One Pound Of Fat Versus One Pound Of Muscle: Clearing Up The Misconceptions
- Do you believe that muscle weighs more than fat?
- Are you currently struggling with losing “weight?”
- Are you feeling crushed because, despite all of your work in and out of the gym, the scale is not showing that you’ve lost pounds?
If you answered yes to my questions, continue reading. I am about to dive head first into the topic of “weight loss” and will throw several insightful tidbits your way.
Depressed by the scale?
Tell me if you can relate to this: You’ve been working your ass off in the gym in an attempt to lose weight. You hop onto the scale weekly, sometimes even daily. Some days are better than others. Occasionally, the numbers on the scale decrease, but to your dismay, this isn’t always the case. Some weigh-ins show that the scale reads higher than your starting weight. When this happens, you want to curl up into a frustrated ball, throw the scale out of the window, or become an exercise-obsessed freak. Other days the scale doesn’t even budge. Depression and sadness has crept into your life and you are thinking about quitting.
Perhaps a family member, friend, personal trainer, or doctor is trying to soothe your worries… soften the blow of the scale. They are telling you that you shouldn’t freak out because the scale is showing that there has been a gain in muscle and that “muscle weighs more than fat.” After hearing this comment, you are now feeling relaxed, skeptical, or confused. I know that many of you are experiencing all of this right now – exercise addiction, scale obsession, frustration and confusion… but don’t worry, I understand that navigating the world of fitness and fat loss can be overwhelming.
With this article, I dissect the “muscle weighs more than fat” myth, explain why the scale might not be showing a loss, and show you what the most accurate ways of tracking fat loss progress are. First, let’s get into the muscle versus fat dealio.
True or false: muscle weighs more than fat?
In the health and fitness worlds, the statement, “muscle weighs more than fat” is habitually tossed back and forth. In the context of fitness and recording body weight numbers on scales, the statement “muscle weighs more than fat” does not hold much weight. It just does not make sense because one pound is one pound.
Technically, the statement, muscle weighs more than fat is false. 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. So yes, muscle seems to weigh more because there is a difference in the volume between the two. When a cubic inch of muscle and a cubic inch of fat are measured, the cubic inch of muscle will weigh more. As you add compact muscle mass to the body, body weight may increase.
However, pound for pound, muscle and fat weigh the same and when tracking progress of a fitness program, it is very important to look at all markers of improvement, and not just the numbers on the scale. These diagrams visually express the differences between muscle and fat densities
1. Muscle = more dense
2. Fat = less dense
3. Cross section of a skeletal muscle (200x) showing the muscle fibers (red) and the fat cells (white)
Note that the fat cells are less dense than the muscle cells and take up more volume.
Five pounds of muscle compared to five pounds of fat
By looking at the photo below, you can see that five pounds of muscle (pictured on right) is going to take up less space in the body and be a lot less “lumpy” under your skin and in between your organs than the same weight in fat (shown on left). The difference is dramatic. I would much rather have five pounds of smooth, lean, dense muscle tissue inside of my body than five pounds of amorphous, bulky, gelatinous fat, and I am guessing you would too!
Benefits of having more lean muscle mass
Some people get nervous to increase muscle within their bodies, but having more muscle can be a great thing! Besides being more compact in the body, there are lots of health advantages to having more muscle mass. Having more muscle mass in your body will
- boost your metabolic efficiency
- better your balance and mobility
- build a leaner physique
- create metabolic reserve in times of traumas such as (car accidents and burns)
- enhance strength, stability, power and endurance
- improve insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control
- increase energy and vitality
- raise your confidence
- reduce your risk of injury
- strengthen athletic performance
These are just some of the many advantages of having more lean muscle mass. I strongly believe, to be successful with a fitness program, you need to first have a basic understanding of how the body works metabolically. This is why the next couple paragraphs of this article is dedicated to two of the benefits of muscle mentioned above:
- Boost your metabolic efficiency
- Improve insulin sensitivity and glucose control
Let’s take a closer look.
