Category

Fitness

Can women gain the same relative amount of muscle mass as men?

By Fitness, Health, Muscle

If you’re like most women, you’re curious about whether doing the same routine as the men in your CrossFit class will give you the same results. On average, baseline muscle mass in men is 36% greater than in women. In terms of muscle distribution, women tend to have less upper body muscle mass compared to men.

Men have a slight genetic advantage over women because of their higher baseline muscle mass, particularly in the upper body. However, that doesn’t mean that women will gain less muscle mass than men, despite lifting the same amount of weights.

When men and women exercise for the same amount of time, they can accomplish the same amount of gains in muscle mass. While the increase in size was similar between men and women in the study, the relative strength of women actually increased more than men because they were starting with a smaller overall body size.

In addition, it’s worth noting that muscle mass gain may be more affected by individual variations in terms of sensitivity of resistance training responses rather than gender differences.

What This Means For Women:
It’s possible to gain as much muscle mass as men, but it may take more work on your end because of your slightly lower baseline muscle mass. However, if you’re worried about getting too big, it’s also unlikely to happen due to differences in testosterone (we’ll cover that later,) and how you train.

The first step toward achieving enough amount of muscle mass is to do a body composition analysis to determine how much you have. Click here to read more about the various types of BIA devices that analyse body composition.

Why Building Lean Mass Is Important for Everyone (even you)

By Blog, Fitness, Health, Muscle

People have all sorts of reasons for working out and developing Lean Body Mass.  Athletes are interested in muscle building to improve their performance on the field. Bodybuilders want muscle growth for that trophy-winning physique.  For us regular joes and janes who struggle to find enough time to diet and workout, it can be as simple as looking losing weight and looking lean.

Whatever the reasons, recent research has made a very strong case that building Lean Body Mass (LBM) has health benefits far beyond aesthetics and athletic performance.  Sufficient amounts of LBM are actually critical for building a healthy life over the long-term.

This doesn’t mean that you have to work out twice a day lifting heavy weights. Male or female, young or old, everyone can benefit from increased Lean Body Mass.  Here are four important health benefits that you gain from developing your Lean Body Mass.

1. Lean Body Mass Combats Obesity

According to the 2020 survey, an estimated 54.2 percent of Malaysian adults are overweight or obese, a 4 percentage point rise from the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS), it’s hard to avoid advertising that guarantee weight loss in X number of weeks, or a new workout technique that promises to shred fat off of your frame, or that new diet that promises to increase your metabolism and burn body fat.

However, most of these shortcut approaches fail to address the basic issue regarding weight gain: it’s about calories in vs. calories out.

“Energy imbalance” in this context refers to consuming more calories than your body needs.  Do this for a long enough period of time, and you’ll gain fat. Gain enough fat over a long period of time, and you can become overweight or obese.

“Energy intake” refers to how many calories you consume through eating and drinking, in other words, your diet.  This is what many people think of when they think about calorie reduction.

However, its “energy expenditure” where you can really make a big effect on balancing your calories in and calories out, and this is why developing your Lean Body Mass is so important.

Lean Body Mass is associated with your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – the amount of calories you burn at rest.  The greater amount of LBM you have, the greater your BMR will be. This means that people with greater amounts of Lean Body Mass will have a greater energy expenditure while doing nothing, helping to avoid calorie imbalances, and ultimately, obesity.

2. Lean Body Mass Helps You Battle Disease

When you become sick and your body becomes stressed, your body’s immune system gets kicked into high gear.  When that occurs, your body’s nutritional demands change. In order to support the immune system and contribute towards recovery, your body requires protein – and a lot of it.  Diet alone won’t supply the amount of protein required to defend against illness. Where will your body find protein reserves? Your Lean Muscle Mass.

For example, in burn victims, the need for increased protein can increase tremendously: around 4 g of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about four times the normal daily intake of protein. Too much protein for a person to consume through a healthy diet.  This demand for protein exceeds the demands put on the body during fasting (times where you aren’t bringing in calories), which is when muscle breakdown occurs.  The same trend was also found in cancer survivors. In those whose overall body protein decreased due to cancer and cancer therapy, the rate of recurrence of cancer increased.

In both cases, the ability to survive these serious conditions ultimately came down to how much Lean Muscle Mass each patient had to begin with, and how much their bodies lost due to increased demand for protein.

Bottom line: your Lean Muscle Mass can act as protein reserves that your body can draw off of when the immune system is triggered.  If you have built sufficient Lean Muscle Mass through diet and workout, your body will have a much easier time fighting off infection because it will have enough protein in reserve to power the demands caused by the immune system.

If you don’t have sufficient Lean Muscle Mass, your body will have a much more difficult time defeating and recovering from illnesses because it won’t have the type of nutrients it needs to power the immune system.

3. Lean Body Mass Contributes to Strong Bones

One common concern that both men and women have as they age is the onset of osteoporosis or frailty in general.  These conditions can put people at serious risk in the later stages of life because they can lead to falls and broken bones.  Sometimes, these falls are so serious that some people never walk again.

What can preserve bone density and bone mass later in life?  Maintaining sufficient and healthy amounts of Lean Body Mass.

In the Mediterranean Intensive Oxidant Study, researchers found that lower amounts of skeletal muscle mass, a significant and major component of Lean Body Mass, was correlated with weaker and thinner bones in elderly men.  Because Lean Body Mass is made up of multiple components that cannot be readily increased, such as the weight of body water and internal organs, increasing skeletal muscle mass is the primary means of increasing Lean Body Mass. This, in turn, builds up greater bone strength and density.

In order to protect against thin and weak bones, maintaining and developing sufficient skeletal muscle mass is key.

4. Lean Body Mass Can Protect Against (and potentially reverse) Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance occurs when the body is unable to clear the blood of excess glucose due to the presence of Fatty Free Acids.  The release of Free Fatty Acids into the body is generally associated with high amounts of Fat Mass, which lessens insulin’s ability to clear glucose from the blood.  If this insulin resistance becomes significant over a duration of time, the development of Type 2 diabetes can occur.

Once again, developing sufficient amounts of Lean Body Mass can help prevent the onset of insulin resistance/Type 2 diabetes.  Because insulin resistance/Type 2 diabetes can strike anyone at any age, ensuring that your LBM levels are sufficient while keeping your Fat Mass low (i.e. a healthy body composition) is very important for everyone.

In a large-scale study of over 13,000 people over a 6-year span conducted by the UCLA School of Medicine, the researchers concluded their findings by illustrating an inverse relationship between skeletal muscle mass and insulin resistance.  Not only that, they found that for every 10% increase in skeletal muscle mass, there was an 11% decrease in insulin resistance.  For people without diabetes, the decreases were even more pronounced.

Developing your Lean Body Mass also has the added benefit of increasing your BMR, which will increase your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) all on its own, which, when combined with proper diet and nutrition, causes Fat Mass reduction.  This reduction contributes to less release of Fatty Free Acids into the body in the first place, which will, in turn, make it easier for the body to clear excess glucose and transport it into muscle cells.

Fitness for Long-Term Health

Muscle building isn’t something that only bodybuilders and athletes should worry about; for long-term health, everyone can benefit from building their LBM.

For this reason, it is important to monitor the changes in your Lean Body Mass by having your body composition measured.  Body composition analysis can divide your weight into its various components – Fat Mass, Lean Body Mass, etc. – which will give you a much clearer picture of your overall fitness and health.

Building Lean Body Mass is an investment in your future. The more LBM you build while you are still young and healthy, the more you will have in reserve when you really need. But before you start adding protein shakes and resistance workouts to your daily regimen, you need a plan. The first step to building a healthy level lean body mass is to measure how much you have with a body composition analysis.  You can learn about the different types of BIA devices that analyze body composition and the types of outputs you can expect to receive by clicking here.

Body Fat % Doesn’t Always Give A Complete Picture 

By Blog, Body Composition, Fat mass, Fitness, Muscle
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on August 16, 2020for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on September 5, 2015.

If you’re using body composition tools like calipers to measure your body fat percentage to assess your health, then you’re already ahead of most (like those who are still using BMI).

But be aware that body fat percentage doesn’t always paint a complete picture when it comes to body composition. What’s more, decreases in your body fat percentage don’t always mean fat loss.  That’s because body fat percentage is a simple equation of your fat mass divided by your total weight.

Body Fat Percentage = Fat Mass / Total Weight

In some ways, body fat percentage is the most basic of all body composition results, because it only requires your Fat, Fat-Free Mass (or Lean Body Mass), and total weight.

While fat and fat-free mass are enough to give you a body fat percentage value, it isn’t always enough to explain changes in body fat percentages or give enough information to determine whether your body fat levels are healthy. You will get much more context about what your body fat percentage means if you look at it alongside things like Skeletal Muscle Mass. These are the muscles in your body that you can grow and develop through exercise.

Without assessing your amount of Skeletal Muscle Mass, your body composition assessments are going to be incomplete.  You won’t be able to fully understand the changes in your body fat percentage, and you may also be misled by what your body fat percentage means.  Here are a few examples:

1. You’re Working Out, But Body Fat % Doesn’t Change (or increases)

This situation can occur when you are working out to gain muscle in order to improve your physique, but you aren’t seeing the changes in the mirror that you hoped to see as quickly as you’d like. When you check your body fat percentage, you don’t see any change despite a month of hard workouts. What’s going on?

The first thing to check is to see if your weight has changed. It probably has. If your weight has increased but your body fat percentage remains unchanged, this likely means that your SMM is increasing at the same time as your Fat Mass. As you increase musculature, fat gain can occur due to the caloric surpluses required to increase SMM. This is a well-recognized phenomenon and is commonly referred to in gym-speak as “bulking.”

 

Additionally, situations can occur in which after initial drops in body fat percentage, the percentage rises right back where it used to be after a couple months.  Why?

