Body Fat vs Lean Muscle Mass: Part 5

hydrostaticAs I sit here eating oatmeal this morning I am pondering my decision to contine with intermittent fasting (IF) as part of my workout, something I began back in April as an experiment. About 3 weeks into this, I decided to make IF a daily part of my routine. The goal of IF was to gain lean muscle, while losing body fat. I currently have an 8-hour “feeding window” that opens between 11am and 8 pm. This allows me a small meal before I get home to lift weights or run. Once I am done with my daily exercise, I consume a protein shake followed by dinner and a snack, in hopes of getting my daily calories in.

On Thursday I had my fourth hydrostatic test over the last 12 months with my first test occurring in June, 2012. At that time I was pleased with the results, weight, 179 lbs. (lean weight of 151.1 lb) of which 27.9 lbs. was fat or 15.6%. Since that first test the only constant has been the plant-based diet. The exercise regiment has changed for nearly every test. Prior to the first test I transitioned from working out at home on a Bowflex Revolution to joining a gym and working a split routine. By the time of the second test I was just starting to follow Stronglifts 5×5. Things remained fairly consist through February, although I lost 1 month of lifting helping my wife recuperate from major back surgery at the end of December. All my time was for her, I stopped lifting.

This current test now takes the running I have been doing (since April) into account. The results were somewhat mixed. I was a bit discouraged by what I heard and read as Mike (the tester) went over the 4 page report with me. When I started my journey on the road to health my goal was twofold. First lose weight and second decrease my total cholesterol (TC) so I did not need medication. Within the first 10 months of changing the way I eat, not only did I meet my weight goal (175 lbs) I exceeded that by 3 pounds. I wanted to drop my TC to 150 mg/dL, not only did I meet that goal, I exceeded that with 130 mg/dL. The only exercise goals I set were when I joined the Stronglifts Inner Circle (SLIC). I wanted to  squat 240 lbs., bench 140 lbs., and deadlift 260 lbs. As of today, I have only achieved the bench goal.

The real change to my exercise was decided to take up running on the last day of March. Since then I have continued to add miles to my total each week, decrease my times, increase endurance and be able to run faster. I also decided to set a goal of running in a half marathon on August 3. This has been the motivation to run. Why do I mention all of these exercises? The 4 page report I was looking at and the numbers I heard frustrated me.

My weight for the test was 174.4 lbs. or just over half a pound off from my goal weight. I have been within 5 pounds of this weight with the exception of my February, 2013 test which saw me weigh in at 182 lbs. The most frustrating number was the ‘Lean Lb.’ or lean body mass. I was hoping for another increase (of 5 lbs)  over the last 4 months, which would have brought my increase to 10 lbs. of lean body mass, unfortunately that gain I had hoped for was dashed when I saw I had lost 3.25 lbs. of lean body mass. I was discouraged, especially considering I adhered to a strict routine of lifting weights 3 days a week with continual gains up until just a few weeks ago when I had to deload a few exercises and stop two lifts altogether because of shoulder pain.

The other number that caught my attention was seeing my body fat had dropped to 13% (a loss of 4.35 lbs.)! I had been told quite a few times on the SLIC that my strength gains (muscle) would be compromised with the addition of running to my exercise regiment. I do believe that to be true based on the body composition results. Still weight lifting and running can coexist and I have shifted my focus and goals. Even with the naysayers on board, I am still pleased with the progress. Never thought I would see my body fat reduced to just 13%! I am sure if I continue to increase the running that number would probably go lower, but I am not sure I want it much lower.

I would still like to lean out a bit by losing another few inches in the waist, but increase numbers around my chest and arms for healthier looking physique. The problem seems to be how much I eat or don’t eat. I continue to track my calories daily, which is not required but like running and lifting has become part of my routine. I am still adhering to a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle, but seem to have problems meeting the 2000 calories. Every day I lift or run there is a good chance I will be in a calorie deficiency.