Burning calories and improving insulin sensitivity/glucose control
1. Boost your metabolic efficiency
Each pound of fat that your body stores represents 3,500 calories of unused energy. In order to lose one pound, you need to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories by either consuming 3,500 less calories over a period of time than your body needs or by doing 3,500 calories worth of exercise. Remember, increasing muscle mass boosts metabolic efficiency. This means that, by increasing your lean muscle mass through resistance and body weight training, you will help your body burn more calories. One pound of muscle will burn slightly more calories at rest than one pound of fat tissue at rest.
Focus on all of the health benefits of having more muscle mass, not just on the calorie burning abilities of muscle
Health and fitness professionals across the world put a lot of emphasis on the “muscle is a high-octane calorie incinerator” concept and even exaggerate (sometimes unknowingly) the actual amount of calories muscles burn while at rest. Fitness magazines, health experts like Dr. Mehmet Oz, and personal trainers across the country happily report that one pound of muscle burns an extra 50-100 calories per day than fat. However, recent scientific research has proven this number to be inflated.
One such study was led by Claude Bouchard, an obesity researcher from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA. His collected data over the years has revealed that one pound of muscle, at rest, burns about six calories a day while one pound of fat burns about two calories per day. Six is a lot different than the 50-100 calories that is often stated by others in the health and medical fields. As a fitness professional, I do not like to over-emphasize the point that muscle tissue burns more calories than fat. I feel it is an important fact to know, and can be used as a motivator when getting started with a fitness program, but I do not think it should be the primary driving force behind gaining muscle mass.
Yes, muscle is three times (not 50 times) more metabolically active at rest than fat, but the actual amount of calories that is burned is not a grand amount. Granted, at the end of the day, any extra calories burned is a great thing, and when you eat healthfully (and mindfully) and engage in a proper resistance training program, you will increase the amount of muscle in your body. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn while at rest and this is exciting. However, it is pertinent for individuals not to become too crazed (or comfortable) with the notion that their resting metabolisms (rate at which one burns calories while at rest) are going to skyrocket once they begin weight lifting and gaining muscle. I have seen that often, when an person puts too much focus on the calorie burning capabilities of muscle, it becomes very easy for that person to become:
- Relaxed about what needs to be done to get the results wanted. This can lead to increased inactiveness and the neglecting of sound nutritional habits. If muscle is burning calories at rest, then there is room for overconsumption and inactivity, right? …Wrong.
- Overly obsessed with calorie burning through long bouts of cardio, weight training sessions and starvation. The main focus may become all about decreasing fat, increasing muscle, and expanding the amount of calories muscle will burn at rest. With this extreme approach, overtraining and poor health are often results. More is better, right? …Wrong.
The above behaviors are unhealthy, unbalanced and unsustainable. I want people to get away from calorie obsession and start training with a balanced approach and with common sense. It is important to look at all of the health benefits of muscle mass, not just one. In my opinion, knowing that muscle can help balance insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels within the body is of greater interest than one pound of muscle burning an extra four calories more than one pound of fat. When the body’s endocrine system is working properly, it is much easier to maintain a healthy weight. When insulin sensitivity and glucose management is screwed up, weight management (and loss) becomes a very difficult task. Combine healthy insulin and glucose control with an increased resting metabolic rate (RMR), and you have a win-win situation.
2. Improve insulin sensitivity and better glucose control
In 2011, researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism that muscle mass strongly correlates with improved insulin sensitivity within the body. It has been noted that with a 10% increase in skeletal muscle index (a measure of how much muscle is on the body), HOMA-IR (a measure of insulin resistance) saw a relative reduction of 11%. People with a higher insulin sensitivity have better glucose control and ultimately, lower rates of diabetes. This is great stuff because when a person is insulin sensitive, he/she can handle glucose well, which means less dietary glucose will turn into body fat and less insulin is necessary to keep body systems operating optimally. The result? A healthy functioning of the body’s systems. This will create balance within the body. It will also produce long-term and permanent results when battling the bulge.
