Eat To Perform started because I began body fat testing people. In time, I had seen probably 1,000 tests, which is about 1,000 more than most health professionals ever lay eyes on. It seems clear that we’re facing a world-wide obesity epidemic but the more tests I saw, the closer I came to providing solutions to peoples REAL issues. I started to see a trend that most people would be surprised by. DexaScan, BodPod, Inbody, it doesn’t matter – they all consistently point to the same issue.
I identified that a major driving force behind the problem is dieting, but more specifically, it’s uninformed dieting taken to the extreme. The same could be said for extreme exercise. What I mean by that is this emphasis on amount of steps taken and Calories burned without eating enough food. Many people will read that and say “This guy is anti-cardio!” and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I am very much in favor of cardio, in fact I like running and I find it very useful personally. What I’m NOT about is combining cardio with starving myself in an effort to lose weight. It’s creating a problem that, over time, becomes incredibly hard to dig yourself out from under.
The best way to describe the problem is to provide an example but before I do, I just want to give you a two sentence primer on why your metabolism isn’t working how you’d like it:
When you body fat test, the big important reading is either Resting Metabolic Rate or Basal Metabolic Rate. The calculation for both measurements is derived from the amount of lean mass (everything that isn’t fat) you have on your body.
Too Much Body Fat vs. Too Little Muscle
So yesterday, I body fat tested 50 people. Not surprising to me, only three of them had what I would consider a weight/body fat issue. Almost without fail, the rest of the group had the opposite problem – a muscle issue. This example highlights the problem acutely:
Compare two women, both 46 years old and weighing 165 pounds, but with different body fat percentages.
One is 41% body fat- what that means is that she has 97.35 pounds of lean mass and the rest of her body is fat.
The second woman is 32% body fat (remember, these women are virtually identical) but she has 112.2 pounds of muscle.
What’s the point? The first example doesn’t have a fat problem, she has a lack of muscle problem and frankly, THAT’S A MUCH GREATER ISSUE THAN THE FAT SHE IS CARRYING ON HER BODY! The approach she needs to take is different than the second example, the woman with the fat problem. I’ll reiterate that the first example is much more common than the second.
Too Extreme For You? Sounds Like an Outlier?
Take another example, say two of the fittest people in the world. Both weigh 143 pounds.
The first is 22% body fat. That means that she has 111.54 pounds of lean mass on her frame (let me also say that this person was a Division 1 athlete and would be the best athlete in almost every gym).
The second athlete is 15% body fat, which means she has 121.55 pounds of lean mass.
The first is relatively unknown, the second is a household name in the sport of fitness. Working out together, you would notice almost no difference but the woman with less fat has more usable muscle and since fat doesn’t contribute a whole lot to performance, it’s like the 22% person is wearing a 10 pound vest during all of her workouts. So the natural instinct would be to say that the 22% gal needs to lose 10 pounds of fat. Maybe she does, but doesn’t she have an example right next to her that benefitted from carrying more muscle mass?
At this point I should have made my point. A constant adherence to LESS LESS LESS mode is the problem, not the solution, to the body fat equation.
The “Food Purity” Myth
Going back to the first example, the 41% body fat woman eats very little food; she avoids starches and stays away from energy dense sources. She also admits that when she adds them back in, she gains weight and that freaks her out. Let me explain why this happens to her.
When she was young, she was active and weighed 120 pounds coming out of high school. She was a gymnast and a cheerleader. A problem that most 165 pound people have (even at 46 years old) is they yearn for that 120 pound person because they remember that person as the most fit version of themselves. Follow me here? So while they may not see 120 pounds as a goal, it sort of weighs on their brain like an anvil.
Since enlightenment takes time, it’s very easy for this person to try and solve a lifetime of not making muscle a priority by focusing on the wrong thing – the fat. So they decide that a naughty and nice list of food will solve the issue, but it only makes things worse in the end and it completely and totally makes sense that it would. When your body has lots of muscle it makes conserving that muscle a priority. You may have heard about this idea before; it’s called feeding your metabolic engine. Your metabolic engine is muscle.
Similar could be said for fat. This is where the whole “eat fat to lose fat” argument loses me. We know that fat can store as fat without the presence of insulin. We also know that fat converts to fat easier than carbs do. Lastly, we know that when a person has more fat cells, keeping those fat cells full becomes a priority. So when someone goes low Calorie/low carb, they harm their metabolism by not making muscle a priority but it’s the focus on scale weight that is causing the bigger issue. What happens at that point is that they have essentially painted themselves into a corner and the only way out is to accept that they need to gain some weight to heal the dysfunction. What we see over and over is these folks gain a lot of muscle very quickly but the focus on body weight rather than body fat that paralyzes them.
Imagine this scenario. You were eating low Calorie/low carb and you barely moved the needle. The number on the scale might have gone down but that has stopped. You look in the mirror and you see a smaller version of yourself, but roughly the same person. You have not affected your fat greatly one way or the other. You’re surrounded by muscular people lifting weights, many of them with low body fat percentages. For example, one of the trainers at the gym our 41% body fat example goes to is 20%. While we were body fat testing, she was deadlifting over 350 pounds for reps (slow, with rest. This isn’t an argument against high intensity, it’s an argument for true variance). What does 41% person do though? She does bootcamp. See the problem? The fittest amongst us make maintaining and building muscle a priority most of the time. Also in defense of the 20% trainer, she admitted to being a little “fluffy” because of winter and school. Normally she is closer to 15-16%.
Once again, we are the only people really saying this in a broad way. I say this whenever I visit a gym, and if I visit your gym it’s probably because you have a body fat machine. Otherwise what are we doing? The first piece of gym equipment for every gym should be a body fat testing machine because this information isn’t really out there. While I appreciate everyone leaving this gaping hole in the fitness industry for Eat To Perform to fill, don’t you think it’s time that someone else starts saying this stuff? I think it’s highly possible that they just don’t know and if that’s the case, they should know. Having $50,000 worth of gym equipment without a $7,000 body fat machine sort of misses the point. Also shouldn’t we rename body fat machines? When you consider that it’s not fat that is the real problem for a lot of people, or at the very least their body is holding onto fat because muscle is not a priority, it really makes more sense to test for muscle!