Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Muscle versus Fat

I started a more comprehensive exercise program last week.  I'm working on being consistent & getting adequate cardio mixed with weight training.  Right now I'm using a system of lighter weight/higher reps & not spending more than 25 minutes on a weight training workout and 45 minutes on a cardio workout.  I'm alternating cardio/weight days and feeling good.  And I'm keeping track of this by having my bodyweight percentage tested every 4-6 weeks.  This number is vital to letting me know where I truly am in my health journey.  However, it's been a long time since I've done anything with weights.  

A really long time...  
Like over-a-year-long.  
And my body has felt it.  
I have been sore!  

It always amazes me how quickly we can get out of shape.  I love the feeling I get from a great workout and love the look my body begins to get when I'm cutting fat out and gaining muscle, but sometimes the price that we pay with soreness seems pretty high!  

Anyway, I've been contemplating muscle versus fat for a couple weeks.  First, because I'm focusing on building more muscle to replace the fat I'm losing and second, because I think we often get obsessed with our weight being a certain "perfect number."  I want to clear up a few misconceptions & shed a little light on this subject.  For a long time I wanted the scale to say 130 when I climbed up on hasn't said that since about 5th or 6th grade so I thought that was a good goal.  Anyway, in 2006, before my babies came along, I worked hard at getting into the best shape I'd been in at that point.  I ate a super strict diet, worked out hardcore 6 days a week, and paid attention to every detail.  I felt pretty dang good and got down to 21% body fat which is the leanest I've personally achieved to date.  I fit comfortably into every size 8 jean I tried on.  Wanna know what the scale said?  156 pounds. At that point when I went to the gym there were girls who weighed 130 pounds.  They spent their time strictly on the cardio machines.  They also had higher body fat percentages than me.  Maybe around 28-30%.  (I called this body type skinny-fat).  And guess what?  They looked bigger & heavier than me.  Standing side by side, people would have guessed our weights being opposite. 

Wanna know why?

Because pounds of muscle take up less volume than pounds of fat. 
Want a comparison?  

These replicas show us the difference between carrying extra fat or extra muscle.  Which would you rather have occupying space in your body?  Many times I've heard the phrase, "muscle weighs more than fat."  It doesn't.  5 pounds is 5 pounds is 5 pounds.  The number won't change based on what's taking up space inside you.  But, the appearance changes drastically because muscle is so dense.  This is why a muscular 150 pound woman standing next to a skinny-fat 135 pound woman can look leaner & smaller.  Pretty cool, huh? 

The reasons I didn't stay at that healthy & lean weight are many & more appropriate for another post, but mainly I didn't change the way I thought & felt about food, and didn't learn the habits of health which are vital to maintaining a healthy weight.   

Now though, I have all the tools I didn't have before & I'm not worrying so much about a certain number.  Instead I am working on changing my body composition by achieving a state of more muscle & less fat.  Would a part of me still love to see that magic 130 pop up on the scale sometime?  Well, yeah...sure.  But only if I'm lean & muscular while there-not just skinny fat.  Otherwise, I'll take my higher number and my smaller/fitter/leaner me anyday! 


  1. Hey Karli, love your website. It really gets you thinking and in the mood to get in shape.

  2. Great post, Karli! It's so true! It's easy to fixate on a number on the scale, when that's really quite arbitrary. Focusing on health and ignoring weight will pretty much always work out. Focusing on weight and ignoring health is a dangerous road! (I'd rather have the muscle too!)