So has intermittent fasting helped or hindered my progress? Not sure I have a definitive answer at this point. No longer to do I crave meals in the morning, usually going until 11am before having my first meal. Obviously the body fat number has improved considerably, did it come at a small cost in lean body mass? Possibly but received information,

One of the things I don’t want you to worry about is losing body mass. Unless you are starving and losing massive amounts of strength I wouldn’t worry to much about it. What has probably happened is you are burning off the fat that has stored in your muscles. People store fat in their muscles and if you cut a cross section of one it will sometimes look like a well marbled steak. So you aren’t losing muscle. You are just finishing one of the processes of leaning up. You are probably also burning off the fat that has stored around your organs too. And all this is a good thing! You want to get rid of all the extra stored fat, visceral and otherwise.

Bottom line regardless of what I decide, I need to eat more, especially with my half marathon quickly approaching. I am still pleased with all the progress I have made from diet change to exercise to improvement in my blood work numbers as well as body composition.

Body Fat vs Lean Muscle Mass: Part 4

bmiIt’s been an amazing journey on the road to health, not only based on what I see in the mirror, but the numbers that confirm a plant-based, whole foods diet has been the most beneficial part of this equation. I have gone through number blood tests that reflected an improvement in numbers such as total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides. Change, in the case was a good thing, as I felt better having more energy, clothes I had not worn in years were suddenly fitting!

In conjunction with taking control of my diet and introducing a plant-based diet in October, 2011 I added exercise at the start of 2012 (with Power 90) followed by a home work out routine on our Bowflex Revolution. It wasn’t long after I got bored with Tony and his kids that I cut this out of my of my routine, replacing it with walking while at work. In May, I joined the local gym, Diamond Hills Sports Club in Oakley and started with a split routine. A few months later I teamed up with a co-worker who introduced more split routines to me. Unfortunately at his passing I was left without a workout partner.

Enter Stronglifts 5×5 where I have been since beginning this program in October, 2012. To date, it’s been 12 weeks of lifting weights on this program and I have been very impressed with the results. While looking in the mirror I haven’t been able to see much of a physical change, my lifting log tells a different story. All the lifts I perform have seen an increase in weight.

On Thursday I went for another body composition test, a test I had undergone 2 previous times (results from the first test) beginning June, 2012. This provided me a realistic baseline of lean body mass vs body fat. The first test was revealing and I was pleased when my body fat was 15.6%, which was just a bit on the high side of the healthy range. Four months later, I had dropped 5 more pounds from 179 to 174 and decreased my body fat to 13.8%. Unfortunately I also saw a 1.1 pound decrease in lean body mass (from 151.1 to 150).

It was just 5 days later I would start Stronglifts (read New Approach: Stronglifts) and 12 weeks later I would see positive results. I continued to follow a plant strong diet and even though my weight has increased by 8 pounds (182 lbs on the day of the test) my clothes are still fitting comfortably and I feel good about how I look. I gained 5 lbs of lean body mass (now 85.15%), which is hopefully attributed to muscle with the lifting program I have been following. That was exciting to hear and the results I have logged while lifting weights seem to back up this number. I also picked up 3 pounds of fat (body fat now 14.9%), which could be attributed to eating more calories in order to replace what I burn through out the day and when I am exercising.

What’s next? Reevaluating my weight lifting goals in order to achieve improved results in the next 4 months when the body composition tests returns to our gym. These numbers will be part of what I hope to achieve in a 12 month period of weight lifting. With a 4 week and a 1 week break during this 12 week program, I have not met the goals I originally set. Still, I saw positive results in the body composition test.

Body Fat vs Lean Muscle Mass: Results

On T6F as well as in the McDougall Friends group on Facebook I mentioned the fact I was going for a retest of my body composition analysis. In June “got tanked” for the first time and was surprised to see my results of a lean body mass of 86.2% and body fat of 15.6%. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleased with the results I had expected a high body fat content, but the 15.6% put me in the “healthy range” based on data from Dr. Kenneth Cooper.

Yesterday was my retest and I had been looking forward to see what 4 months at the gym had accomplished. I probably could have saved the $39 retest fee and looked in the mirror like I do every day and ask myself, “Do you like what you see?” Even when I answer “yes” it’s nice to see the science side support what I see in the mirror. The changes I have undergone have all been positive.

Many individuals base their BMI or body mass index on a weight vs. height calculation. For my weight of 174 pounds and height of 72 inches the BMI calculator says my BMI is 23.6% or a lean body mass of 76.4%. Comparing this figure to the results in June, it’s a difference of 5%. A BMI calculator will give you an approximate, while the hydrostatic testing will give you a more specific figure. Referring to the paperwork I was given after the test a 23.6% be on the low side of “fair” where as the original results of 15.8% put me in the “healthy range.”

