Blog: Healthy Eating = Healthy Living - Lose weight the right wa...
by OntheBorder

2. How to determine fat to muscle ratio.

Fat to Muscle ratio.

Date:   4/8/2009 2:34:27 PM   ( 10 y ) ... viewed 14899 times

Muscle is your secret weapon in your war against fat. Muscle is your "metabolic furnace," burning calories even as you sleep and watch TV. Muscle is active tissue - it is the catalyst for a fast metabolism. Fat just sits there idly in clumps on your body. Unfortunately, most people pay little attention to their amount of muscle because they're too busy worshipping the almighty scale. This is a huge mistake!

Most people are totally obsessed with scale weight. The problem with the scale is that it doesn't tell you how much of your weight is fat and how much is muscle. Another problem is that scale weight can fluctuate wildly on a daily basis based on your water levels. This can blur the real picture.

Losing weight is very easy. Losing fat - and keeping it off-without losing muscle, is a much bigger challenge. If you simply wanted to lose weight, I could show you how to drop 10 -15 pounds over the weekend just by dehydrating yourself and using natural diuretics. But what good would that do if it's almost all water and you're just going to gain it all back within days?

If you want to achieve solid muscle gain or permanent fat loss and get off the diet roller coaster once and for all, you must squash your preoccupation with scale weight and instead judge your progress based on lean body mass and body fat. Ignoring the scale in favor of body fat is a difficult shift in mindset to make, but it's essential to your long term success.

Height and Weight Charts Are Obsolete

One of the most common methods of determining your so-called "ideal weight" is the height and weight chart. These charts, often used by insurance companies, physicians, sports teams and the military, tell you how much you should weigh based on your height alone. Although these charts are still popular, they're very misleading.

Height & weight charts don't account for body fat

The reason for this discrepancy between so-called "ideal weight" and ideal body Fat is obvious: "Ideal weights" from height-weight tables don't take body fat into
Consideration; therefore, they can't accurately recommend how much you should weigh.

Body Fat Testing

The primary reason to measure body composition is so you can distinguish between fat and muscle. Instead of looking only at body weight, the body composition test lets you focus on body fat and lean body mass. Another reason to measure your body composition is so you can monitor your progress and get continual feedback. You might be busy, busy, busy, but without the constant feedback that body composition testing provides, you have no way of knowing if all that activity is moving you closer to your target.

What is an average level of body fat?

Average body fat percentages vary among the sexes and among different age groups. The female hormone estrogen causes women to carry about 5% more body fat than men. The average woman has about 23% body fat and the average man approximately 17%. In both sexes, body fat increases while lean body mass decreases with age.
What is an "ideal" level of body fat?

You should note that the body fat levels above are average ranges, not necessarily ideal ranges. After all, who wants to be just "average?" A body fat of 25% would statistically place a female in the "average" category, but this level wouldn't necessarily be ideal. An optimal percentage of body fat for a non-athlete is around 10-14% for men and 16-20% for women. These ideal body fat goals are realistic, achievable and maintainable by nearly anyone. Desirable body fat levels for athletes may be even lower, depending on the nature of the sport. At these "ideal" body fat levels, you will look lean and for the most part, fat free. If you want the "ripped" look of a bodybuilder or fitness competitor, you may need to drop even lower: Most men will start to show excellent muscle definition when they hit the mid to upper single digits. Women look defined when they reach the low to mid teens.

How much body fat is too much?

High body fat levels have been linked to over 30 health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoarthritis. Being categorized as "clinically obese" means that body fat is at such a level that these health problems become more of a concern. Men are considered borderline at 25% body fat and clinically obese at 30%, while women are borderline at 30% and clinically obese at 35% body fat.

How low should you go?

It's impossible for body fat levels to drop to zero since some fat is located internally and is necessary for normal body functioning. This is called "essential fat." Essential fat is necessary for energy storage, protection of internal organs, and insulation against heat loss. Essential fat is found in the nerves, brain, bone marrow, liver, heart, and in nearly all the other glands and organs of the body. In women, this fat also includes sex-related fat deposits including the breast tissue and uterus. Essential body fat is 2-3% for men and 7-8% for women.

With today's obsession for leanness, the safety of dropping to very low body fat levels has often been questioned. Being extremely lean is undoubtedly healthier than being over fat. However, trying to maintain extremely low body fat levels for too long a period of time might not be realistic or healthy.

This is particularly true for women. With few exceptions, most women who try to maintain their body fat levels at or below 10-13% can have problems with estrogen production, their menstrual cycles and reproductive systems become disrupted and bone density may decrease, putting them at higher risk of osteoporosis as they grow older.

Methods of Measuring Body Composition

The scale, tape measure and mirror are all helpful, but alone they're not enough. Why not go strictly by the mirror? After all, what really counts is that you're happy with what you see when you stand naked in front of the mirror isn't it? The problem is, when you look at yourself in the mirror every day, it is often difficult to "see" the daily and weekly changes because they're taking place so slowly. This can be frustrating and discouraging - kind of like watching the grass grow.

