. Repeat after me: fat are good. FATS ARE GOOD. They are utilized as a fuel source by the body, and necessary for optimal health. Basic biology teaches us that fats aid in hormone production, develop a healthy nervous system, and reduce inflammation. They come in various forms, some better than others. Check your groceries to see saturated fat, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. I highly recommend, however, limiting saturated fats. I probably won’t go into much detail about the differences anytime soon, but if you’re still curious, drop a comment below.
Carbohydrates. I visited New Jersey recently to meet family. While at temple preparing meals, two cousins of mine, both brothers, told me how they were doing a ketogenic diet. (For those unfamiliar, a ketogenic diet is a diet in which individuals consume little to no carbohydrates.) And that was fine, choose a diet that works for you, right? But these two decided to go on a rant about how terrible carbohydrates were and how they lead to heart attacks. I asked them what peer-reviewed medical journal they read this from, and they said “Google”. I struggled to not laugh.
There’s a lot of confusion surrounding carbohydrates, so do your due diligence and read effectively on the subject. Carbohydrates, or carbs for short, are sugar molecules bound together for fuel purposes. When the body needs fuel, it relies on these bound sugar molecules and breaks them down to glucose, a single sugar molecule that is used throughout your entire body for energy. Therefore, simple carbs are carbs easily broken down to glucose while complex carbs take a while.
Here’s where it gets tough. Glucose is a sugar molecule, and your body can only allow so much sugar in your bloodstream i.e blood sugar levels. Insulin is produced to extract sugar (glucose) from your blood and into your muscles and liver. If you have excess sugar not absorbed by the muscle and liver, then that sugar is stored as fat. You need your muscles to be insulin sensitive, and guess what you have to do? Strength training *insert smiley face*.
Most people stick to complex carbs, since they take longer for the body to break down. I think a healthy diet, without many processed carbs is preferred. Some people argue that carbs make you fat. I don’t agree with this, simply because of the information that I’ve read so far. I think that a diet needs to be evenly balanced and in caloric deficit, if you desire to lose weight while retaining muscle. At a different time, I’ll go into more detail about the keto diet. Hopefully, I’ll convince my cousins to use common sense and actual research.
Protein. It keeps your muscles and glands healthy. Okay, let’s recall some things from earlier in this post. Your muscles are composed of 75% water and stored glycogen, which you obtained from the carbs. The remaining 25% is protein, and it’s essential for muscle repair. Every time you exercise, your muscle fibers break down in order to support your energy needs. Protein allows the muscles to repair and grow stronger. Science articles often state that your should consume 0.8grams of protein per bodyweight pound. So if you weight 175 pounds, consume 140grams of protein. That sounds like a lot, but it’s actually quite healthy for you to consume more protein! Protein helps manage weight, stabilize blood sugar levels, and can help slow down the aging process.
All in all, this is a simple breakdown of nutrition. My advice? Don’t kill yourself trying to form the perfect diet. Everything about improving your health lies in consistency. Make small changes, like switching from regular soda to diet. The goal is always to be happy with your body at the end of day, but small improvements never hurt. Be proud of your body and take progress pictures! When you’re 80 years old, and you look back at yourself, you’ll be proud of your habits. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free below! And as always, please do follow!
If I’ve incorrectly stated any information, or if you’d like me to simplify any other fitness terms, leave a comment.