Again, these are all numbers and calculations, so if you like how you look in a mirror then these numbers are irrelevant. I want to make that a point since none of the extracurricular things I do are necessary when following a “heart healthy” (that is a discussion for another day) plant-strong diet. On the heals of a very good physical in August, with confirmation on blood results that saw further improvement I was confident I had improve my body composition before going to this retest.

I was weighed (dry) in at 174 pounds (in June I was 179 pounds) and then climbed into the tub to start the testing. After three times submerging myself I climbed out and waited for the results. The entire reason for the testing, the body fat had decreased to 13.8%. This resulted in 3.9 pounds of fat being lost over 4 months. I missed the goal I had set by .8%, not bad at all!

Unfortunately with the fat loss there was an associated lean body mass loss. This means I was not fueling my body with enough calories and when working out I was losing lean body mass in order to fuel the workouts. That means I need to eat more on days I work out. The lean body mass dropped 1.1 pounds from 151.1 to 150, but the percentage of lean body mass was higher at 86.2 (vs 84.4% back in June).

No matter how I spin the numbers, I left with a smile on my face looking 4 months into the future to accomplish two goals. The first, work on gaining back that 1.1 pounds of lost muscle. This should be easy to accomplish, based on my resting metabolic rate, or the amount of energy expended daily by humans and other animals at rest or sleep,” I burn 1974 calories a day. On days I work out I need to increase my caloric intake by 500-700 calories. The second goal work towards 11% body fat. This doesn’t mean continue to lose weight, as I have already achieved a weight I want to be at (175 lbs.), but it’s the toning, firming and building of muscle to fill out my physique.

A major part of this is understanding nutrition (which is still a work in progress) and following a healthy diet. Thankfully I have that part under control, as I come up on 1 year since changing my lifestyle. Hopefully there will be some tweaking to my work out program, as well as making sure I have eaten enough pre and post workout.

Body Fat vs Lean Muscle Mass

Today marks my second body fat test, also known as hydrostatic testing. This is a procedure where you step into a tub of water and are weighed. Then you expel as much air out of your lungs while submerged and a scale is read. This weight is compared to your wet weight and your lean body mass and body fat are determined. This is the “gold standard” when it comes to knowing you body mass.

Since I decided to get healthy, this was a test I wanted to take. I was fortunate to have that opportunity at my sports club back in June (Read Body Composition Analysis). Now, 4 month later I will see if I have hit my goal, which was to lose 5 pounds of fat and to drop my body fat from 15.6% to 13%. This would be a big step for me. I have been working out faithfully 3-4 times a week, including 30-45 minutes of cardio. I feel better now than I did 4 months ago and have been keeping the weight off while following a plant-strong lifestyle.

One thing I need to remember is NOT to get caught up in the numbers. I am sure I would have been just as successful accomplishing the decrease in my blood work numbers (134 point drop in my TC) , as well as losing weight ( lost 44 pounds) even if I had not paid attention to the numbers. I followed the basic rules of omitting meat, dairy (all of it!) and oil to my diet and I was amazed at how quickly the weight drop and I started to feel better.

I have been recording my daily meals using Fit Day (many favor CRON-o-meter), while allows me to see just how I am doing when it comes to total calories, how those are broken down and if I am meeting my RDA on minerals and vitamins. I also have recorded my weight daily, which gives me a quick visual that changing my lifestyle has been the best decision I have made for my health.

Today’s test will be a success no matter what the results. I have stuck to his lifestyle and now nearly 12 months later don’t miss the meat or dairy and no longer add oil in my cook. My overall weight is down about 4-5 pounds from the June test, so I expect to see an increase in my lean body mass. If you do have the opportunity and want to see just where you are, I recommend “getting tanked.”

Body Composition Analysis

That is how the header reads of the 4-page report that was generated today at the conclusion of my hydrostatic testing by Body Fat Test. This was touted as “the Gold Standard” as it relates to testing. What is hydrostatic or hydrodensitometry.

Hydrostatic weighing is the most accurate way to measure body fat and is the method by which all other means of measurement compare their degree of error (source).

