Fat vs. Muscle: It’s Gonna Be a Showdown

I recently learned my body fat percentage. Um, yeah. I’m officially a fitness geek, it’s okay to think it. I went to the Human Performance Lab near where I work and paid $10 to get pinched in seven places with a small pair of calipers. My numbers were entered into a computer and voilà!

Carnie fan that I am, I made the (very professional, very smart) man who oversees the Lab guess, before he weighed me or took any measurements, what my body fat percentage was going to be. These guys are good, really good. “Seventeen,” he said, without batting an eyelash. And 17% is exactly what it was.

As it turns out, most women who are in reasonably decent shape are in the 20’s. A female athlete who trains hard will usually be in the teens. Women who go below 12% often begin having difficulties with menstrual cycles and other things. “Essential fat levels” for women are about 10-13% and for men it’s 2-5%; that’s what you need to regulate hormonal balance and body temperature, protect internal organs, and serve as a  fuel reserve for the body. Bodybuilders get down into single digits, and there are physiological prices that you pay. You don’t want to stay down in the low singles for long.

Body fat measurement is a much better indicator of overall fitness than body mass index because it doesn’t need to take into account your height. The BMI test has to make assumptions about what a person of a particular height should weigh, and that’s not entirely helpful, especially if you are an athlete with lots of lean muscle mass.

I only made the trek out to this Lab because a co-worker raved so much about how this was helping him meet his goal of cutting back body fat so his abs would look good for swimsuit season (see, guys do it too). I didn’t have any such goal. My weight is exactly where I want it: I feel strong and by staying at 143 or so I can easily fight in the weight category I’m currently in or cut 4 pounds and be comfortably in the weight category below me. I just went out of curiosity.

But once I saw my body weight percentages I began to formulate a new goal. If I could trade a few pounds of that fat weight for some muscle weight, that might be really nice. Keep my weight the same, but have more power. The more I thought about it, the better it sounded.

SO. I’m shifting my training regimen in order to incorporate heavier weights. I’m looking at those big barbells and nodding in satisfaction. Back up, boys. They’re gonna be mine, all mine.

Image Credit: eschipul on Flickr

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4 Responses to Fat vs. Muscle: It’s Gonna Be a Showdown

  1. Sine Botchen July 25, 2009 at 11:15 pm #

    Holy smokes! Indignity (sp?) hath no friends unlike those where they weigh you underwater. Talk about BMI, and public humiliation..

    Never been there, but I hear it’s not fun..

    My scale still thinks I’m 41 years old (tee hee) and even for someone who is lying to his scale I’ve never had my BMI go below 20% (and that’s on a good week)… I got the scale (that does all that stuff) a while back b/c I’d run into a situation where my “weight” was stagnating, or even going up slightly, so I figured it had something to do with BMI and I was mostly correct – other times it was due to excessive tequila consumption.

    Glad you consulted a professional.. keep on truckin!

  2. Lisa Creech Bledsoe July 28, 2009 at 12:37 pm #

    I find that tequila assists in many things, but I can’t get my scale to just *try* it for once. I just know that would open up whole new possibilities for our relationship.

  3. Medo Joe May 14, 2010 at 3:55 am #

    Same as low metabolism vs. high metabolism. Some people eat much but they don’t gain weight. Others starve but they can’t lose excess weight. It’s all about controlling your metabolism. And my personal solution is more proteins, more workouts and more carbohydrates while practicing all at once. Works for all cases. No exceptions.
    Good read thank.
    .-= Medo Joe´s last blog ..Mini Trampolines Help In Loosing Weight =-.

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