This is because your body has entered what is referred to as an anabolic state – the condition in which your body increases muscle production.  Your body will require more calories than what you’re used to in order to build more muscle than it had before.

Not all of these calories, however, are going toward muscle development.  Being in a calorie surplus can lead to fat gain as well, which can cause an increase in body fat percentage.

2. You’re Losing Weight, But Your Body Fat % Doesn’t Change (or increases)

Similar to #1, this situation also involves little or no change in body fat percentage but instead of occurring due to anabolism, this time, catabolism is the driving force behind the change.

In catabolism, the body is focused on reducing tissue, not building it.  In order to lose weight, especially fat, the body should be in a catabolic state; in order to be in a catabolic state, the body needs to be in a caloric deficit (taking in fewer calories than needed).  In gym speak, this is referred to as “cutting.”

If you observe that you’re losing weight, but you don’t see the results in the mirror that you’d like to see and notice that your body fat percentage is unchanged, this is because your SMM and Fat Mass are actually decreasing together.

 

Why would Skeletal Muscle Mass decrease when you’re trying to target body fat only?  Although there isn’t a singular cause, the majority of the time this is caused by improper training and diet.

Most weight loss is a combination of body fat and skeletal muscle.  That much is unavoidable. For this reason, preserving or even increasing muscle becomes a priority when encouraging the body to enter a catabolic state.  This means ensuring your nutrient intake is balanced while engaging in some kind of resistance or weight training.

Many people neglect these important precautions and cause their body to metabolize muscle as well as fat.  Depending on how much muscle is lost, body fat percentages can drop extremely slowly, stay the same, or in extreme circumstances, increase.

3. Your Body Fat Percentage is Acceptable, But You’re Underweight

At first, this doesn’t seem like it makes sense – how can you be at a healthy body fat percentage, but not be healthy overall?  Simple: you’re underweight.

Underweight individuals may have enviable body fat percentages which can lead some people into believing that they are healthier than they actually are. However, if you are underweight, this means that you don’t have enough muscle mass.  Being underweight doesn’t get as much popular attention as being overweight does, but over time, being underweight can lead to the development of osteoporosis, which is diagnosed when a person has low bone density.

Not having enough muscle mass will also become problematic if you get sick.  When you become sick, the body’s need for amino acids to power its immune and recovery processes increases, and it will look to your muscle mass for those amino acids.  Essentially, your body will start to break down muscle in order to fight and recover from disease, and if you’re underweight with a healthy body fat percentage, you won’t have enough muscle to easily fight off illness.

4. Your Body Fat Percentage is Acceptable, But You Have Muscle Imbalances

Even if you are at a healthy weight and have an acceptable body fat percentage, only having Fat and Fat-Free Mass as results can hide potential issues. Because Fat-Free Mass is a catchall term for everything in your body that isn’t attributed to fat, an absolute value for Fat-Free Mass can’t describe how well developed this mass is in terms of your overall body composition.  In order to see that, you would need to take a closer look at how this mass is distributed segmentally.

Specifically, people can have well developed Lean Body Mass areas in some parts of their bodies but not in others.  Some people prefer developing upper body muscle while neglecting lower body muscle development. Others may have what’s referred to as a bilateral imbalance, which occurs when one side of the body is stronger than the other.  Here’s what that looks like from a body composition analysis viewpoint:

In this example, this person has almost one pound of muscle difference between their right and left arm.  Although this might seem more of an aesthetic problem, significant muscle imbalances such as the one shown above can also contribute towards injury.  Shoulder muscle imbalances in volleyball players, for example, have been shown to increase the onset of shoulder pain and injury.

It’s Just One Number

Although your body fat percentage is a very significant and useful number, relying on any one number, even an important number like body fat percentage, will never provide you with a complete picture about your overall health.  While body fat percentage is a very good way to assess your weight, it only takes Body Fat (and by extension Fat-Free) Mass and Weight into account.

In order to maintain your weight and understand the changes that your body experiences over time, including your change in body fat percentage, you will need more specific values than just Fat and Fat-Free Mass.  If you don’t compare your body fat percentage to Skeletal Muscle Mass, you won’t be able to:

  • Understand increases and decreases in body fat percentage
  • Maintain a healthy body fat percentage in respect to a healthy weight and muscle mass level
  • Determine if your muscles are balanced

Your body is a very complex system of many components all working together. That is why it is very important to get as much information as possible in order to understand your weight and your health properly. Calipers are a good a start, but in order to assess whether you have a healthy body composition try devices like a DSM-BIA device, that will go beyond body fat percentage and give you your muscle mass and body water results.

How to Maintain Muscle Mass While Losing Fat During Lockdown? With General Manager of Peak Fitness Gurney Plaza – Mr. Leonardo Azevedo

By Blog, Fitness, Health, Muscle, Nutrition

You may not be able to crush your body composition’s goals during a public health crisis especially months of gym closure lately in Malaysia, but you can definitely keep from losing your hard gained muscle mass. We are so glad to have Mr. Leonardo Azevedo, General Manager of Peak Fitness Gurney Plaza who has over 22 years of experience in the Sports & Fitness industry, share us about his top 3 tips that can ensure you still maintain muscle mass while aiming for the body fat to fall off (even though your gym is still closed).

“Most of the time when people want to cut away their body fat and cut down to a healthier and more aesthetic physique, they often think the only way is with hours and hours of tireless exercise at the gym. But, if you can’t exercise at the gym due to our current Government restrictions, then all isn’t lost.” – says Mr. Leonardo.

A balanced food & calories intake, proper muscle stimulus and quality sleep can definitely change the way you look despite the challenges we face by being forced to workout at home. Sounds like a perfect recipe for losing your gains, doesn’t it?

Here’s why you shouldn’t worry about losing your gains during the lockdown with these 3 rules to help you out.

#1: Balanced Food and Calories Intake

You don’t need to find a bunch of weird or novel exercises in order to maintain some semblance of fitness. In fact, by controlling your calories intake and balancing the amount of nutrients such as Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats in your daily diet routine, you can definitely maintain your mass while still achieving fat loss. Based on Scientific research, it’s also recommended an average daily intake of 30 (female)/35 (male) calories per Kilogram of Body Weight to maintain the weight in individuals from 20 to 30 years old who exercise moderately (home workout) 3 to 5 times per week.

In order to maintain your Muscle Mass, the most used way to divide this total amount of calories by the nutrients you should intake daily macronutrient of  40:40:20 (Protein:Carbs:Fat). As per science we know that, a gram of carbohydrate and protein contains 4 calories each, and a gram of fat, though, contains 9 calories. Therefore, Mr. Leonardo also give an example of a calculation on daily macronutrients intake with the sample reference as follow :

Female who has total Body Weight 60KG (aged between 20 to 30 years old)

* Calories per day = 60KG x 30 calories = 1800 calories day

* Daily Protein Intake (40%) = 1800 x 0.40 = 720 calories / 4 calories (1 gram of protein) = 180grams of proteins per day.

* Daily Carbohydrate Intake (40%) = 1800 x 0.40 = 720 calories / 4 calories (1 gram of carb) = 180grams of carbohydrates per day.

* Daily Fat Intake (20%) = 1800 x 0.20 = 360 calories / 9 calories (1 gram of fat) = 40 grams of fats per day.

You can figure out the proper food based on its nutrients, speak to your certified personal trainer or look for a professional nutritionist to help you on a more personalized nutrition advice.

#2: Proper Muscle Stimulus 

When it comes to Muscle Mass maintenance, engaging the proper exercise intensity is very important to achieve optimum results. Functional training is, in most cases, the way to exercise from home. I also would recommend the usage of some household items to replace gym equipment. Suspension training, and small equipment such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells are very good and easy to handle at home. Besides that, it can produce a very efficient load as muscle stimulus. Always search for assistance from Fitness Professionals in order to create the best and most efficient way to get the best results working out from home. In order to ensure that you can be consistent in your workouts, there are some Professional Online Home Trainings that you can join as well.

#3: Improve Sleep Quality

You might think this counter productive to losing weight, as sleep doesn’t burn many calories. But as you sleep you recover and two important hormones come into play: Leptin and Ghrelin. These two hormones tell your body when it feels satiety and hunger. If you sleep badly, the levels of these hormones will be unbalanced and science has found that you’re more likely to be over eating and getting overweight.  Besides, poor sleep quality and short sleep duration are associated with an increased risk for muscle mass reduction. Thus, according to research, sleeping for 7-9 hours per night is crucial, especially if you are looking to change body composition, increase muscle mass and/or if you want to improve quality of life. Sleep enhances muscle recovery through protein synthesis and human growth hormone release as well. Like Mr. Leonardo said, he recommends at least 8 hours of good sleep every night.

 

Conclusion

Keep life and the gym workout in perspective. Your habitual mindset should keep up a healthy lifestyle, which it shouldn’t be affected by any of these challenges. When this is over—and it will be over at some point— we don’t want you to end up feeling worse, deconditioned, and incredibly detrained. One thing we should be grateful is: Staying fit is one way we may have to protect ourselves against getting sick over the years. A healthy body usually has a healthy immune system. Although it doesn’t give you any guarantees, well it’s certainly a better option than doing nothing. So do your best to be well.

**

Leonardo Azevedo

Mr. Leonardo Azevedo from Brazil with over 22 years of experience in the Sports & Fitness industry. Holding Bachelor’s Degree in Sports & Science, FIFA Certified Conditioning Coach, Specialized in Physiology of Exercise, Certification in Biomechanics of Exercise and Sports Nutrition, Extensive Experience in Fitness Business Management.Currently working as General Manager at Peak Fitness Gurney Plaza, Brazilian Eagles Football Academy Head Coach & Owner, Mitts Boxing Fitness MD, SEA Sales Representative at Rezzil Sports.

