Mona: “I’ve just fired my personal trainer. Five weeks of busting my body and powering through with weights, and where has it gotten me? 2kg heavier on the scales!”
Lucy: “But have you not seen Naya Rivera’s abs gracing your toned tum?!”
If you’re new to the fat-versus-muscle battle, let us fill you in. What should we be caring more about – the number that reads off the scales first thing in the morning or the number your body-fat measurement shows of how much (or how little) blub you have on your bones? What’s going to affect the success of hitting the beach with a lean, toned, and healthy body?
Body fat – every single time.
One kilo of fat weighs the same as one kilo of muscle, but they are far from being the same thing. The amount of “room” that fat takes up in the body is substantially more than the room muscle takes up. So if you were to replace all the muscles in the body with fat, you would be looking at having to undertake a rather large shopping spree – and not the good kind!
Doesn't heavier on the scales mean I’ve gotten fatter?
Luckily for us squat lovers, this is not necessarily the case. If you’re in the middle of a fat-busting, muscle-building, and all-over-toning makeover, it could well be that you’re gaining muscle quicker than you’re burning fat – especially if you’re new to weight training and your derrière has been crying out for some lifting and plumping! So although the scales may have added a few pounds, look at your body and ask yourself whether that’s really from fat gain or all-good muscle tone.
What’s the point of building muscle if it means I’ll weigh more?
You won’t – in the end. Having more muscle means you automatically burn more calories at resting point, so continue with the intense training. The fat will start to shift whilst the tone will get better and better!
How can I measure my body fat?
– Skin callipers entail a bit of a pinch, but are relatively accurate and won’t affect your bank balance. Most good gyms will have them to hand.
– Alternatively, you can get body-fat tested by way of Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis. It may sound a bit snazzy, but dietary clinics or specialist hospitals should have the device available. It is a machine you stand on that takes the appropriate measurements, and isn’t too expensive, either.
– One of the most accurate ways to test body fat is via a ‘Bod Pod’, otherwise known as Air-Displacement Plethysmography. It’s a capsule that you sit in, and the air displaced is the reading used to measure fat percentage. It’s also one of the more expensive ways to get it tested, so do some research on what works best for you.
You can still pay attention to the reading on the scale, but don’t let it rule the roost. Body fat is a far superior measurement of how healthy and fit a person is, and a much better indicator of the level of progress one is making toward being more toned and achieving goals of losing body fat.
Carly Neave is the blogger behind LeanLivingGirl, a health and fitness website based in Dubai.