Are you setting yourself up for failure? Step away from the body weight scale
Let’s stop using the term “weight loss” and instead use the phrase “fat loss.” The term “weight loss” causes us to focus on the wrong things. When participating in a “fat loss” program, solely depending on a standard body weight scale to track your progress can cause frustration and may even set you up for failure. It is very possible that you have been busting your ass in the gym and eating healthy foods, but the scale is displaying your weight as being the same as when you started, even after a few weeks of exercising. Not seeing the numbers change on a scale can create extreme disappointment and ultimately cause you to quit your program – and that… just… sucks!
Does this sound familiar? I can confidently assume that many of you reading this article know exactly what I am talking about. We have all been there at some point… and it’s a godawful feeling. Ugh. It is that all too common sensation of anticipation you experience while you are standing on top of the scale. You are looking down at that hunk of metal, waiting to see what the wonderful magical number will read, anxious for it to be lower than the last time you stood in this very same position. The number flashes in front of your eyes, it reads the same, as if the scale was frozen in time. In disbelief, you shake the scale, reset it, step on and repeat the whole process, only to find the end result is the same. The number has not shifted, not even a fraction of a pound. It’s heartbreaking!
If you are experiencing this type of despair, I want you to step FAR away from the scale (put the scale out of sight or even out of your house) and shake off the dissatisfaction you are feeling. You must pause and think for a minute. Do these two things:
- Take an honest look at what you have done for fitness and nutrition in the past few weeks.
- Consider all of the methods you have used and should be using to track your fat loss/lifestyle journey and progress. Have you used other markers to record your progress?
The scale DOES NOT represent everything that is happening within the body
When the number on the scale does not budge, it is important to remind yourself that the scale only shows you a snippet of what is happening. It is only expressing your total body weight – which includes a lot of things, such as:
The scale does not tell you the composition of that weight within your body. Your total body weight represented on the scale may be the same as when you started your weight loss program, BUT if you are building muscle mass and losing fat tissue, your body composition will be much different.
Fluid balance and weight fluctuations
If you choose to micro-manage your weight by weighing yourself frequently (several times per day and/or week), you may see fluctuations that have nothing to do with changes in fat and/or muscle. It is important to realize that the human body can naturally change several pounds in the course of one day from fluid balance alone. Weigh yourself before going to bed, and then weigh yourself in the morning when you wake up. You may see a 2-5 pound difference – please know that this is completely normal!
Your body consists of highly complex systems where changes are happening all day and all night. Hormones and digestive ailments can impact the scale readings, time of the day effects weight, workouts can increase weight (due to retention of fluids caused by inflammation – a direct response of working out), even one glass of water can skew the scale numbers – and if those numbers aren’t where you expect and want them to be, you can be thrown into a downward spiral of despair. It is important to realize often, weight gain is not related to fat nor muscle.
For these reasons, you must not let yourself get too attached to what the scale reads. It’s composition that matters and that is what you need to focus on. Your total body weight represented on the scale may be the same (or heavier) compared to when you started your weight loss program, BUT if you are building muscle mass and losing fat tissue, your body composition will be much different.
A non-budging scale is NOT always indicative of something bad
As I mentioned before, because of how muscle and fat is distributed within the body, it is possible to stay the same weight for a bit during a fitness program. If this has happened to you, you may have replaced fat with muscle tissue. I know I keep hammering this concept, but it is an important one to understand – one (or five) pound(s) of muscle weighs the same as one (or five) pound(s) of fat. Seeing the same number on the scale is not always a terrible thing.
