Toning & Shaping: Framing the Problem

Have you tried toning and shaping your body before? Maybe you’ve tried to sculpt your arms or legs to give you that lean look. Did you end up with the rock-star arms you’d hoped for, or in a whirlwind of confusion?

If you’re like most, you may have achieved some results but were unable to maintain it.

Sounding familiar? I understand.

In the next few blogs, we’re going to look at some common problems with weight loss in this day and age. Let’s start with our first simple secret to weight loss.

Weight Loss Secret #1: Don’t aim to lose weight

One of the most common questions I would get from people, particularly when I was down around 4% body-fat, was “I want to lose weight – what is the best diet or exercise. I would always respond firstly by saying, “You don’t want to lose weight, you want to lose fat.”

The reason I’m pedantic with stipulating the loss of fat as opposed to weight is the fact that their typical reason for wanting to “lose weight” is to look better – and their quest for losing weight is misguided in relation to that goal.

Please bear with me for a moment:

Physical appearance is governed by the muscle we have covering our bones and the fat that covers the muscle – two very different things. Muscle is shapely and toned, whereas fat at is wobbly and can have cellulite or form into rolls or simply “hang” out of control.

Let’s crunch some numbers.

The average woman has approximately 24% body fat

The woman who wants to lose weight is possibly one who, at the time of decision, is around 30%. If she weighs 70kg, it means that 21kg is fat and the remaining 49kg is lean body-mass (bones, muscles, organs).

The average male has approximately 14% body fat

The man who is over-weight might be around 25% when he decides to do something about it. If he weighs 92kg, it means that 23kg is fat and 69kg is lean body-mass.

The “maths” of looking good

If we consider the female figures for now – and assume she now loses 10kg and she is one of those with the “I don’t care, I just want to lose weight” attitude. And as a result, most of that weight loss is muscle* (it can’t be bones or organs), then she will now weigh 60kg, of which 21kg is fat and 39kg is lean body mass.

*(you can spot these people – they spend hours every week on the treadmills or stationary bikes – and do not each much in between, though they may have the daily cappuccino and treat in the belief that it will be ok because their meals are small – they are fairly thin, yet do not seem to have much tone, giving rise to the term “Skinny-fat” – don’t worry if this describes you . . help is around the corner)

This means that the fat level is now 21/60 = 34% body-fat. She may be a bit smaller than before but will look worse, plus she now has 10kg less muscle to help carry around all that fat.

Consider this. Muscle is living tissue that burns energy; so losing 10kg of muscle decreases the metabolic rate, making it even harder to prevent that stubborn 21kg of fat from now ballooning into 30kg of fat.

I like to use the wallet scenario to paint the picture clearer for you.

It’s like wanting to clean out your wallet or purse and throwing out the money instead of just the old receipts, tissues, and outdated shopping lists. Specifying that you just want to lose weight is like saying that you want to throw stuff out of your wallet and you don’t care if it is money you throw out.

The old saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, is definitely true – and in general we have not been using it (our muscles) for the last 80 years or more. We don’t have the luxury of spare muscle that we can lose.

A more efficient and healthier solution to “losing weight”

If our example female is at 70kg with 21kg of fat and now loses 10kg of fat whilst putting on 2kg of muscle, the result is a body-weight of 62kg. While her body weight is 2kg higher than the first example, her fat levels are lower!

*Muscle is twice as dense as fat (1 kg of muscle is half the size of 1 kg of fat) – so the 62 kg woman we just described would be smaller than the 60 kg woman in the earlier example – and she would even be a bit smaller.

She now has, of the 62kg, 51kg of lean mass (instead of just 39) and 11kg of fat (instead of 21), making the fat level now 11/62 = 18% (instead of 34%).

We have an 8kg drop in weight, but also a drop in fat of 16% – how’s that!

At 18% body fat, she will actually start to look quite athletic. Plus her BMR (Base Metabolic Rate) will be reasonably high (because muscle is living tissue and there is 12 kg more than in the first example, making it easier to maintain this low body-fat and a toned look. PLUS, with a higher BMR, she will be able to eat more without it converting to fat.

So, the next question, assuming hopefully that you are now keen to achieve proper, sensible weight (fat) loss, is, how is this transformation achieved?

We’ll be talking all about the do’s and don’ts in our next blog – stay tuned!

AMP Your Workout Smart Tips;

In the mean time, remember these basics:

  • Don’t think in terms of simply losing weight – lose excess body fat.
  • Don’t throw out the money with the receipts and tissues – don’t lose muscle (your body’s equivalent to money) along with the fat in your quest to “lose weight”.
  • Muscle is twice as dense as fat – it takes up half the volume as fat – so again, do not worry about your weight – you could be heavier but actually slimmer if you replaced fat with muscle.
  • Muscle is firm and toned. It is also living tissue and raises your metabolic rate – you burn more fat even when simply sitting around or even when sleeping
  • Resistance training (lifting weights that overload the muscles) builds and maintains muscle, while also raising your caloric burn for 24 -48 hours afterwards.