The 10 Most Common Factors That Sabotage Fitness Goals (And How To Overcome Them)

By Blog, Fitness

No matter what the fad diets and fitness challenges tell you, getting fit is a long-term commitment, and it does not necessarily yield instant results. There’s no way around it: making significant changes to your body composition (and maintaining it for the long haul!) requires sizeable lifestyle changes.

So when it comes to getting healthy and getting fit, many people find themselves falling flat before reaching their goals.

But why is it so hard? Here are the most common factors that might be sabotaging your fitness goals and how you can overcome them.

The 10 Most Common Factors that Sabotage Fitness Goals

1) Fatigue

Whether it’s physical, mental, or a little bit of both, fatigue is one of the worst roadblocks for successfully reaching your goals.

Physical fitness requires a fair amount of energy: energy to get to the gym, energy to hit your workout, and energy to consistently prepare healthy meals. That, combined with the other pressures of daily life, can make it hard to stay on the grind for a sustained period.

Solution: When it comes to getting fit, you have to remember that It’s a marathon, not a sprint. When you start diving into workouts and eating right, make sure that you’re making gradual but deliberate changes rather than big immediate changes so you can avoid early burnout and maintain those habits over time.

In addition, try scheduling your workouts and meal prep time for the times of the day or week that you are at your most active. For example, if you know that you want to crash at the end of the day and are more of a morning person, try to do your workout first thing in the morning so you can get it out of the way.

Luckily, it can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy since working out often can improve your energy levels in the long run!

2) Lack of motivation

When you first embarked on your fitness journey, you were probably itching at the seams to get started. But that initial spark of motivation can only take you so far once you really get into the grind, no matter how good your reason was for getting started.

So losing sight of your motivation is common, and it’s a big reason that you might start skipping your workouts and falling back into bad eating habits.

Solution: Even the fittest among us know this to be true: you’re not always going to be motivated every second of every day.

When it comes to reaching your goals despite lapses in motivation, the key is to stay accountable to something outside of yourself. For example, one study found that women who were held accountable by a support group or their loved ones were better able to adhere to their fitness routines.

Having to answer to someone other than yourself means that you have another source of motivation, even if you aren’t always intrinsically motivated yourself. So enlist your loved ones, your gym partners, or a personal trainer to keep you on track even if you aren’t feeling it yourself.

3) No Time

Sometimes, keeping up with your exercise and training routine can feel like a full-time job. When you have other pressing matters on your agenda like work, family, and personal life, fitness often ends up taking the back seat.

If you really want to be successful despite a time crunch, it may be time to reprioritize.

Solution: In cases like these, it’s important to remember that many fit people don’t have a wealth of free time, but they find ways to work around that to meet their goals.

If you really want to achieve your goals, you have to make it a priority and factor it in as an expectation, not an option. This might mean rearranging your current schedule and treating it like any other priority on your to-do list!

For example, if you find that you like to go straight to the couch at the end of a long workday to relax, you can make a rule for yourself to not take it easy until you’ve checked your workout and meal prep off of your daily list. Alternatively, you may have to get up earlier in the morning if that’s the only time available to you. Making time for it might not be the easiest thing initially, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

4) Expecting instant results

So you’ve been working out hard, eating the right things, and overall crushing all the items on your to-do list – and yet it’s been two weeks, and you aren’t seeing any physical progress.

For the most part, this is normal. Even if you’re doing everything right and taking on all the healthy habits you need for a sustainable rate of weight loss or body recomposition, you’re probably not going to see a ton of progress day by day. Sticking with your healthy habits long-term will yield those results over time.

Unfortunately, the diet industry often sells us the idea that you can lose a ton of weight really quickly, which can make it demotivating when you aren’t noticing those quick changes on the scale.

Solution: Change your mentality of what results and progress look like to you. Rather than just focusing on the scale alone, try taking stock of other forms of progression, like measurements and body composition outputs, including Body Fat Percentage and Skeletal Muscle Mass.

You can also take a look at your performance progression. Are you lifting heavier weights? Has your stamina increased? Is your performance in the gym way better than it was initially? These are all signs that you’re making progress towards your final goal.

And at the end of the day, know that fitness is not a month-long deal—it’s something you’re getting into for the long haul.

 

5) Not staying consistent

No matter what your goal is, the biggest changes happen when you make healthy lifestyle changes and develop daily habits that you keep up.

On the other hand, sporadic workouts and the occasional healthy meal probably aren’t going to get you the results you want. You should be making better choices the majority of the time if you want to make meaningful, long-term changes.

Solution: When you first start your fitness journey, it might be difficult to drop bad habits and develop new ones, so one way to establish consistency is by committing to doing something for a set amount of time. One study found that it takes approximately 66 days for healthy eating habits to become an automatic behavior and about 1.5 times this amount for physical activity.

So if you’re having a hard time following your fitness and eating plan consistently, make a non-negotiable schedule for three months and see how your life changes. In this period, you’re likely to develop better habits that become second nature, which will lead to better results.

In short, if you can stick with it for three months, you’ll probably be able to stick with it in the long run!

6) Not setting concrete goals

If you’re having trouble reaching your goals, you might want to take a look at the goals themselves.

Many times, we have a general idea of what we want our fitness to look like, but we don’t make a concrete road map to getting there. We know that we want to “lose weight” or “be healthy,” but these goals aren’t measurable.

They’re also broad enough that they can look like different things. Only having a big, vague picture of what you want to accomplish can then make it hard to plan how to make it happen or to see any actual progress along the way.

Solution: One of the best strategies for goal setting is to set “SMART” goals. The acronym SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timed

Making sure your goal-setting falls into these parameters gives you a much clearer picture of what you’re trying to accomplish and also affords you less wiggle-room so you can achieve it much sooner.

For example:

  • “I’m going to go to the gym and work out for one hour, five days a week this month”

is a lot more specific and measurable than “I’m going to work out more.” It gives you a clear guideline of what you need to do so you can set yourself up for success.

Body composition analysis is also a great tool for setting and achieving SMART goals. Knowing your Body Fat Mass, Skeletal Muscle Mass, and other measurable factors can establish a baseline, let you set achievable goals, and see your progress along the way.

7) Not factoring in rest

Frequent, consistent trips to the gym are obviously vital to achieving your goals. However, you may also see your progression slowing down if you’re working out too hard.

You may be putting in the work while you’re in the gym, but the real progress happens when you’re resting. Rest allows your muscles to recover and grow, while not allowing your muscles ample time to recover can lead to overtraining syndrome and slow down your progress.

Solution: Make sure you take a couple of days every week to rest and recover from your workouts. This is especially important after high-intensity exercise sessions like high-intensity interval training when your muscles need time to replenish their fuel.

You don’t have to be completely dormant during this time, either. Walking, practicing yoga, or other forms of gentle exercise gives your body time to recover while still keeping you active.

8) Getting too comfortable

You might have had a lot of success doing the same workouts when you first began, but you may notice over time that they’re getting easier, and thus, you aren’t seeing the same rate of progression.

That same workout routine, using the same weights and equipment, is only going to get you so far. While that routine might have helped you see a ton of progress at the beginning of the journey, you have to remember that you’re getting stronger and improving your fitness levels, and you have to continuously challenge yourself to avoid falling into a fitness “plateau.”

Solution: Frequently change up your workouts so that you can continue to challenge your body! If you start to get a little too comfortable with your current routine and it becomes less challenging, you can: 

  • Increase the weights you’re working with or the number of reps you have in each set.
  • Change up the tempo. You can shorten your rest period between each set to keep your heart rate high or slow down your lifts to really focus on your muscle contraction.
  • Experiment with different kinds of sets. If you’ve been doing the same kinds of lifts, try drop sets, supersets, or AMRAP (as many reps as possible) to challenge your muscles differently.
  • Do new exercises altogether. For example, if you’ve been doing a lot of weightlifting, experiment with some plyometric body exercises. If you’ve been focused on high-intensity interval training, incorporate a long run or bike ride instead.

Changing up your workout routine will keep your body challenged, and that’s great news for making progress.

 

9) Not prioritizing diet

Fitness is not just about hitting the gym. If you want to really start seeing results, your diet also matters.

Take this study: researchers evaluated how exercise without dietary change would help women and their fitness levels. They found that the women in the study who didn’t change their diet actually gained fat mass, despite exercising consistently and improving their physical fitness levels.

The adage “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet” is very true. Whether your goals are to lose fat, gain muscle, or increase your performance, eating a healthy and balanced diet can make all the difference.

Solution: Make sure you always have access to planned healthy foods that align with your fitness goals. You’ll want to pay attention to portion sizes and calorie count, especially if you’re looking to lose or gain weight. You’ll also want to make sure that each day’s diet is balanced, with the right servings of high-quality carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

This may mean setting aside a dedicated time each week to plan out recipes and meal prep. You can also use a fitness-oriented meal prep delivery service that plans out the macronutrients and calorie counts.

 

10) Giving up at the first setback

As nice as it would be to always stay perfectly on course, the reality is that life sometimes gets in the way. You’re probably going to come across situations where you can’t eat the “right” foods or have to skip a workout session.

It’s an all-too-common scenario: it’s Friday, and you decide to treat yourself to a drink with your friends. But one drink turns into two, which turns into an appetizer, and before you know it, you’ve eaten your entire calorie count for the day. Then, you decide that you might as well let loose since you’ve already “messed up,” and your whole weekend spirals away from you, and you decide you’ll just wait until Monday to get back on plan.

Solution: Don’t fall into the trap of waiting until Monday to correct any behaviors. Make the right behavior changes right away—an occasional cheat meal won’t undo your progress if you’ve been consistent otherwise but letting your cheat meal turn into a weekend-long affair might.

Get into the habit of minimizing the negative self-talk in these situations. Don’t think of it as “messing up,” but rather as a normal lapse that can be easily corrected right away.