Remember, muscle and fat differ in density. One pound of muscle is going to occupy less space (volume) within the body than one pound of fat. When you increase muscle and lose fat, the scale number may stay the same or increase, but you will be leaner and stronger. You will most likely lose inches from places such as your waist, hips, buttocks, thighs, abdomen, arms, etc. It’s true, you may be the same weight as when you started but you may have lost inches – and losing inches is something to be proud of! Don’t let that scale tell you otherwise! In order to see the whole picture and understand what is happening within the body, we need to set our minds on other indicators of health and wellness. Now let’s look at how you should be recording your progress.
Focus less on the body weight scale readings – use other tracking methods
When you become less obsessed with scale readings and more focused on what truly matters with your program, success will follow. It is silly to only rely on a body weight scale. Allowing a scale to dictate your progress and how you feel, is unhealthy and leads to disordered thinking, eating, and habits. The number on a scale conceals the truth of what is happening within the body. This is why it is important to use more than one method to track your progress. I cannot stress this enough. The most accurate way to assess your health and fitness progress is to use a wide variety of body measurements and health markers. The more, the better. Five methods for assessing body composition include:
- body composition testing
- circumference/girth measurements
- the old-fashioned “how-do-your-clothes-fit-and-feel method”
- before and after photos
- progress journal
Other ways to track progress include recording your strength, flexibility, mobility, heart rate, blood pressure, VO2 max, etc. I will not be discussing these methods in this article. Note: Recording weight may be helpful if you are also using other methods and only if you can keep a healthy relationship with the scale. This means less frequent weigh-ins. However, if you are obsessed with the scale, consider not weighing yourself. If you must see that number, only weigh yourself once in the beginning of the program and then once monthly or every 6-8 weeks. When you put all of these assessment tools together, you will create an accurate picture of what is truly happening within the body. By using multiple sources of data, you can distinguish whether or not you are on the right track with your health and fitness training programs. Later in this article I outline these valuable assessment methods for you. Before we dive into the how-to, let’s look at what body composition and fat percentage are.
Body composition and fat percentage
Body composition is the term used to describe the different components that, when taken together, make up a person’s body weight. The human body is composed of a variety of different tissue types including lean tissues (muscle, bone, and organs) that are metabolically active, and fat (adipose) tissue that is not. Body fat percentage of a human is the total mass of fat divided by total body mass. Often (but not always), when the body has a greater percentage of fat compared to lean muscle mass, the body appears heavier than when that number is lower. A high body fat percentage is also connected to a heightened risk for the following health conditions:
- cardiovascular disease
- high blood pressure
- liver and kidney disease
- pregnancy issues
- sleep apnea
The same weight comes in all shapes and sizes
Reference the diagram below. The women in the top row all weigh the same but have varying body fat percentages. Just like the women, the men underneath all weigh the same, yet have different body fat percentages. Now, look at the top row of women. Remind yourself that they all weigh the same.
When we put a physically active woman with 25% body fat next to an inactive woman who has 45% body fat, we visually see differences, even though these women weigh the same on the scale. If we only use a scale to determine vitality, the scale will tell us that these women are equal in health status. However, body fat percentage readings paint a different picture. The woman with 25% body fat looks (and probably is) more fit, has more muscle tissue, and is at a decreased risk for the above mentioned health conditions.
More muscle = greater demand for calories
To keep all body systems running efficiently, the woman with 25% body fat demands more calories than the woman with 45% body fat. Having more muscle mass causes her to burn a tad more calories than her 45% body fat counterpart, even while she is at rest. The active and leaner woman may even be able to eat slightly more calories a day and still maintain her body weight as compared to the woman with more fat tissue. The woman with the higher body fat percentage will gain weight if she consumes more calories.
Take away body fat and add muscle
Just think about it – if your weight stayed exactly the same (according to a standard body weight scale) and we theoretically took off five pounds of fat from you and replaced it with five pounds of muscle, you will weigh exactly the same, but because muscle is denser than fat, the five pounds of muscle will take up less volume and you will appear slightly leaner, thinner, and/or more toned. Although the number on the scale did not lower, you are certainly more healthy, fit, and are on the right track with your fat loss program. I want to show you more visuals that may help you understand the concept of body composition. Visuals have always aided me with learning, and I hope they will do the same for you.
