Weight vs. Muscle Mass: Whats More Important for Weight Loss?
Your weight has a lot to do with how much fat and muscle mass you have in your body. Rather than getting hung up on a perfect number, let’s make sense of it all.
I was at the store last week when a woman asked me about my weight. I was caught off-guard when her response was ‘Wow, that’s so heavy for someone your size.’ My quick response was ‘muscle mass weighs more than fat,’ but I quickly had to clarify because that’s also incorrect. A pound of muscle weighs exactly the same as a pound of fat, however muscle takes up less space in your body compared to fat. Meaning that although I look small, I weigh much more than she expected to hear. My body composition is such that I’m made up of a lot of lean muscle mass and a relatively low body fat percentage.
I had to ask myself why I suddenly got so sensitive about the number on the scale when asked about it. I wondered if other people felt the same way when questioned about their weight. It seems to me that we’re heavily influenced by what others, including the media, think. They seem to convince us that weighing less is somehow better for us. This implies that the less you weigh, the healthier you are, but it’s just not true. Health and well-being can’t be measured simply by looking at a number on the scale.
This prompted me to ask some of my friends about their relationship with the scale. My hunch was correct—women tend to feel happier when the number on the scale is lower. Several women also admitted that even when they are at their “healthy goal weight,” they’re happy to continue losing. Men on the other hand seemed less concerned with their weight and more concerned with how they felt. Many admitted that they used how tight their belt was as a gauge to determine if a weight loss plan was working.
Asking people about their weight and how they felt about it prompted me to set the record straight. Weight is simply a number, and alone, it doesn’t mean much.
Concentrating on building your muscle mass can actually be incredibly helpful for a number of reasons. Working towards a good muscle mass ratio reduces the power of the scale, helps you build your strength and means you’re likely to be fit rather than simply slim. For many people, realizing their objective is feeling healthy and looking good helps them embrace exercise in their lives – and I always think it’s better for people to have fun with fitness than to deny themselves with a restrictive diet.
Avoid the weight scale blues
Getting discouraged is something we all want avoid on our journey to a healthy, active life. Negative thoughts can be very discouraging. I’ve also learned that when someone constantly check the number on the scale, it can prompt them to keep changing their approach before their body has even had a chance to respond or adapt to their new healthy habits.
Don’t quit on your health journey
Quitting because you don’t like the number you see on the scale should never be an option. It’s a matter of knowing your body. It’s important to take a positive approach to learning your body. If you monitor your results and don’t solely rely on the weight scale, it’ll boost your motivation to keep going.
Make lifestyle changes, not quick fixes
Maintaining a healthy body composition requires a total lifestyle focus. This includes balanced nutrition, regular physical activity (endurance, strength, flexibility) and stress management. Keep all three in mind as you choose your health goals. It’s important to understand that exercise can’t be used as a substitute for a poor diet. It takes a lot of physical activity to burn enough calories to make a difference with weight loss. And, cookies are not a good choice for stress management! Find time to balance your life, as it’s essential to help keep you on track.
The goal of exercising when you’re trying to change your body composition is to decrease the loss of muscle that’s often associated with weight loss. You don’t want to lose healthy muscle mass. Performing muscle-building exercises and consuming a balanced protein-rich diet can help you accomplish this task.
Striving to reduce your body fat, improve your muscle density, trim your waist and improve your overall appearance and sense of well being is a much better goal than aiming for a number on the scale. Try my fun muscle-building exercise routine that you can do while your kids are at the playground!
Playground muscle-building routine
If you have children, this fun routine can be done on the playground. You can encourage your children or friends to join you!
Perform a 10-minute warm up of your choice. Walking and stretching is a great way to get your blood flowing.
• 8 pull-ups on the monkey bars
• 12 squats
• 8 push-ups using a park bench
• Run for 30 seconds
• Go across the monkey bars two times.
• 15 squat jumps, jumping forward as far as you can with each squat jump
• 12 triceps dips using a park bench
• Jog for 60 seconds
Rest for 1-2 minutes after each round. Aim to perform three sets total.
Have fun completing this muscle-building workout and strive to keep your energy and spirits high as you work towards achieving your personal goals. Keep in mind that a healthy body is not all about the number you see on the weight scale.
Written by Samantha Clayton. AFAA, ISSA – Senior Director, Worldwide Fitness Education at Herbalife.