The Bottom Line On Making Your Fitness Goals A Reality

Getting fit might conjure up images of hitting the gym and eating salads, but real progress is all about making long-term behavior changes. The best way to ensure that you are doing everything you need to succeed is to establish healthy habits, look beyond short-term goals in favor of the bigger picture, and track your progress in performance, body composition, and lifestyle changes along the way. This way, you’ll be able to stay accountable, know your milestones, and see your goals all the way through!

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Erica Digap is a freelance writer specializing in nutrition science, fitness, and health. After receiving her BSc in Clinical Nutrition and working in the corporate diet industry, she decided to set forth and use her experience to inspire readers to make lasting, healthy lifestyle changes, one healthy meal and workout at a time.

Cardio V.S Weights

Cardio vs Weights vs Concurrent: What’s better for body composition?

By Body Composition, Fitness, Muscle, Nutrition

Highlights

  • Aerobic Exercise- the ultimate exercise for increasing heart health, vascular health, and metabolic rate.
  • Resistance Training- the best training for gaining muscle strength and function. 
  • Concurrent Training- get the best of both aerobic and resistance training. 

When you think of exercise, what immediately comes to mind?

Going out for a jog? Loading up weights at the squat rack? Or maybe both?

All of those classify as exercise, but they serve different purposes. If you want to increase your squat 1-repetition maximum by 50 pounds, a daily cycling class won’t get you there.

It’s clear that your body adapts differently to different types of exercise, but how does that happen and what does it mean for your health?

This article will break down the benefits of different fitness regimens: aerobic, resistance, and concurrent training. In the process of reading this article, you will soon discover that your fitness goals can be achieved with some basic exercise physiology background!

What is Aerobic Training?

Aerobic exercise stimulates the heart and breathing rate to provide your muscles with oxygenated blood. The energy that powers such exercise is produced in muscle cells primarily via an oxidative pathway, meaning oxygen is required.

That explains all the heavy breathing when you go out for a run, doesn’t it?

That oxygen is delivered via blood being pumped from your heart, through your arteries, and returning to the heart through your veins.

So, it’s apparent that aerobic exercise primarily works two systems: energy production in your muscle cells and blood delivery in your cardiovascular system.

So how does this help you?

Does Aerobic Training Strengthen The Heart?

Aerobic exercise trains the heart to be stronger and more efficient at circulating blood. With aerobic exercise, the chamber of the heart (left ventricle) that pumps blood to the rest of the body literally gets larger and squeezes out more blood per pump, which means its stroke volume is increased. This results in an improved capacity for cardiac output, which is the quantity of blood pumped by the heart per minute.

If you’ve heard of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart), it may seem counterintuitive that a large left ventricle muscle is a beneficial adaptation to aerobic exercise. But, important characteristics differentiate an enlarged left ventricle due to healthy aerobic exercise training and one resulting from disease.

strong, efficient heart is exactly what you want in order to live a long and healthy life.

If your heart is bigger and stronger, pumping more blood per beat, it doesn’t have to beat as rapidly. That’s why you often hear of elite endurance athletes with resting heart rates in the 30’s and 40’s. This is more important than it may seem: lower resting heart rate is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

All these cardiac adaptations are aided by an increase in blood volume that occurs with aerobic exercise training. Without getting too technical, the expanded blood volume improves the heart’s contractility and filling capacity, allowing it to pump more blood per beat.

Although the heart is a different type of muscle than what’s in your arms or legs, it’s still subject to a related function. It contracts in order to move blood throughout the body. In addition to making it stronger and more efficient, you can also lighten the heart’s load by decreasing the resistance it faces.

How does aerobic training reduce arterial stiffness?

Each time the heart beats, arteries in the body provide resistance to the blood flowing.

The resistance provided by arteries is variable, though. Aerobic exercise training reduces the heart’s workload by reducing arterial stiffness.

When you perform aerobic exercise, your heart rate increases, pushing more blood through your arteries than at rest. The inner wall of your arteries feel the increased blood flow, and through a series of mechanisms, causes your arteries to widen.

As you train and your arteries experience this regularly, they become more effective at expanding. If you don’t regularly do aerobic exercise, your arteries never experience this stretch and they literally stiffen up (it is harder for your heart to pump blood through a stiff tube). Additionally, arterial stiffness is associated with coronary artery plaque development, the stuff that causes heart attacks.

Aerobic exercise also impacts your vascular system by promoting capillary growth. Capillaries are the microscopic vessels where oxygen diffuses from red blood cells to muscle (and other) cells.

Aerobic exercise requires increased oxygen delivery to the muscle to produce energy, so your body grows more capillaries to be able to better handle the energy demand.

How does aerobic exercise affect your metabolism?

Along with cardiovascular adaptation, aerobic exercise substantially impacts your muscles’ energy production system. Once blood delivers oxygen to the muscle cells, they still have to use it to produce energy that powers all the exercise you’re doing.

Aerobic exercise also relies to a great extent on breaking down fat molecules for energy, which can only happen within mitochondria.

Consequently, aerobic exercise training drastically improves your muscle cells’ ability to burn fat by generating more mitochondria and improving their functionality.

High-intensity aerobic exercise also increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), resulting in increased calorie burn after training sessions in addition to what you burned while exercising.  However, to maintain EPOC as you gain fitness, make sure to gradually progress your training intensity.

How Does Aerobic Training Impact Body Composition?

People who struggle with being overweight or obese have likely been told that aerobic exercise is a cornerstone of any weight loss routine.

The key to aerobic exercise is that it keeps the heart rate elevated for a continuous amount of time. While this will help to burn calories, it has specific impacts on body composition that people should keep in mind.

study published by the American Physiological Society took a look at the effects of regular exercise in adults. This study lasted eight months and placed adults on either aerobic training programs, resistance training programs, or a combined program. The researchers found that those in the aerobic training program lost more weight overall, including more fat mass than those in the resistance training program. On the other hand, those in the resistance training program gained more fat-free mass, including lean muscle.

To recap, aerobic training causes the cardiorespiratory system to adapt. It maintains heart function and health and keeps your energy metabolism system running.

Aerobic exercise is a jackpot for fitness and a key element of maintaining your health. But it may not get you big muscles or make your body much stronger…what will?

What Is Resistance Training?

 

Resistance exercise is training that progressively overloads your muscles. Some examples of resistance training would be traditional weightlifting, bodyweight exercises like pushups and pullups, and resistance band exercises. These types of exercises are meant to make your muscles bigger, stronger, more powerful, and more functional.

Specific adaptations to resistance training begin within the muscle cells. However, you’ll still get systemic benefits ranging from muscle growth to cardiovascular benefit.

To gain a deeper understanding of the whole-body performance and health effects of resistance training, read into how resistance exercise affects muscle at the microscopic level.

How does muscle adaptation work?

The point of resistance training is to make muscles function more effectively. This all starts with the contractile proteins that act to control muscle shortening and lengthening.

When you do resistance exercise, some of those proteins get yanked apart. That, along with the stress your muscle experienced, is the stimulus for your muscle to rebuild – this time bigger, stronger, or more powerful than before.

After resistance exercise, your muscle synthesizes proteins (this is aided by nutritional stimuli i.e. protein consumption). Special cells known as satellite cells also spring into action to help build up the broken down muscle. They normally lie quietly adjacent to muscle cells, but resistance exercise tells them to get to work.

Satellite cells combine with the muscle cells that were strained and damaged during your resistance training session. In doing so, they lend their molecular machinery to support protein synthesis that leads to muscle hypertrophy.

Resistance training with loads over 60% of your 1-repetition maximum results in hypertrophy of primarily type II fibers (‘fast-twitch’). These fibers are capable of rapid contraction with high force but tire more easily.

These micro-level adaptations matter to athletes and the general population alike. When you make measurable gains in muscle mass, strength, or power, you can thank the protein synthesis and fiber-specific adaptations that occurred within your muscle cells.

How does muscle hypertrophy occur? 

All those microscopic adaptations add up to cause changes that are easier to grasp. Resistance training at the proper intensity leads to measurable muscle hypertrophy. Strength improves in part due to changes to the neuromuscular system. Control over your muscles is typically a balance between competing neural signals. Some of those signals tell the muscle to contract, while others prevent contraction.

Regular resistance training can reduce neural inhibition that normally limits the strength and/or endurance of the muscle.

Muscle accounts for roughly 20% of resting energy expenditure, so it impacts on calorie burn and body composition is meaningful. Not only that, but you can’t increase the mass of most of the other organs that account for resting energy expenditure, like the liver, heart, brain, and kidney. Muscle is different because it hypertrophies, growing larger, and expending more calories.

By packing on muscle, not only do you increase strength, power, and function, but you also raise your basal metabolic rate. And by doing so, you’ll see an increase in your metabolism and an improvement in your health.

Does Weight Lifting Count as Cardio? 

If you’ve ever lifted weights or done resistance exercise, you’ve probably felt your heart pounding with the exertion.

Does that mean you’re getting cardiovascular and metabolic adaptations like you would with aerobic training?

Maybe not.

Resistance exercise does raise your energy expenditure. But it does so differently, and to a lesser extent, than aerobic exercise.

Resistance exercise trains your energy production systems but has less impact on the aerobic energy systems.

Is Resistance Training For Everyone?

Even if you’re not an athlete. Resistance training is important for functional fitness.

Functional strength training is defined as: “Training that attempts to mimic the specific physiological demands of real-life activities.” Unlike more traditional strength training (which focuses on specific muscle groups during each exercise), functional training focuses on whole muscle groups to train the body for daily demands.

A common misconception is that you may be too old for resistance training. But clinical data from a multitude of sources clearly shows the benefits of improving one’s functional fitness level, particularly for older adults.