Real life example of how bodies at the same weight can look different
In May 2012, Australian Marie Claire magazine published an article about six Australian women who all weigh 70 kgs (which is 154 pounds) – the national average weight of women in Australia and Britain. These women bravely bared their bodies showing that “average” comes in all shapes and sizes. Notice that despite being the same weight, each woman looks different (and has an unalike body fat percentage). I just LOVE this photo. It does a beautiful job showing that a number on a scale is just that… a number. It doesn’t really tell much about the person behind the number. Again, visuals rock, don’t you think?! 🙂
Below, I provide you with more real-life visual representations of how one body can stay the same weight, but look noticeably different.
Let us compare
Each of the woman below has changed her physique by working out and eating healthfully. By increasing muscle mass and lowering their total body fat percentages, both have been able to alter the way their figures look and feel. Their weights stayed the same.
Before and after photo #1
- This woman stayed the same scale weight (160 lb.), but noticeably altered her physique by lowering her percent body fat:
Before and after photo #2
- This woman stayed the same scale weight (160 lb.), but noticeably altered her physique by lowering her percent body fat and losing 4.5 inches from her body.
Assessment methods, in detail
Now that you have a better understanding of what body composition is, let’s look closer at the five assessment methods I mentioned earlier: body composition testing, circumference/girth measurements, the “how-do-your-clothes-fit-and-feel method,” before and after photos, and progress journal.
1) Body composition testing
A great assessment tool to use when embarking on a fitness program where fat loss, muscle gain and improved health is the main goal is body composition testing. When you determine your overall body fat percentage, you will get an accurate sense of how much of your body is made up of fat and how much is made up of lean muscle mass. Use this testing during your program and you will determine whether or not you are losing fat and/or gaining muscle tissue.
Four methods of body composition testing are:
- DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan (extremely accurate)
- hydrostatic weighing (very accurate)
- skinfold caliper measurements (accurate but has room for error)
- bioelectrical impedance (least accurate)
If you are unable to visit a facility that offers DEXA scans or hydrostatic weighing, here are some body composition measurement tools that you can buy:
- Purchase Lange skinfold caliper pro kit w/ tape measure, software, and calibration block (I use this with my clients):
- Purchase Omron fat loss monitor (uses bioelectrical impedance):
If you are losing weight, know the cause of your weight loss
Note: Another thing to keep in mind is that if you only use a scale to track your progress, you will never know if you are losing fat or muscle weight. Performing body fat percentage assessments will tell you whether or not your weight loss is due to a decrease in muscle or fat. When we eat unhealthfully/crash diet, don’t take in enough healthy calories (starve ourselves), overtrain and/or don’t recover properly with adequate sleep and rest, our bodies can go into a catabolic state. This is when muscle tissue is broken down instead of bull up and repaired. Without proper nutritional intake and body recovery, the natural process of tissue growth and repair will not take place and the body will eat away at its muscle in an attempt to find a source of stored energy. When this happens, you might lose weight, but in an unhealthy way. Losing muscle mass slows the metabolism and extremely hinders longterm fat/weight loss success. (Remember, more muscle mass = greater demand for calories and a higher burn rate for calories.) Periodically check your body fat percentage by performing body composition tests on yourself. By doing so, you will be able to tell if you are gaining or losing muscle.
2) Circumference/girth measurements
Recording circumference (also known as girth) measurements is a fantastic way to track fat loss. A lost in inches usually represents a lost in body fat. To accurately obtain circumference measurements, you should use a standardized flat, flexible measuring tape. Use the following locations on the body to measure circumference, as they are good indicators of body composition change:
- Chest (at the nipple-line)
- Waist (at the narrowest part of the torso, usually about 1 inch above the navel)
- Abdomen (at the belly button)
- Hips (with feet together, measure at the widest part of the buttocks)
- Thighs (6 inches above the knee cap)
- Calves (largest/widest part)
- Biceps (upper arm)
Note: The tape should be pulled snug and level around the area which is being measured. Be sure to measure both, right and left sides of each limb. With each subsequent recording, be consistent with the location at which you measure.
