I am not interested in weight loss, but rather fat loss. It is an important distinction to make as it is actually very easy to lose weight – particularly water weight – and difficult to lose fat. If anyone boasts of losing a huge amount of weight in a short time then what they are relying on is water loss, and perhaps to a lesser extent lean muscle loss. Losing weight through water loss is a waste of time, even dangerous, unless you are a professional fighter and need to make weight for a competition. If you paid money for a “quick loss” diet or some such fad, then sorry but you’ve wasted your money.
Another method the body can use to lose weight, is to lose muscle mass. This can happen quickly if you are on a strict very low calorie diet (sound like familiar binge dieting?) or if you engage in a lot of cardio exercise. It is not smart for the body to be holding a lot of heavy muscle mass if it is required to move a lot (i.e. high cardio) so the body will let it go. If you are a marathon runner or do a lot of cardio regularly, then this is ok. However if you don’t regularly do a lot of cardio, or are only going to do it short term and not for life (sound familiar – a ‘quick fix’) then you want to hang on to all the muscle you can. Why is that? Because muscle needs to use a lot more calories to maintain itself than fat. This is what is meant by a “high metabolism”. Muscle will burn calories even while you sleep.
So if one wants to look “buff” then you need to have a decent amount of muscle, and a low level of fat. You need the low level of fat so that the muscle definition can be seen. Generally the rule is if one wants to be able to see a “six pack” then fat level needs to be at 10%.There is a common misconception that if you want a six pack then you need to do trillions of situps, or the ab workout from hell etc. How many advertisements do you see for special ab equipment? Ab Roller, Ab Coaster Flex Master, Ab Shaper, Power Wheel…. the list goes on.
A six pack doesn’t come from exercising!
Guess what? They won’t give you a ‘six pack’! It is marketing garbage. Again, if you’ve bought these products then it was a waste of money. It is a scam – you can’t exercise your way into a six pack. Everyone has a six pack already. You are born with it. Just the same as you are born with biceps and triceps. Do you think his abs are showing because he spent hours working the “ab master”?
To recap – the reason you can see a six-pack is because your body fat level is low enough for people to see your muscle definition.
So my goal is to lose fat. Developing lean muscle (i.e. doing weights at the gym) is one ‘pillar’ in the goal to lose fat, since as mentioned above muscle requires more calories for maintenance than fat. However the critical ‘pillar’ is diet. One needs to ensure that the body somehow uses up its fat stores to power the exercise that one carries out.
There are many good sites out there talking about the right exercise and ‘diet’ (I call it eating healthy for life) in order to lose fat. Will Brink is one – and you can see a link to the right for his website. However whatever method you use, you should regularly monitor progress, so that you can tweak it as the body adapts. How do you monitor fat loss? An easy way, a recognized legitimate method, and the way I use (which I have blogged about before) is to use calipers to measure skin folds. In the past I have used a ‘one site’ measurement method, which comes with the Accu-measure. However today I decided to be a bit more scientific about it, and use more than one site. My wife helped me to take more skinfold measurements. There are many different methods using multiple sites that one can use. For six different ways look here. Many of the methods require a chest skinfold measurement. For some reason I find it impossible to get a skinfold measurement from my chest. My skin is really tight there and I just can’t pinch up a skin fold without a great deal of agony. Maybe (probably) I’m doing it wrong, but until I can work out how to do it right I needed to go with a method that didn’t include a chest skinfold. In the end I went with the Jackson/Pollock 4 Caliper Method. This requires skinfold measurements from abdominal, thigh, tricep and suprailiac. My measurements were:
This computes to 13.22% body fat. My goal is 10%. Oh, also my weight is down 1.5 pounds from last week. I’m not reading too much into that though. As I mentioned my focus is fat loss, not weight loss. Another note is that my wife helped to take the measurements. This is the first time she has done it so I think that it is highly likely that there will be some error due to poor technique. She tested multiple times on each site and usually came up with different readings each time – what I have typed above are the average of the readings.