Body fat: Grapefruit vs tangerine

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One of the fitness progress measurements and health standards used to indicate one’s weight range, is body fat. Fat is our energy storage warehouse that our body pulls from to meet the demands we place upon ourselves. Because every BODY is different, we see a range people who either carry too little, just the right amount, or an excessive amount of body. But what does this body fat mean in relation to our bodies and on our health?? 

The scientific term for body fat is “adipose tissue”. It’s important to clarify that a person carries both fat pound and muscle pounds and a normal bathroom scale doesn’t differentiate between the two. A person could actually weigh more because of the muscle they carry not necessarily fat. This might put a person such as a bodybuilder in a different bracket on a chart that shows the health ranges of body weights. But body fat needs to be accounted for. On the reverse, a normal looking sized person may actually be unhealthy because the majority of their weight is fat not muscle. This would then put one at risk for medical problems. This goes to show that just because a person is “skinny” doesn’t mean they’re healthy. This stereotype exists but clothes can hide what is truly going on.

When a person says they want to lose weight, without necessarily knowing it, what they want to lose is the fat, not muscle. Here is a good example of what this means: Body fat is the percentage of fat your body is storing. Therefore, if a person weighs 150 pounds and have 10% body fat, that means their body consists of 15 pounds of fat and 135 pounds of lean body (bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood and then everything else).

Here is the standard chart:

General Body Fat Percentage Categories

Classification Women (% fat) Men (% fat)
Essential Fat 10-12% 2-4%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Acceptable 25-31% 18-25%
Obese 32% plus 25% plus

Other useful tools would be:

  • Fat mass: Weight x body fat percentage
  • Lean mass: Weight – (weight x body fat percentage)

What some people get confused about is the notion that muscle weighs more than fat. Actually, they weigh the same amount. They weigh the same, but are different in size. One pound of fat would be like a fluffy grapefruit, and one pound of muscle would be hard and dense like a tangerine. Now the difference in body shape makes sense.

You have to take natural action to burn fat for good. There are not quick, sustainable fixes that will keep the fat away without effort. Strength training is critical. More muscle mass equates to more calorie burning even when at rest. Adding vinegar to your diet has been found to ramp up fat burning. Consuming enough fiber and getting enough sleep is important. Getting enough sleep keeps hormones in check and fiber is of course associated with digestion. Cut down on simple carbs and unnecessary beverages. Have a complete blood panel down as well to make sure hormones and iron are all functioning efficiently. Think of your body as a machine, so fuel it with what will burn the bad and propel the good.

The scale doesn’t always show your weight in terms of good vs. bad pounds. Being realistic and understanding that losing body fat, not muscle is important. Often times quick fixes, cleanses, and really restrictive approaches to weight loss, yield water loss in weight, not fat. Having your body fat measured allows you to determine your goals and be realistic about how much and what type of weight you should lose.

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/72/3/694/4729363

https://www.imedpub.com/scholarly/body-fat-distribution-journals-articles-ppts-list.php

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.119.014933

https://bmcobes.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.11953886/2052–1-9

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Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY's Fit. She has an M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, is a current candidate for her Doctorate in Health & Human Performance, and she's an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She's also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor.