If you were one of my weight-loss clients, I would tell you never step on the scale again. Sounds good to you, right?
How many minutes of your life have you spent standing on the scale, staring at a number you’re not happy with, and maybe even tears streaming down your face? You step off, get on again, and hope to see a different number. Nope, same discouraging number appears. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. You have a magic number in your head and when it doesn’t appear you’re whole day is in ruins.
Why do I tell my clients not to go on the scale to measure their weight-loss progress? Because muscle weighs more than fat. And if you’re exercising as part of your new healthy life (which is a must), then you’re building muscle and loosing fat. So if muscle weighs more than fat on the scale, you may be discouraged by a simple number that does not accurately define what’s really going on in your body.
BMI (Body Mass Index) has been under scrutiny for years now. If you’re not familiar with BMI, your body mass is calculated solely on an equation that measures your weight (mass) and divides it by your height, squared. Patients can be labeled “obese”, yet be in better shape and health than someone who is “naturally” thin. Yet, BMI is still a standard measurement for health used by doctors. Naturally thin people could have the unhealthiest diet and never exercise and be more at risk for health issues than someone who looks overweight. Doctors don’t tell thin people to eat healthy and exercise more. While people with high amounts of muscle mass are told to lose weight. Think of it this way, a professional body builder (nothing but bulging muscles) will most likely get on the scale, have his height measured, and be told he is clinically obese. That’s not right. There might not even be more than an ounce of fat on his whole body. See why it doesn’t make sense?
There are better ways at measuring your body’s fat percentage. Some high-tech scales now come with a fat density scanner. It can tell you the estimated percentage of fat in your body just stepping on a scale. Another great, affordable way to measure your body’s fat percentage is the “pinch an inch” test. Skin calipers pinch (don’t worry, it doesn’t really hurt) your skin in certain areas of the body while also pinching the underlying layer of fat. Check out more information and how to perform your own test here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/measure-bodyfat.
Another great thing about increasing your muscle mass is that it may burn more calories after working out than just medium-intensity cardio. Cardio is great, but new studies are finding that the “after-burn effect”, scientifically known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), burns calories way after you’ve stopped exercising. High-intensity and weight-lifting exercises are showing to have the highest levels of EPOC. Weight-lifting can keep your metabolism revved up for up to an hour after you’ve put that dumbbell back on the rack. Heavier weight-lifting could increase that metabolism effect for up to 2 hours post-workout.
Dr. Claude Bouchard (from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA) says, “Part of the effect may be due to post-exercise energy metabolism: the body starts using more fat and less carbohydrate after a hard exercise session. Several hormones that are released during exercise remain elevated in the blood afterward, increasing metabolism. And extra calories may be burned when the body replenishes glycogen, the sugar stored in muscles.”
So if you’re one of those gym goers who only steps on the treadmill for an hour’s walk or the elliptical for a 40 minute sweat session and not seeing the results you’d like, it may be time to add some weight-lifting workouts to your weekly routine. Start off slow so you don’t injure yourself. A good rule of thumb for calculating how much weight to lift is if you can complete 12 reps, in good form, without any struggle you need to increase your weight. If you cannot perform the lifting move in good form past 4 reps, take some weight off. Proper form is critical while lifting weights as to prevent injury. Also, don’t try to out-lift the other guys to prove you can do more than what’s comfortable. The last thing you want to do is drop that 25 lb dumbbell on your toes. Ouch!