Functional training such as resistance exercises and bodyweight movements can help you become stronger, more flexible, agiler and better equipped to handle day-to-day feats of strength and athleticism that are often overlooked. Plus, it can help you become less injury-prone.

study recruited seniors who were struggling with their physical abilities and placed them in a resistance-training exercise program. At the end, the researchers observed an increase in their fat-free mass, their muscle mass, their gait speed, and their overall physical capacity. This shows that resistance training not only improved body composition in the elderly but also helped to increase mobility to improve their ability to complete day to day activities.

How Does Resistance Training Impact Body Composition?

study found that regardless of the frequency of the resistance training program, participants increased overall muscle strength. The participants increased lean body composition.

Resistance training is a great way to increase lean muscle mass, and it improves the physical capacity of the elderly, leading to significant improvements in their quality of life. This evidence supports the positive capabilities resistance training has in both building lean body mass as well as maintaining lean mass in aging populations who are at risk of muscle loss.

These adaptations to resistance exercise impact your health and physical performance. Your muscles carry you through the day and increase performance if you’re an athlete.

Breaking down and building up muscle through resistance training is essential to maintaining function as you age. Loss of muscle mass even threatens some people’s capacity to live independently.

In terms of body composition, muscle mass is not only an important component to maintain, but it also contributes to your resting metabolism, helping you maintain a healthy energy balance.

Resistance training benefits the cardiovascular system, but its role is mainly for muscle gain and function.

But, how can you reap the benefits of both aerobic and resistance training? Do you just combine the two however you want?

What is Concurrent Training?

Concurrent training is the combination of both aerobic and resistance exercises within the same training session. Aerobic and resistance exercise impacts your body differently, so it follows that they each cause adaptations via different mechanisms.

How should I order my aerobic and resistance workouts?

In practice, aerobic/interval and resistance training don’t seem to interfere with each others’ adaptations all that much. But, understanding a few specifics about concurrent training will allow you to make good decisions about your exercise program.

The type of aerobic training determines how it interacts with resistance exercise adaptations. While strength and hypertrophy gains could be diminished by adding run training to a resistance program, cycling does not have the same effect.

Why? Researchers aren’t exactly sure. But it may have to do with two factors:

  • Cycling ergonomics are more similar to traditional lower-body resistance exercises
  • Eccentric muscle contractions in running result in muscle damage, while the concentric contractions in cycling do not (to the same extent).

The modality of aerobic exercise (running versus cycling) is important to understanding the effect of concurrent training, but so are frequency and duration. In some cases the more aerobic training you add to your program, the more you may impact muscular adaptation. So pair your training programs correctly; a running program in conjunction with an upper-body lifting exercise may benefit overall, but a running/leg press workout every day could interfere with one another.

And if you’re doing both aerobic and resistance exercise in the same session at the gym, or even on the same day, you’ll want to consider the order in which you do the exercises. It’s basically a matter of prioritization.

If your priority is on building aerobic fitness and performing well in a running race, do your aerobic exercise first in a session, followed by resistance exercise.

On the other hand, if your priority is building strength and muscle, you’ll want to do resistance exercise followed by aerobic.

However, the order probably doesn’t matter if you’re untrained.

The takeaway: if you’re untrained and haven’t set distinct fitness goals yet, don’t worry yet about the order of aerobic or resistance training. Do both and start exercising your way to health!

How do you develop a Concurrent Training program that’s right for you? 

If you’re just going to the gym to stay healthy, the benefit of gaining both aerobic and muscular fitness is well worth it.

To get the most benefit from your hard work at the gym, make sure to use these tips:

  • If your priority is muscle strength and growth, choose aerobic exercise like cycling rather than running to complement your lifting routine.
  • Consume enough protein and carbohydrates to stimulate muscle growth and recovery after workouts
  • If you alternate aerobic and resistance sessions, maximize recovery time between sessions (separate them by at least 6 hours)

Chances are that concurrent training is right for you, so go get started!

A Well-Rounded Exercise Program

As people continue to struggle with obesity and functional fitness as they age, exercise is more important than ever. It is vital to combine diet and exercise to not only lose weight but have a favorable impact on body composition and your lifespan.

Furthermore, it is important to have a well-rounded exercise routine that touches on all types of fitness. Aerobic exercise is effective at maintaining an elevated heart rate and losing fat-free mass. On the other hand, resistance training helps to build lean muscle mass. You can combine the two, with concurrent training, or jump into an explosive HIIT workout when you don’t have much time or need a motivation boost.

With this insight, you will be better equipped to understand why exercise is important for your health (a great motivator), how different types of exercise interact, and which ones are best suited for your needs.

Can Knowing Your Somatotype Help You Change Your Body Composition?

By Body Composition, Fitness

Are you one of those people who exercises regularly, but can’t understand why you don’t look like that person next to you at the gym? Do you get frustrated that your friend seems to be able to eat just about anything and never looks like they gain an ounce? Or how about those lucky individuals who have an outstanding athletic physique without even trying.

We are often quick to attribute these differences to the mysteries of different body shapes or somatotypes but rarely go beyond the basic body classifications to explore how our body types differ. What we should instead focus on are factors we can control instead of our genetics. How about we instead study how each different body types responds to factors like diet and exercise, and how we can work with our body type to effectively change or optimize our body composition.

Let’s examine each different somatotypes, see how you can use an understanding of your genetic predisposition to make better decisions to reach your specific body composition goal.

The Three Somatotypes

A somatotype is defined as a “quantitative overall appraisal of the present shape and composition of the human body.” Classifying different body types based on physique provides three generalized divisions of body typesendomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph. As with anything, it’s rare for someone to fall entirely into one somatotype. You might show a combination of qualities from two somatotypes, such as an ectomorph-endomorph hybrid or an endomorph-ectomorph.

There are countless articles about how having a general idea of where you fit on the somatotype scale can help give you the knowledge you need to make informed decisions in your quest to change your body composition. However, before we examine these claims more closely, let’s take a quick look at the general structures of the 3 somatotypes:

The Shapes

Ectomorphs

That super skinny friend of yours that often gets called a “stick” falls primarily into the somatotype category of an ectomorph. Naturally lean with a tendency towards long limbs, ectomorphs typically possess that slender look no matter what type of diet they consume. A lot of endurance runners and swimmers are ectomorphs. Although ectomorphs may have a decent amount of muscle, due to their long limb-length, they may appear visually to have less muscle development. Similarly, body fat also seems to get hidden by their long, slender figure – meaning ectomorphs seem to get away with a few extra pounds of fat. Because of this, if ectomorphs aren’t taking care of their health, they can become  skinny fat.

Mesomorphs

Mesomorphs are the natural athletes out of the three somatotypes. They are the lucky few, that can achieve a muscular physique without really trying. The physiology of a mesomorph tends to include narrow hips, wide back, and larger frame that contributes to an often muscular appearance. Many professional fighters, wide receivers, and basketball players fall are mesomorphs.

Endomorphs

Endomorphs are the larger structured somatotypes with both wide hips and shoulders but shorter arms and legs. This type of body shape is great for activities that require a lot of strength. When you think of endomorphs, think of rugby props, strength athletes, and powerlifters. Endomorph body-types are even considered to be a contributing factor in race performance in Ironman athletes.

The Composition

Recall the definition of somatotypes as having both a shape and composition component. While your shape may be set from the start, your body composition is not set in stone. So what are the general body compositions for these different somatotypes?

Ectomorphs look lean and often they do tend to get placed into the category of endurance athletes. People with these body types seem to struggle with gaining weight and altering their body composition through lean muscle mass gain. Their efforts in the gym may seem to have little effect visually, even causing frustration when trying to initiate a change.

Mesomorphs, on the other hand, have a larger frame that lends to the appearance of a body composition with a high percentage of lean muscle mass and a lower body fat percentage. The result is a more athletic, muscular look.

Endomorphs tend to have shorter, rounder frames, with the appearance of a large amount of both muscle and fat mass. However, due to their stockier features, body fat stored by these individuals tend to be more readily noticeable compared to the other body structures.

Now that we have a better idea of what these three somatotypes look like, let’s see what this really means for your body composition goals and whether or not you can make a difference despite your genetics.

Nature vs. Nurture

Considering somatotypes and body composition often leads to the question: Is our body type predetermined by our genetics or can you impact the way your body looks with my lifestyle choices? Numerous studies have investigated the hereditary implications of body composition and the effect of genetics versus environmental factors. Let’s take a look at what they’ve found.

We know that we inherit our genes from our parents. Studies do show a genetic connection between parents and children (nature)-– also reflected in similarities amongst siblings– with the maternal genes having a more significant impact in many cases.

So somatotype is hereditary, but external factors have an effect as well.

Lifestyle choices, like diet and exercise, both affect your overall body composition and can contribute to that slender or stocky look. There’s certainly a link between diet and body composition, where a diet (or lack thereof) can either promote or hinder your health goals. Similarly, your appearance will also greatly depend on the type of training you engage in and whether your goal is to build strength, size, or muscular endurance.

What does this tell us?

In a nutshell, while your body shape and size may be somewhat set in stone, your body composition is not.

Breaking Out of the Mold

It’s important to remember that somatotypes describe different body types in order to provide general guidelines for health and fitness. Remember, somatotypes are defined as a “quantitative overall appraisal of the present shape and composition of the human body.” While you may be genetically predisposed to have a certain body structure, your lifestyle can impact your body composition and cause your somatotype to change.

Let’s look at the example of the ectomorph. Ectomorphs have been implicated to be better at aerobic exercises like running or swimming. Intuitively, this makes sense. Having longer limbs helps increase stride length and a lower overall body fat percentage helps reduce resistance caused by excess body fat. Races have actually introduced the concept of “Clydesdale or Athena” runners since lower weight has been attributed to better running performance in marathons. Mesomorphs and endomorphs, on the other hand, may possess shorter limb length that may allow them to engage in more power and strength building activities, contributing to the image of these body types having greater musculature.