3) The “how-do-your-clothes-fit-and-feel?” method
We wear clothes everyday (well, most of us do, right?!) and because we wear clothing all of the time, we become in-tune with how they fit and feel on our body. Clothes are expressive of whether or not you have lost inches and whether or not there has been a shift in your body composition. When you are in the middle of a fitness/nutrition program, pay close attention to how your clothes fit on your body.
- Do they feel snug and uncomfortable? (Boo!)
- Do they feel loose and fabulous? (Yay!)
- Do you suddenly need to wear a belt for a pair of pants that used to be tight on you? (Awesome!)
- Is your bra no longer uncomfortably digging into your back? (Rock on!)
4) Before and after photos
It’s selfie time! One of the best things you can do is take pictures of yourself before, during and after your program. Yup – this is one of those few times that selfies are valuable and purposeful. Taking a photo may be one of the hardest things to accomplish before starting a fat-loss program, but it can be one of the most rewarding (down the road, of course).
- Your shy, asamed inner self may tell you to wait a few weeks before taking those first photos, but trust me on this – take them BEFORE you start. If it helps, have someone else snap them – this way you don’t even have to look!
- Take photos of your body from all angles – kind of like you are taking mugshots of yourself. Be sure to capture views straight on, from the sides, and from the back. Shirtless (or with a bra), in shorts (or underwear), and without socks and shoes is best. Seeing yourself from different perspectives will tell you and/or a fitness professional a lot about your posture and about possible muscle imbalances or injuries that you may have. This will be useful when creating a fitness program. Later on, the photos will tell you if you have lost inches.
- To see your transformation and results clearly, take progress photos throughout the duration of your program.
- These photos will come in handy on the days when you feel like you are not making much progress (and when that biotch of a scale is tells you that you haven’t made any improvement).
5) Progress journal
Write it all down! Use a journal to record your journey.
- Before you begin your program, buy a journal so that you can have a place to record your progress. A Moleskine notebook works well
- Create goals for yourself and write them in the journal. Note how you will feel when you reach these goals. Every so often, revisit your written goals and adjust if necessary.
- In this notebook, take notes on how you feel emotionally and physically.
- Record how your clothes feel, fit and look on your body. Continue to do this throughout your program.
- As the weeks pass by, jot down anything else that comes to mind. Write about your stress levels, sleep patterns, obstacles, successes, failures, frustrations, etc.
- Write about how you feel while doing day-to-day activities. Do you have more energy? Do you feel stronger? Is your endurance better? How is your nutrition?
- Use this journal as a fitness resource to record your workouts and use it nutritionally as a food tracking log/diary.
Enjoy the process – DO NOT perform assessments daily or weekly
It is important not to repeat assessments on a daily or weekly basis. While your program is underway, let yourself walk away from the dizziness of comparative measurements. Look at your new program as a chance to become mindful of what you are actually doing and how you feel. Be present with everything that you do. Remember what I was saying about the scale earlier? Weighing yourself too often can cause you to have an unhealthy alliance (love affair?) with the scale and with its numbers. When we obsess over measurements and numbers, our vision can become cloudy and muddled by criticism, disappointment, expectation, etc. As humans, we are very competitive and hard on ourselves. Often, the emotional challenge of getting through a fitness and lifestyle program is the most difficult. Why put extra pressure on yourself by measuring, weighing, and negatively critiquing your progress every step of the way?