Almost everyone has some small degree of distorted body image. You seldom see changes in your own physique as readily as others do. That's why you need an objective, accurate and scientific method of measuring your progress. There are at least a dozen methods of body composition testing. The various "experts" will probably debate forever over which one is the best. After weighing the pros and cons of each method, you'll undoubtedly conclude that for your purposes - tracking personal weekly progress skin fold testing is the easiest and most practical method.

Skin fold testing is based on the fact that you store most of your body fat directly beneath your skin. These types of fat deposits are called "subcutaneous fat." The remainder of your body's fat is located around organs (internal fat) and inside muscle tissue (intramuscular fat).

By measuring the amount of subcutaneous fat you have by "pinching" folds of skin & fat at several locations, you can get a very accurate estimate of your overall fat percentage. A skilled tester can produce a body fat measurement with accuracy very close to underwater weighing, the "gold standard" of body composition testing. Most importantly, skin fold testing is extremely practical.

The skin fold test is performed with a simple, vice-like instrument called a skin fold caliper. The jaws of the caliper pinch a fold of skin and fat and measure the thickness of the fat fold in millimeters. There are many different brands of calipers on the market. The Lange, Harpenden, computerized Skyndex, and the Slim guide calipers are among the most common and accurate ones, although the cost of the first three can be high, ranging anywhere from $150.00 to $450.00. If someone else will be testing you, I recommend the Slim guide calipers because they're one of the few inexpensive (plastic) models that give fairly accurate readings.

Skin fold Self-Testing: Can you measure your own body fat?

Another economical skin fold caliper is called the "Accu-Measure." Unlike the others, the Accu-Measure is a caliper that was specifically designed for personal self testing.The Accu-Measure retails for about $20.00 and can be purchased at many Internet sites.

Skin fold testing formulas

Using the calipers, skin folds are taken at several sites around the body (except the Accu-Measure, which only measures one site), and then the sum of the skin folds is added up. The sum of the skin folds is then looked up on a percent fat estimate chart that comes with the calipers. These charts are derived from mathematical regression equations and they allow for quick interpretation of the skin fold measurements in millimeters. Computerized calipers like the Skyndex or Accu-Measure "Fat Track" add up the skin folds and do the calculations automatically for you.

Most body fat formulas require you to measure body fat at three different locations. Different formulas may utilize as few as one or as many as eleven skin folds, and any number of these sites can be used in various combinations. The standard skin fold sites are usually the abdominal, suprailliac (hip), bicep, triceps, chest, sub scapular (back), thigh, axilla, and calf.

Don't get too hung up on where your skin folds are measured. Some people get concerned if most of their visible fat is in their lower body and the skin fold test only measures the upper body sites. Body fat formulas from skin folds will give you a very accurate estimate of your overall body fat just from one to four sites, even if they're all measured from your upper body.

Taking measurements at three sites has been proven adequate for an accurate reading. Most research has shown that using more than four sites does not increase the accuracy much further, but using fewer than three sites tends to decrease the accuracy slightly.

How to calculate your fat weight and lean body mass (LBM)

By itself, your body fat percentage is nothing more than a number - it doesn't really give you any benefit, except maybe bragging rights if the number is low. The real value in knowing your body fat percentage is as a tool to monitor progress in terms of pounds of fat and pounds of muscle.

The next step is to use your percent fat measurement to separate your total weight into pounds of fat and pounds of muscle. Then, you can chart progress in terms of total weight, fat weight, LBM and body fat percentage.

Your LBM is the total weight of all your body tissues excluding fat. This includes not only muscle, but also bone and other fat-free tissues. Since muscle is the largest component of the lean body mass, then keeping track of your LBM can tell you if you've lost or gained muscle. Tracking your LBM is one of the most useful and important purposes of body fat testing.

To calculate your LBM in pounds you need to know two things: your bodyweight and your body fat percentage. First, determine how many pounds of fat you are carrying by multiplying your body fat percentage by your weight. You can then calculate your lean mass by subtracting the pounds of fat from your total bodyweight.

Example:
Your body weight is 194 pounds
Your body fat percentage is 18% (.18)
Multiply your body fat by your weight to find lbs. of fat:
.18% X 194 lbs. = 34.9 lbs. of fat.

Subtract lbs. of fat from total weight to determine lean mass:
194lbs. - 34.91bs fat = 159.11bs lean mass

The ideal weight formula:

To find your ideal bodyweight, you need to know your desired body fat percentage your current weight, body fat percentage, and lean mass. Then, to calculate your ideal weight, you simply divide your current lean mass by your percentage of lean mass at your target body fat percentage. The formula is:

Current Lean Mass
1 - Desired Body Fat %

Example:
You are male
Your weight: 194
Your body fat: 18%
Your fat weight: 34.9lbs. (18% of 184lbs)
Your lean mass: 159.1lbs. (Total weight -lbs. of fat)
Your target body fat percentage: 12% (.12)
Determine your percentage of lean mass at your target body fat by subtracting your desired body fat from 1: (1 -.12 = .88)
Divide your current lean mass by your percentage of lean mass at your target body fat percentage to yield your ideal weight: (159.1/.88 = 181)
Thus, your ideal weight at 12% body fat is 181 lbs.

Anyone wanting clarification or a more in-depth explanation please let me know.





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