While I had heard of this sort of analysis before, I had never undergone such testing. Thankfully our sports club advertised this last month and I figured I would sign up and pay my $49 to see just where my body fat percentage is. Unfortunately, the only “baseline” (and I use that loosely) I had was the Body Mass Index (BMI). While not all that accurate it gave me a rough estimate, it does not computer the percentage of body fat.

I weighed in at 179 pounds on their Healthometer beam scale. This was 2 pounds more than what my home scale reflected this morning at 4am this morning. Based on their calculation I am still short of my 175 pounds weight by 4 pounds. More on that shortly.

I walked up the stairs and into the mobile lab and filled out my release form and was asked my height (72″). I then change into my bathing suit and walked up the two steps leading to the stainless steel tub, which is actually a scale you are laying on. I was told the test would be administered 3 times. Each time I would take a normal breath and exhale, followed by a second breath and fully exhale before I submerged myself underwater. Once under the water I had to continue to expel air until I heard the technician bang on the side of the tank. Not as easy as it sounds. The actual submersion lasted approximately 30 seconds as you are trying to get all the air out of the lungs to get an accurate reading.

After I had finished the last test I got out the tub and dried off while the 4-page report generated. The first page contains the immediate results based off your personal data including height, weight, as well as your wet weight (6.49 lbs. in my case). The body fat percentage was 15.6% or 27.9 lbs. Based on their chart, which was provided by Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s Institute for Aerobic Research the “healthy range” for my age bracket (40-49) is 15.1%, putting me just above the average (85th percentile).

The other number the calculated is the lean body mass, which is what is remaining when you remove the fat, including bone, muscle and internal organs. My lean body mass percentage was 84.4% or 151.1 pounds. I did ask the technician if I could work backwards with the numbers from my original weight of 216 pounds, unfortunately the unknown variable is how much fat/muscle has been lost since I changed my diet and started exercising.

The last 2 pages of the report are tailored to each individual. Thankfully I come in below the 30% of body fat, which is considered to be obese, but I could retest (at a cost of $39) in 4 months to see if I have achieved the goal the technician set. For me that would be decreasing my body fat to 13% or 5.3 lbs. of fat. That would put my target weight at approximately 173.7 pounds. I was told the weight could fluctuate depending on adding muscle, while losing fat.

They also add in a nutritional component to assist in making your goal (while seeing your return visit). I have only skimmed the nutritional program, but some of it seems to echo what many McDougaller’s already know. Step 1 talks about ridding the pantry of “cookies, cakes, ice cream, salad dressing, butter, margarine, sugar, white bread, and everything that “God did not create in its natural form” (source). It also mentions removing cheese from the diet, although they do allow for cottage cheese. No thanks.

As an option for milk, they say to switch to 1% or non-fat, but also recommend soy milks, no mention made of nut milks though. They still allow for “lean” cuts of meat and chick (4 to 6 oz.) as well as fish. The final piece of advice, “You must cut out fried foods completely. They are not allowed, and soon you will not miss them. No fried food whatsoever, at all! They generally have little nutritional value and are extremely high in fat” (source).

Since I have my diet under control eating plant-based, whole grain foods I am already two steps ahead. Not being tempted by the fried foods or cheating once a month on foods I know are not good for me has me on the path to health. The resting metabolic rate accounts for approximately 70% of daily energy expenditure. My resting metabolic rate is 1985 calories a day. This is down about 200 calories from my an estimation I calculated using a software program called Fit Day.

The final page of the report is on exercise. Again, like the previous pages it is tailored to me and my body. It lists about 30 exercises accomplished at different paces and the number of calories my body will burn. For example, I use an elliptical machine for 45 minutes for my cardio workout and based on their numbers I burn 244 calories in 30 minutes. If I run at a pace of 5 mph (12 min/mile) I will burn 325 calories.

While I did find the numbers interesting and might consider going back for a retest in 4 months, a simpler way of analysis is to stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself, “Do I like what I see?” If the answer is no, then make the necessary changes. If you do like what you see then you just saved yourself $49. I do believe this testing reaffirms the positive changes I have made in the last 8 months to get me to where I am at today. Following the McDougall way is simple, eat what you want, stop when you are full and exercise. Can it get any easier? No counting calories, no need to weigh in or count points. He provides the guidelines, the discussion provides the support. You can make a change and get healthy.