Now, let’s say an ectomorph wanted to become a powerlifter and achieve a larger figure, breaking out of his ectomorph shell.  Would he be condemned to the life of an ectomorph or can he still achieve one of the other body types?

Think about it this way: If an ectomorph ate cheeseburgers and milkshakes all day and lifted weights like a powerlifter, would he always look like an ectomorph or would his body shape eventually become more of a mesomorph type shape, or even an endomorph type shape?

The point is, just because you fall into a certain somatotype, doesn’t always mean you’re stuck in what your body type ‘should’ excel at. Take volleyball for example: a study looking at somatotype in elite volleyball players found that players in various positions had different somatotypes.

Furthermore, your somatotype doesn’t limit what you can do to change your body. A study conducted on weightlifters found that there were athletes from all body types scattered throughout the participants. So even if your genetics play a large role in predicting your body frame, you can still engage in the types of activities you enjoy to ensure your genetics don’t decide your overall body composition.

How Can This Information Help You Change Your Body Composition?

Genetics can prevent you from changing your body structure, but your shape doesn’t tell you what body composition you have to have. Knowing your somatotype can allow you to work with your body to make adjustments to factors you can control, rather than working against it and being constantly frustrated by your lack of success.

For example, many NBA athletes start their career with an ectomorphic frame due to their long torso and limb lengths in conjunction with their slender figure. With years of full-body strength training and conditioning, they shift their somatotype to a hybrid ectomorph-mesomorphic body type that makes them ideal bodies for the sport of basketball.

So remember, your body shape can change. Which brings up another important point – monitoring those changes in the long run. As a mesomorph, you may be happy to show off your naturally athletic-looking body at the pool, or as an ectomorph, you may enjoy the way dresses drape your long, slender frame.

But beware: like anyone else, you have to maintain a healthy body composition through healthy lifestyle choices. Despite your current body shape or health, you’re still at risk of sarcopenia (age-related muscle degradation) or fat accumulation due to unhealthy lifestyle choices like a poor diet or lack of physical activity.

Relying on the perks of your somatotype isn’t a long-term strategy for health and longevity. Continued resistance training, even simply once or twice a week at moderate intensity, can help prevent muscle loss related to aging and maintain an optimal body composition.

The More You Know

Understanding your somatotype can be helpful if you’re someone who has struggled to find a form of exercise that complements your physiology. You may be able to develop an exercise routine that feels more natural and easier to commit to if you consider your body structure. However, don’t let your current body structure impact your decision to do something you’re interested in, just because it’s not a perfect fit. While certain somatotypes may correlate with athleticism, there’s no specific gene that determines whether or not someone will become an elite athlete.

In conclusion, having a general idea of your somatotype and understanding your body structure can help you make the changes required to alter your body composition, However, the most effective way to achieve your body composition goals is still testing your body composition and tracking your changes.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to body composition. We come in all shapes and sizes, and discovering what works best with your somatotype will help you take the necessary steps to achieve your body composition goals.

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Nikita Ross is a Precision Nutrition certified wellness coach and professional fitness writer. She believes that lifting both barbells and books is the key to self-improvement. Please consult to your doctor before you start any type of exercises, and get proper training program from certified personal trainers or coaches.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on May 28, 2021for general public reference. It was originally published on November 21, 2018 in inbodyusa.com.

Your Metabolism and Your Body Composition

By Fitness, Health

You probably don’t think about your body composition when you’re thinking about your metabolism. But you should.

You probably think about it in terms of speed: “My metabolism is fast” or “my metabolism is slowing down.”  If that sounds like you, you’re not alone: simply googling the word “metabolism” yields 4 articles in the top 10 all based around boosting/increasing your metabolism for weight loss.

People are naturally afraid of their metabolism slowing and the weight gain they know comes with it. To some extent, those worries are well-founded.

Metabolism is linked with weight gain and loss because of its a biological process involved with energy and calories.  

The Mayo Clinic defines metabolism as:

…the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.

Notice how it doesn’t mention anything about the speed you process your food. That would be digestion.

In medical terminology, metabolism is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the minimum number of calories your body needs to perform basic bodily functions. BMR is usually expressed in terms of calories.  Your Basal Metabolic Rate also has another interesting quality: the more Lean Body Mass (which includes muscle, water, and minerals) you have, the greater your BMR will be.

When we talk about metabolism, we should always start the conversation with how many calories your body needs. But because your BMR and Lean Body Mass are linked, that means any conversation about metabolism becomes a conversation about your body composition.

Your Body Composition Is Linked To Your Metabolism

Why is it that some people seem to be able to eat whatever they want and never experience any weight gain, while other people – even skinny people – feel like whenever they have one bite of dessert it instantly goes to their waistline?

The reason is that metabolism can vary in size.

Take a look at these two body composition profiles, and see if you can spot the difference.

Beyond the obvious differences in weight, the Person A has a much smaller Basal Metabolic Rate than the second.  This means Person B needs more calories than Person A in order to provide their body with the necessary energy to function without losing weight.  Because the BMR is bigger, the metabolism is “bigger.”

Greater than height and gender, the most important factor playing into BMR is the amount Lean Body Mass each person has.  That’s because, as research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states, the more Lean Body Mass you have, the greater your Basal Metabolic Rate will be. That is why strength training for muscle gain, which in turn will increase your lean body mass, is recommended as a way to increase your metabolism.

This is why people who are big or above average in weight can eat more than people who are smaller.  Their body literally requires them to eat more to maintain their weight, and specifically – their Lean Body Mass.

OK, you say, but these two people are very different in body weight – of course, the second person will have a bigger metabolism.  Take a look at the two people below, who we’ll call “Jane” and “Sarah”, two individuals who are similar body in age, height, weight, and gender.

Despite being similar in age, height, weight, and gender, these two people have very different body composition profiles.  As a result, they have different Basal Metabolic Rates. Although Jane has a body weight within the normal range (identified by being near the 100% mark), her body composition is defined by having more fat mass and less lean body mass and skeletal muscle than Sarah.

The person below has a lower body fat percentage and more Lean Body Mass – which is why when looking at this person, you’d describe them as “lean.”  Again, because this person has more than 10 pounds more Lean Body Mass, her Basal Metabolic Rate comes out over a hundred calories greater than the person above.

Metabolism and Weight Gain Over Time

Image Source: Flickr

Let’s take a deeper look at what you might call a “slow” metabolism. Far from being an issue of fastness or slowness, weight gain is almost always the result of a caloric imbalance that goes unchecked over a long period of time.

But first, something needs to be clarified – your Basal Metabolic Rate is not the only factor that plays into your overall caloric needs, and it’s not the total amount of calories you need in a day.  There are two other major influencers, which are:

  • Your energy level – how active you are
  • The thermic effect of food – the energy your body uses to digest your food

These taken together with your Basal Metabolic Rate provide your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). This is the number of calories your body burns in a day.

BMR is a necessary piece of information to estimate TDEE. Although they’re not exact, equations exist for estimating your TDEE based on your activity level and BMR. These are based on multiplying your BMR with an “activity factor” – a number between 1 and 2 – that increases the more active you are (and decreases when you are less active, regardless of your appetite).

To take a closer look into metabolism and weight gain, let’s take the two people whose body compositions we’ve looked at above, Jane and Sarah, and see what could happen in a real world example and accounting for diet and exercise.

For this exercise, we first need to estimate TDEE for Jane and Sarah, using their BMRs as a guide.  Based on Jane and Sarah’s compositions, it would be fair to assume that Jane does less exercise/is less active than Sarah, so we’ll assign an activity level of “Sedentary” for Jane and assign “Lightly Active” for Sarah.

Using these numbers and multiplying it by the appropriate activity factor, we can estimate Jane’s TDEE to be 1573 calories and Sarah’s to be 1953 calories, a difference of 380 calories.

Notice how although the difference in BMR was a little over 100 calories when activity levels are factored in, the difference in actual caloric needs becomes magnified.

Now that we have an estimate of the calories Jane and Sarah will need/burn in a day, let’s give them calories to take in. Let’s put them both on a diet of 1,800 calories a day – the estimated caloric intake suggested by the USDA for sedentary women between the ages of 26-30.

Assuming that Jane and Sarah both follow the 1,800 calorie diet perfectly without any extra, high caloric snacks or treats, Jane would end each day with a calorie surplus of 227 calories/day. Sarah would end each day in a slight calorie deficit of 153 calories a day.

When you are in a caloric surplus – taking in more calories than you use – and live a mostly sedentary lifestyle, you will experience weight gain, specifically, fat. An extra 227 calories a day might not seem like a lot at first – that’s about a single soda -, but over time, a surplus of 227 calories a day becomes 1589 extra calories a week and a surplus of 7037 extra calorie a month: roughly 2 pounds of fat gain per month.

calorie surplus

Bottom line: despite being the same height, same gender, similar weight, and similar ages, because of the difference between Jane and Sarah’s body compositions, Jane will experience weight gain over time while Sarah might experience some weight loss (because of her calorie deficit), even though their diets are the same.  That’s because the differences in their caloric needs, although seemingly small at first, increase to significant differences when allowed to persist over time.

It’s not about their age or anything else; it’s about their body compositions determining their metabolism/caloric needs.

Making Your Metabolism Work For You

Because your metabolism isn’t something that slows down or speeds up depending on things like age, this actually gives you some control over it.  With the correct exercise and dietary plan, you can make your metabolism work for you

  • Improve and increase your metabolism

It all goes back to improving and maintaining a healthy body composition.

Because your body needs more energy to support itself when it has more Lean Body Mass, working to increase your Lean Body Mass can actually increase your Basal Metabolic Rate, which can have a huge impact on your TDEE once you factor in your activity level.

  • Avoid a decrease in your metabolism

For many people, simply maintaining their metabolism or avoiding a “slowdown” (which as we’ve seen, is a myth right up there with muscle turning into fat) is an important goal.

