We have all heard the saying, “muscle weighs more than fat;” but this isn’t actually true, it’s an optical illusion.
If you think about it, one pound of fat weighs the same as one pound of muscle. The difference is in the density. Fat is fluffier and takes up more space, while muscle is denser and more compact. This is why two people can have two very different body types and weigh the same.
Stepping On The Scale
Therefore, using the scale as your only measurement of progress can pose a challenge. As your weight increases or decreases, there is no true way to tell if that change is from losing or gaining fat or muscle, or if it’s something else entirely. The scale can only show you the change, not what kind of change is happening.
Whether your goal is to lose weight or get stronger, muscle is a key part of the equation. Having more muscle on your frame can help to decrease your risk of developing nasty diseases, while also improving your metabolism. On the other hand, having excess body fat is linked with an increased risk for chronic inflammatory diseases like heart disease.
You don’t need to turn into a bodybuilder or put on excessive amounts of muscle to reap the benefits of greater muscle mass. Having a body fat percentage of 20-24% for females, and 13-17% for males is healthy, according to the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines.
What To Focus On
The good news is that prioritizing muscle is actually simpler than you may think. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym to support these body fat percentages. You also don’t need to avoid all of your favorite foods. Some simple tweaks to your current diet and lifestyle can help support muscle over fat.
Eat More Protein. Why do we need protein? Because eating a diet that is higher in protein can help build and maintain muscle. It is also responsible for the creation of certain enzymes and different collagens. Aim to get protein at each meal. If you’re already doing that, aim for at least 25-30g of protein per meal to get more specific.
Incorporate Strength Training. Cardio is great to support your heart health; however, it cannot be the only form of exercise you do. Incorporating strength or resistance training into your weekly routine can support building and maintaining muscle. If you are starting out, aim for 1-2 days per week of strength training. If you are looking for more, aim for 3-4 days per week of strength training.
It’s Really That Simple
Yup, that’s it. By eating more protein in your diet and incorporating strength training into your weekly exercise routine, you can improve your body fat percentage. Of course, each person’s needs are different for how much strength training and how much protein you need. Start with these two adjustments and see how you feel! You may end up loving the way strength training makes you feel.