Enjoy the process as much as possible, and do not sabotage yourself by hopping on a scale, checking your body fat, or measuring your circumference every day or every week. This will take a lot of willpower, but once you are able to stride away from constant measurements, you will free yourself from the number game. This will allow you to experience that the program you are doing is about a lot more than just weight loss. It is a lifestyle adventure.
Make it a lifestyle plan and embrace success
Your program may start off labeled as a “weight loss/fat loss” plan, but for it to be successful in the long-term, it needs to become a “lifestyle” plan… one where you adopt healthy and realistic habits that will stay with you long after you reach your initial fitness and wellness goals. Instead of focusing on the scale number, during the program, direct your attention to:
- your energy levels
- how your clothes are fitting
- your sleep patterns
- how you look
Improvement in any of these areas is an achievement and should be celebrated.
Round two of assessments
Perform a second round of assessments and measurements 6-8 weeks after your first recordings. Compare these results with the benchmarks recorded on day one. Record all results in your journal so that you can reference them later. If you are patient and diligent with your new program, your results will show that all of your hard work is paying off. To see positive changes in your measurements is very encouraging and may be just what you need to propel yourself to the next phase of your lifestyle program.
Here’s how you can increase your muscle mass
Increasing muscle mass during this process is key. To build muscle mass and succeed in a wellness program you need to:
- Eat whole, clean foods
- Train smartly and efficiently (ditch the chronic cardio)
- Keep cortisol levels low
- Sleep and rest when needed
- Practice improving natural movement skills
- Be diligent about working on your flexibility/mobility
- Lift heavy things
Proper nutrition and mindful lifestyle habits are huge components to gaining muscle mass. Resistance training is also a potent stimulant of testosterone production, an important factor that favorably effects protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy within the body. Lift heavy things every now and again to promote the production of this hormone. Strive for balance when it comes to implementing a new weight training and nutrition program. Enlist in the assistance of a fitness and nutrition professional whenever you have uncertainty on how to put a complete program together. Do not be afraid to ask for help.
A great way to guarantee success is to find ways to stay motivated during your program. Motivation may come from:
- Working with a personal trainer
- Telling a friend about your goals
- Creating a fitness a nutrition vision board
It can help to stay visually motivated by having your very own “pet fat”. Yes, you read that correctly, you can buy your own one pound pet fat by clicking on the images below:
- This weighs 1 ounce, represents 220 calories, and can be kept at your desk, in your purse or magnetized to the refrigerator:
- This weighs 1 pound, represents 3500 calories, and can be kept at your desk, in the refrigerator, or anywhere else that will motivate you.
- These jiggly replicas of fat have the power to keep you on track with your health and fitness goals. I have known people to put these little guys inside their refrigerator, in their pantry, on their desk, and in their purse. They can provide a constant reminder of what one ounce, 220 calories, and one pound, 3,500 calories, of unused energy looks like within your body.
- When a client comes to me disappointed that they have only lost one or two pounds of fat, I have them put the fat replica in their hand (same one as in the photo on the right) for a visual representation of what they just removed from their body.
- Seeing how much space one pound of fat takes up can be quite motivating. If adopting a pet fat is not an option for you right now, feel free to stop by my fitness studio to see my pet fat for a friendly reminder of how gross one pound of fat looks like. 🙂
- Remember, a pound is a pound. When comparing one pound of fat versus one pound of muscle, 0ne pound of fat is going to weigh the same as one pound of muscle and one pound of muscle occupies less space (volume) within the body than one pound of fat.
- The several benefits of muscle mass (such as improved insulin sensitivity and increased metabolic efficiency) make it worth one’s while to implement a strength training program that will build muscle within the body (and lose fat).
- When participating in a program, do not set yourself up for failure by using a body weight scale as the only method to track your progress. Collect as much assessment data as possible and do not let yourself obsess over numbers, whether they be in the form of calories or body weight.