How can you avoid a decrease of your metabolism?

In short: by maintaining the Lean Body Mass that you already have.  That means maintaining your Skeletal Muscle Mass.

Your Skeletal Muscle Mass isn’t the same as your Lean Body Mass, but it is the overall biggest contributor to it. It’s the muscle that you can actually grow and develop through exercise, and increases/decreases in SMM have a strong influence on increases/decreases in Lean Body Mass.

Skeletal Muscle Mass is best developed through strength training and resistance exercise along with a proper diet.  A regular exercise plan that includes strength training and resistance exercise will help you maintain your Skeletal Muscle Mass.

This can be especially important as you age.  As people become older and busier, activity levels tend to drop and a proper diet can become harder to maintain as responsibilities increase.  Poor diet and nutrition can lead to loss of Lean Body Mass over time, which leads to a decrease in overall metabolism – not a slowdown.

  • Balance your diet and with your metabolism

The example of Jane is a good example of a well-intentioned dietary plan that doesn’t match the metabolism of the person practicing it.

Even though Jane has been led to believe that 1,800 calories is right for her based on age and gender, her metabolism doesn’t require that caloric intake, and she will end up gaining weight despite her efforts to eat a healthy diet. In the end, she will probably end up blaming her “slowing metabolism.”

It’s examples like Jane’s that show how important understanding the link between metabolism and body composition is.

How much Lean Body Mass do you have?  What might your Basal Metabolic Rate be?  These questions should be answered first before starting any weight loss or diet program, as well as conversations about metabolism.

The first step is always to get the information you need to get the answers to these questions by getting your body composition accurately tested.  Your metabolism and your body composition are strongly linked, so in order to truly understand your metabolism and weight, you must get your body composition tested.

Muscle and Its Role in Diabetes Risk

By Diabetes, Fitness, Health

A widely-known but often misunderstood disease is steadily overtaking an increasing portion of the U.S. population. In this country, more than one-third of adults are at a high risk for developing this condition and causes about 330,000 deaths each year. This disease is diabetes.

Diabetes, type 2 in particular, is a condition affecting an ever-expanding pool of Americans. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 30.3 million Americans had diabetes in 2015. That’s nearly 10 percent of the population! Furthermore, about 90 percent of those people had Type 2 Diabetes, and those numbers are only expected to rise.

The steady increase in diabetes diagnoses is due, in part, to the obesity epidemic. 87.5 percent of adults with diabetes are overweight or obese according to their Body Mass Index (BMI), a simple health indicator based on the ratio of weight to height. However, these findings make it seem like only those with high body weight are at risk for diabetes, and that is not the case. In fact, so-called “skinny fat” people, individuals with a normal or low BMI but a high percent body fat, are at an increased risk to develop diabetes or prediabetes. As you can see, the underlying theme here is that, rather than a high body weight, it is an imbalanced body composition that increases the risk of diabetes. This is why it is important for those looking to reduce diabetes risk or manage their diabetes to understand their body composition.

So what’s going on here? How does your body composition affect your diabetes risk, and can improve your body composition reduce that risk or help you overcome diabetes?

Let’s first take a look at body composition. What is it and why is it important?

What is Body Composition?

The term “body composition” means exactly what it sounds like: the components that your body is made up of. Generally speaking, these components can be simply categorized as fat and fat-free mass. As you might expect, your fat-free mass, also called Lean Body Mass (LBM) is everything in your body that isn’t fat. It includes your lean muscle, organs, blood, and minerals.

The body generally needs a balance of LBM and fat mass to function optimally and maintain positive health. However, this balance is disrupted in many overweight and obese individuals due to excess fat.

Most people think that the ultimate goal for overweight individuals should be to lose weight, but this overlooks the bigger picture. In order to improve your health, get physically fit, and fit into those skinny jeans, you’re going to have to change your body composition. In other words, the goal for overweight individuals should not be to simply lose weight; instead, it should focus on improving body composition by reducing fat mass while maintaining or increasing LBM.

Not only will a more balanced body composition make you look leaner, but it can also reduce your risk of diabetes and other obesity-related disorders. Furthermore, it can have a positive effect on your metabolism.

Diabetes and Metabolism

When most people think about metabolism, they imagine some magical system within the body that allows certain people to eat more food without gaining weight. In reality, metabolism simply refers to the process of breaking down foods in order to supply energy for the maintenance and repair of current body structures.

When you consume food, your body breaks it down into its elemental components and then directs each piece to where it needs to go. It looks something like this:

  • You eat food.
  • Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, a simple sugar.
  • The glucose enters your bloodstream.
  • Your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin (Phase 1 insulin response).
  • Insulin helps the glucose enter your body’s cells so it can be used for fuel, stored for later use, or stored as fat.
  • Since your pancreas has released insulin, it needs more. So it starts to create more insulin. (Phase 2 insulin response)
  • Now your body is ready to start the process all over again the next time you eat.

Seems like a relatively simple process, right? But for people with diabetes, the process doesn’t work the same way.

This is because diabetes is a metabolic disorder. It changes the way your body metabolizes food so that your cells are unable to use that glucose for energy. How? It all comes back to insulin.

Let’s look at that metabolism breakdown again. There are two places where insulin is key: the Phase 1 and Phase 2 insulin responses. Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells absorb glucose to use for energy. Your pancreas releases this hormone when it first detects the glucose from your food, and then it makes more insulin to use later.

In people with type 1 diabetes (T1D), the body does not produce insulin at all. In type 2 diabetes (T2D), the body produces insulin, but the cells can’t use it properly. This is called insulin resistance. Without access to insulin, glucose can’t get into your cells, so it ends up lingering in your bloodstream.

Of course, when the glucose can’t make its way out of the bloodstream, it will start to build up. All that excess blood sugar may then be converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. With this increase in fat mass, hormone imbalances or systemic inflammation may occur or persist, increasing risk for many other diseases or conditions. Diabetes is associated with increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, skin infections, and eye problems. Diabetes can even result in an impaired immune system, which, combined with poor circulation to the extremities, increases risk of wounds and infections, sometimes even leading to amputation of the toes, foot, or leg(s). In far too many cases, diabetes creates complications that eventually lead to death.

Effects of Type 2 Diabetes on Muscle

Many are already aware of the connection between high-fat mass and diabetes, however, more recently, researchers have begun to focus on another aspect of body composition as it relates to diabetes risk: Lean Body Mass. Many studies have shown strong links between Type 2 Diabetes  (T2D) and low lean body mass.

A large component of our LBM is our skeletal muscle mass, the muscles used for posture and movement. Unfortunately, diabetes is not only more common in those with less muscle, it can actually have negative effects on their muscle.

There are three main muscle characteristics that T2D affects: fatigability, strength, and mass.

Muscle fatigability refers to the rate at which your muscles become weaker after exercise or movement, and the amount of time it takes for them to recover or return to their full power. Researchers have known for years that muscle fatigability increases with T2D. When people with T2D perform an exercise, their muscles lose power faster than those of a healthy person.

T2D reduces overall muscle strength as well. Even after adjusting for age, sex, education, alcohol consumption, lifetime smoking, obesity, and aerobic physical activity, people with T2D had less handgrip strength than people without it.

Not only do T2D patients have both reduced muscle recovery and strength, they also start to lose muscle mass. In fact, the longer you have diabetes, the more muscle mass you tend to lose, especially in the legs.

As you can see, the raised blood glucose levels caused by diabetes and insulin resistance puts your muscles at a disadvantage for a number of reasons.

How Building Muscle Mass Reduces Risk of T2D

Here’s the good news. You can take control of your diabetes risk by improving your body composition. It all starts with Skeletal Muscle Mass.

Research has shown that increasing your muscle mass reduces your risk of T2D. For example, In a 2017 study, researchers in Korea and Japan followed over 200,000 otherwise healthy people who had no diabetes or prediabetes at the start of the experiment. After 2.9 years, the participants with more muscle mass were significantly less likely to have T2D: Yet another reason to include muscle building resistance exercises into your workout routine.

In fact, exercise is good for reducing diabetes risk as well as improving diabetic state all on its own. This is because exercise increases the delivery of glucose to our muscle cells. When you exercise, your muscles are exerting more than their normal energy demand, thus creating a higher need for energy/glucose to fuel them. In fact, resistance training has been shown to be particularly beneficial for T2D. Larger muscles require more energy, therefore the leg muscles, being the largest muscles in the body, are especially important for glucose uptake and regulation. Therefore, targeting the legs with resistance exercise may improve diabetes risk factors as well as promote physical function. As mentioned previously, those who are diagnosed with T2D often lose the most muscle mass in the legs, making leg day all the more important to maintain and build muscle mass to reduce the risk of diabetes.

Although type 2 diabetics are insulin-resistant, this increased demand for glucose from exercise helps to increase the efficiency of insulin to get glucose into the muscle cells, improving their diabetic state overall!

How to Improve Insulin Resistance with Diet and Exercise

So what does this mean for you? We’ve talked a lot about diabetes and its relationship to your body composition. Remember, people with T2D and pre-diabetes are resistant to insulin, meaning their cells can’t utilize the insulin they need in order to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Eventually, this can lead to a number of health complications and other debilitating diseases. However, we’ve seen that it’s possible to significantly reduce diabetic risk and, in some cases, even reverse T2D. Here are some diet and exercise tips that will help you improve your body composition and get to a healthy level of insulin sensitivity.

If you are otherwise healthy but have low LBM and high PBF

If you don’t currently have diabetes or pre-diabetes, the most important thing you can do to lower your risk is exercise.

In one study, researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. The survey covered 13,644 adults who were not pregnant and not underweight. They reviewed each person’s muscle mass and compared it to their diabetes status. What they found was astounding.

