September 12

Bulk Up To Trim Down


In Practice: The boys lift some 'tin' at the Alexis Arguello Gym.
In Practice: The boys lift some ‘tin’ at the Alexis Arguello Gym.

I’m perplexed with the fascination that people have with their body weight. Whether it’s in kilograms or pounds, plenty of emotion rides on that absolute figure. I can remember once asking, “What were you weighing?” after someone had just got off the in my gym.


No verbal response, just a look I’ll never forget.


That didn’t stop me though and I’m still interested in what people weigh. Mostly as a point of reference to measure goals achieved, if you’ve read enough ‘Fit Chat’s’ you’ll have heard me note “That’s pretty good for a big man,” recalling to some warrior who’s just completed an endurance event despite a hefty frame.


The term ‘body transformation’ is overused in fitness and since it’s always governed by a shift in weight and/or measurements (usually taken with those crumby tape measures that tailors use) I think they’ve missed the point. Weights and measurements don’t necessarily tell the tale, except maybe in extreme cases.


For a large majority of people the results are marginal and using the absolute weight lost or gained isn’t a true reflection of progress made.


It’s not entirely true to say that muscle is heavier than fat. A kilo of muscle is the same weight as a kilo of fat. Obviously. Muscle is far denser than fat, so a square inch of muscle is heavier than it’s equal in fat. So it’s feasible to improve your body and have little change on the scales. My advice: “Forget about it” – Donnie Brasco.


The juicy factor for us is:


Muscle burns more energy than fat!


Energy is kilojoules or calories (what you eat/drink).


What can be transformed is our bodies muscle/fat ratio. Improving this composition will have you walking around like a ‘half-open pocket knife’ but don’t blow a gasket if the scales don’t shift very far.


Gaining some lean muscle mass is beneficial for fat loss on two fronts:


  1. You have to work out to build the muscle. That’s good.

2. Once you’ve gained the muscle, it works for you by breaking down energy you take on.


Muscle survives by burning energy. The better your muscle ratio, the faster it burns. Great news, unless you hate eating.


Now I’m not saying that you’ve should wolf down half a dozen Mars bars every 2 hours but even if you did lean muscle mass is going to eat that energy whereas fat would say, “Come join the party.”


People endeavouring to lose weight will often say, “I’ve got to start some cardio.” Maybe so, but also include some muscle building exercises in your program. This way if you eat a Burger you won’t have to go mountain biking for 11 hours to burn it off (19 hours if it’s a burger from the Stuffed Beaver, those buns are hellish), you’ll have some lean muscle that can feast on that energy like a hungry Pacman.


We’ve all seen the footballers on the sports news in recovery sessions at the beach with bodies you could rock climb on. Let me assure you these boys aren’t light eaters but their superior body composition means that meals, often high energy, are broken down fast by their large portions of muscle mass.


You don’t have to become the next Wendall Sailor, even endurance athletes (skinny boys) include consistent weight training workouts in their programs, Sebastian Coe (double Olympic gold 1500m), Wilson Kipsang (2:03 marathon) and John Walker (Olympic gold 1500m) are all advocates of this approach.


While these athletes are considerate of their weight, the absolute figure on the scales is insignificant when you account for some extra kg’s of muscle working for you.


Don’t get too concerned with your weight (number), focus on improving composition. Pump some ‘raw iron’ in addition to your cardio training regimen. Raise your metabolic rate and maximise the benefit of time spent working out.


Getting in good physical shape is more than just looking at the numbers on the scales, it’s about building your body into the leanest most efficient specimen it can be.


Bulk up to trim down.


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