- Remember, the scale number may not budge, or it may go up, but the way you FEEL combined with results of other measurements can reinforce that you are succeeding in so many ways – you might be gaining muscle mass, losing fat, losing inches, fitting into your clothes better, feeling more energized, sleeping better, improving your sex life, lowering your cholesterol, bettering your overall health, etc. – the list goes on and on. When you put of these things together, you will see that you have a lot of good shit going on! It might be difficult to break up with the scale and rely on other methods, but once you do, it will be insanely rewarding!
- You are intelligent and have the awareness within you to know how your body feels. Do not let a scale number pull you away from this reality. It is psychologically unhealthy to allow a scale number determine your value, worth, or self-image. You are much more than a number and you need to be mindful of this. I want you to believe that your body deserves more love, because it does! YOU do!
- If any of this seems impossible for you to do on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get help when needed, whether it be from a fitness/health professional, like myself, or a motivating friend. Do not be shy or embarrassed; you are not alone in this struggle. To have another person invested in your journey can be life-saving and life-changing.
- Proper nutrition and mindful lifestyle habits will be integral when it comes to gaining muscle mass and improving body composition.
Embrace your experience and learn from your accomplishments AND failures. Remember, to achieve long term results, it is important to approach a new program realistically and with a positive attitude. After all, you are making a lifestyle change, not just a “weight loss” change.
I want to hear from you
What are your thoughts on this subject? The scale numbers bring a lot of us down, sometimes to the point that it paralyzes us from moving forward with our fitness programs.
- What do you think of this article? Is it helpful?
- How do you not let the readings on the scale stop you in your tracks?
- What are the biggest emotional and physical obstacles that you have faced while participating in a lifestyle change? What are you doing now to overcome these hurdles, or what have you done in the past to surpass such roadblocks?
- What helps you stay focused when it comes to a fitness and nutrition regimen?
- What assessment methods and/or tools do you use to track progress during a fat-loss/fitness program?
Please share your experiences and join the conversation by leaving a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts!
If you have enjoyed this post, and/or found it to be useful, I’d be grateful if you would help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it via social media. Thank you!
I have had several inquires asking where fat and muscle replicas can be purchased. To make shopping easy, I have provided some options. Just click on the photo or link of the product you are interested in. You will be redirected to Amazon.com where you can learn more about the product(s) and if interested, buy.
- 1 Ounce Muscle Replica
- 1 Pound Muscle Replica
- 5 Pound Muscle Replica
- 1 Pound Muscle AND 5 Pound Muscle Replica
Fat AND muscle replicas
Wishing you health and happiness, – Jennifer M. Regan, MovNat MCT, C.H.E.K HLC, NASM-CPT
- Hitt, Emma. “Muscle Mass Linked to Risk for Insulin Resistance.” Medscape Medical News. Web. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/747526 Aug 04, 2011
- Fell, James. “The Myth of Ripped Muscles and Calorie Burns.” Los Angeles Times. May 11, 2011. Web. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/16/health/la-he-fitness-muscle-myth-20110516
- “Health risks of being overweight.” National Institiute Of Diabetes And Digestive And Kidney Diseases. 29 July 2016. Web. 5 Jan. 2017.
- Sisson, Mike. “How Many Calories Does Muscle Really Burn? (and Why It’s Not About Calories Anyway)”. Mark’s Daily Apple. The Blog Studio. Web. Aug. 10, 2012.
- Srikanthan P, Hevener AL, Karlamangla AS (2010) “Sarcopenia Exacerbates Obesity-Associated Insulin Resistance and Dysglycemia: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III.” PLoS ONE 5(5): e10805. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010805 http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0010805
- Srikanthan P, Hevener AL, Karlamangla AS. “Relative Muscle Mass Is Inversely Associated with Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes.” Findings from The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey JCEM jc.2011-0435; doi:10.1210 Web 2011.
When she is not helping others to slay fat, build muscle, and live amazing lives, Jennifer can be found exploring the outdoors with her dogs, cooking, traveling and playing/coaching lacrosse. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.