One pound of mashed potatoes weighs the same as one pound of raw potatoes. No matter how you slice, scallop, deep fry or roast it, a pound is a pound.
So why do the tens of thousands of weight-watching women across the western world preach the misinformed belief that lean muscle weighs more than fat? It is something I hear patients at our clinics repeat with frustrating regularity to soften the blow of the numbers on the weighting scale. When the numbers begin to tip in an unfavourable direction, it is easy to find comfort in the theory that muscle weighs more than fat—especially if you are resistance training.
While fat and lean muscle weighs the same pound for pound, their composition varies immensely. Muscle has a leaner appearance due to its high density, whereas free-floating, Jelly-like, fatty tissue needs more space to jiggle around, due to its low volume. Hence, someone with a high body-fat percentage will look overweight in comparison to an individual with a high lean tissue percentage.
The best way to illustrate this concept is to use the mashed potatoes analogy. The consistency of mashed potatoes is comparable to lard in your body—lumpy, buttery and visually unappealing in your Lycra cycling shorts, I refer you to my previous column on MAMIL’s.
Contrastingly, raw potatoes are a firmly packed matter, requiring very little room for expansion. In other words, I’d prefer my backside to look like two raw King Edwards than two heaps of mash potato.
Now that we have dispelled the myth that muscle weighs more than fat, let’s get clear on why lean muscle is so valuable for sustaining a healthy lifestyle and physique.
I’ve written previously about the ineffective nature of cardio exercise for fat loss. While cardio fitness is essential for, maintaining a healthy heart and reducing disease, it is also vital to implement a resistance training (lifting weights) routine as well if you want to burn excess body fat.
Many of our female patients fear two things: Wrinkles and Weight Training. I cannot count the number of times I have heard our female patients say, “I would like to weight train, but I don’t want to become bulky.”
Well I have great news! You won’t turn into the Incredible Hulk from resistance training. It is impossible, unless you are injecting testosterone or growth hormones into your system. A woman with a visible Adam’s apple and Brad Pitt’s jaw line are often sure signs of a steroid user. Lean tissue is your body’s best ally in that it boosts the metabolism.
Our female patients describe frequently how they are in constant search of the next magic weight loss secret. Put down those cardboard-tasting high protein bars, peel off those SPANX and pick up a pair of dumbbells. One pound of muscle burns more calories than one pound of fat. Aim for low weight, high repetition routines to achieve a lean, toned physique.
Sometimes the scales are not a great indicator of fat loss. At the clinics we often recommend patients gage their weight by how their clothes fit, rather than being a slave to the scales.
After an arduous workout and a week of banishing decadent delights from our diet, we all like affirmation that our weight has decreased. Do not look to the scale, as it will not always have your best interests at heart.
Weighing in can be a real motivation vampire when the numbers don’t reflect the work you have been putting in. Simplify your life. If your jeans fit, or are starting to become baggy, chances are your weight ratio is shifting from fat mass to lean muscle.
The exterior of our body is a direct reflection of what goes into it. If you ingest rubbish, consequently you will look and feel like rubbish. The human body is a machine, requiring the proper maintenance and fuel to run sufficiently. My favourite mantra is “you can’t outrun a bad diet”, meaning no amount of exercise can help if your diet is rubbish.