For each 10% increase in the ratio of skeletal muscle mass to total body weight participants showed an 11% decrease in insulin resistance and a 12% decrease in prediabetes. The results were significant, even after the scientists took into account other factors affecting risk for insulin resistance.

For people with T2D and Prediabetes

If you already have high blood sugar or diabetes, there are still ways that you can improve that. First, resistance training 2-3 times a week can relieve some diabetic symptoms.

One study found that participants who completed a strength training program had reduced their HbA1c levels from 8.7 to 7.6 percent. In fact, 72% of participants in the resistance exercise group were actually able to reduce their medication use after 16 weeks of a strength training program.

Regardless of the type of training you engage in, getting started is the first step. However, make sure you check with your health provider if you have diabetes or any other conditions before you start an exercise regimen.

Takeaways

The major takeaway here is that diabetes is not only a disease that has to do with weight – high body fat and low muscle mass both increase diabetic risk.

The main goal to reduce this risk or improve diabetic state is to improve body composition. This can be done by reducing body fat for those who are overfat, as well as building muscle for those who have low skeletal muscle mass. One study showed that people who increased their LBM while reducing their fat mass had a much lower risk of T2D than people who had high fat mass combined with high LBM, or low body fat combined with low LBM.

What’s next?

The best thing to do in order to have a better idea of your health risks and create attainable goals for yourself is to get your body composition tested. From there, you can make adjustments to your lifestyle to alter your body composition, if necessary, to reduce your risk for diabetes and other conditions. If you already have T2D or prediabetes, focus on losing fat while engaging the muscles with exercise.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how your body composition affects your diabetes risk, and how you can harness the power of diet and exercise to control that risk. A low-sugar, high-protein diet combined with regular exercise, especially strength training, can improve your body composition and improve insulin sensitivity, among other benefits.

So what are you waiting for? See what you’re made of and get started on the path to a healthier life today!

**

Nicole Roder is a freelance writer specializing in health, mental health, and parenting topics. Her work has appeared in Today’s Parent, Crixeo, Grok Nation, Chesapeake Family LIFE, and the Baltimore Sun, among others.

How to Use HIIT to Improve Your Body Composition

By Body Composition, Fitness

If you’ve been trying to get in shape recently and you’ve been scouring the Internet for effective workout styles, chances are you’ve stumbled upon something called HIIT, which stands for high-intensity interval training.

Over the years, professional athletes and fitness buffs alike have sworn by this training method.

Whether it’s lowering fat mass or increasing muscle gain, you’re probably wondering if it’s the right workout type that will help you attain your body composition goals as quickly as possible.

Read on below for a closer look of this popular workout style and how you can use it to effectively attain your desired body composition outcomes.

The Lowdown on HIIT

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is based on the premise that short, explosive burst of activities can have a huge, lasting impact on your body composition. In a nutshell, it’s not about how long you’re exercising but rather how intense you’re performing the workouts within a certain period of time.

In a typical HIIT routine, you alternate between intervals of quick, intense bursts of exercise and short, sometimes low intensity, periods of rest. Here’s how the American Council on Exercise (ACE) describes HIIT:

Most endurance workouts, such as walking, running, or stair-climbing —are performed at a moderate intensity, or an exertion level of 5-6 on a scale of 0-10. High-intensity intervals, on the other hand, are done at an exertion level of 7 or higher, and are typically sustained for 30 seconds to 3 minutes, although they can be as short as 8-10 seconds or as long as 5 minutes; the higher the intensity, the shorter the speed interval. Recovery intervals are equal to or longer than the speed intervals.

Running HIIT-style involves intervals of 30 to 60 seconds of running near your peak of ability. You follow this almost breathless (but definitely not winded) running with a comparable cool-down period of walking. For instance, you can do a short sprint upstairs and walk back down four times in a row.

While there’s no specific set of guidelines as to how often you should do HIIT,  alternating periods of high-intensity and low-intensity activities at least three times a week as part of your exercise routine is a good rule of thumb to reap its benefits. One study in the European Journal of Endocrinology reported that male subjects following an 8-week HIIT program experienced muscle gain and lost a significant amount of abdominal fat mass, even though the program included no weightlifting.

The great thing about HIIT is you can apply interval training to almost any type of workout — from interval running to doing explosive laps at the pool to your twice-a-week kettlebell routine. This means that you can continuously mix things up in your routine so you won’t get bored and give up on our body composition goals.

HIIT and Its Impact on Body Fat

Let’s look at HIIT’s impact on body fat.

HIIT has been shown to be effective in torching body fat more than other types of exercise. In terms of belly fat, studies found that HIIT workouts help reduce both visceral (fat mass around the organs) and subcutaneous (under the skin) fat.

Another study compared the results between a group of participants who committed to three days a week of high-intensity exercise routine and another group who did five days a week of low-intensity exercise. After sixteen weeks, the researchers discovered that the participants who committed to high-intensity exercise routine for three days a week lost more fat than the group who showed up for low-intensity steady-state exercise.

HIIT’s significant role in reducing fat mass is good news if you’re not seeing consistent results in reducing your body fat percentage (particularly that stubborn belly fat) despite your regular workout routine.

HIIT and Its Impact on Muscle Mass

As for HIIT’s possible role in building lean muscle mass, let’s take a look at the findings of a study published last year in the Journal of Diabetes Research.

The researchers compared the effects of five weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) among overweight and obese, young women in terms of cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and blood glucose.

Participants in the HIIT group performed 60 repetitions of high-intensity interval exercise — at 8 seconds of cycling at 90% of peak oxygen consumption, and 12-second rest on a cycle ergometer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, participants in the MICT group performed continuous cycling exercise at 65% of peak oxygen consumption for 40 minutes.

In terms of lean mass changes, the researchers concluded the following:

“..the MICT group experienced significantly decreased total lean mass (TLM) and leg LM. Meanwhile, TLM and leg LM in the HIIT group were unchanged. ”

Based on the study’s findings, here’s what we know so far:

  • HIIT may not be the most effective workout routine to build lean muscle mass
  • HIIT, however, can help preserve or retain lean muscle mass, while MICT can potentially make you lose lean muscle mass if you’re trying to lose fat mass at the same time

One of the many benefits of HIIT is that it increase the proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers over slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Why is this important? Fast twitch fibers are a main factor of your strength and speed. They are also very important to train in that if you don’t use them, you lose them, especially as you get older. That being said, you can see how important muscle gain is when you are young, in order to maintain your strength and speed (reflexes) as you age.

While HIIT may not be as effective in increasing muscle mass, it does offer potential benefits to achieve that sculpted look.  However, if your main goal is to build muscle mass, bodybuilding or weight training may be your best bet. Here’s an in-depth look between bodybuilding and HIIT to improve body composition. You can note also that both these methods may be used in conjunction to help you to attain your desired body composition.

Additional Benefits of HIIT

Besides helping improve your body composition through fat mass loss, HIIT also provides the following benefits:

  • Short yet explosive bursts of exercise may be more effective in boosting your V02 max— a measure of aerobic endurance— than performing the same exercise at a slower pace. This can help you to use oxygen more efficiently and increase exercise performance.
  • Incorporating HIIT workouts into your exercise routine is more time-efficient. This study reveals that you get the same cardiovascular effects from traditional endurance training in HIIT in just a couple minutes.
  • New research findings published last April concluded that HIIT improves glucose metabolism in muscles and boosts insulin sensitivity among type 2 diabetics.
  • HIIT is perceived as a more enjoyable activity than moderate-intensity continuous exercise. This finding suggests that HIIT will likely promote long-term exercise adherence than other workout styles.
  • In a 2015 study comparing the afterburn effect, also known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC, HIIT (as well as weight training) reigns supreme over regular cardio up to 21 hours post-workout. The more oxygen your body requires to return to its resting metabolic state, the more calories you burn. This means that HIIT can help you burn more calories even after a day (or almost) you exercised.

Making the Most of Your HIIT Workout

To help you accomplish and maintain body composition success, there are various types of HIIT methods to choose from — from the Tabata protocol to turbulence training. Plus, HIIT can be applied to almost every workout routine or fitness setup out there. You can do CrossFit, engage in bodyweight workouts, or even do HIIT with Pilates.

Regardless of the workout routine or HIIT method you prefer, you can make the most of your HIIT routine by sticking to the following best practices:

  • Don’t forget to do some warm-up before you engage in explosive, high-intensity moves.
  • Aim for at least three-to-five minute intervals completed at least six times. This interval has been shown to provide long-term sustainable results in a systematic review of studies on HIIT protocols that are most effective.
  • Complement your HIIT routine with other workout styles or training programs such as yoga or trail running to keep things interesting.
  • Incorporate as many muscle groups as you can. Using more muscle groups will help to burn more calories!
  • Use your own body’s cues to gauge exertion level. For example, you’re doing it right if you can say single words in the middle of your HIIT routine but you should not be able to complete whole sentences. So if you still find yourself chatting it up at the gym in between reps and you’re not seeing results, maybe it’s high time to pump up the effort level a few notches.
  • Watch what and how much you eat. The best HIIT routine in the world will amount to nothing in the long run if you’re not mindful of your diet and nutritional needs.
  • If you have existing health issues,  it’s best to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional first before engaging in HIIT.

It’s All About Consistency

To benefit the most from any form of HIIT, build a habit of doing it consistently. Even if you can only spare a few minutes, you can effortlessly incorporate these quick interval workouts to your day.

How about getting off your social media of choice for about half an hour to do HIIT? Perhaps you can do reps with your officemates during lunch hour.

The next time you feel like exercise is a chore or a task that you need to check off your to-do list, introduce HIIT into your workout routine! You might not know it but a quick, fun HIIT sesh may be the missing piece in bidding adieu (finally!) to your current body composition woes.

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food. 

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/how-to-use-hiit-to-improve-your-body-composition/

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