In most health literature, one thing I find repeated over and over again is that muscle or lean body mass is a very important factor for health and longevity.
When I heard from Joe Dillon about 15 months ago a concrete technique to lose body fat and gain muscle mass, I got inspired. Although, I had generally been keeping track of my weight, up until then I had never really thought of tracking or targeting body fat and lean mass directly.
More I studied this topic, the more it all made sense. Weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) are just proxy for tracking body fat and lean mass, which are what really count. It is the body fat that is harmful and it is the lean mass that is helpful – and both in so many different ways. And, at times BMI and body fat can be very poor approximation of body fat and lean mass.
If in the process of losing weight, you lose muscle mass rather than fat, that is not a good thing at all. In fact, that can be very harmful to your health. Mark Hyman, MD talks about a term call skinny fat to describe someone who looks quite skinning, has good weight, but the weight is very disproportionately fat mass.
William Evans, Ph.D. and Irwin Rosenberg, MD in their seminal work, Biomarkers, The 10 Determinants of Aging You Can Control,” coined the term Sarcopenia, to describe a “disease” when someone lacks adequate lean body mass.
Jim Karas, in his book, The Business Plan for the Body”, calls lean mass the net worth. When he talks to business people, who understand financials, he explains weight, muscle and fat this way: weight is your total assets, fat is total debt and lean muscle mass is your equity or net worth. And, if you do nothing, starting with age 30, you lose muscle mass, about 7 lbs. per decade for men and women, and accelerating to one pound per year after menopause for women. So, if you do nothing to counteract, by the age of 60, you will have lost 21 lbs. of muscle mass and replaced with 21 plus your weight gained, since the age of 30, in body fat. Is that 31 lbs. or 41 lbs. or more of additional body fat? Yikes!
You get the idea.
Through all this studying, I found a new way to articulate that object of the game (or obsession) of weight loss, i.e., to simply target and measure percent body fat. And, Joe Dillon provided ideal targets. He feels that for optimal health men should have no more than 15% body fat, while woman should have no more than 22%. Further, he says, that the world class male athletes have body fat percent in the range of 6 to 12% and female athletes in the range of 12% to 18%.
So, instead of looking up on the BMI tables to estimate what ideal body weight should be, a precise method is:
Ideal weight = Body Fat Weight/0.15 for 15% body fat target.
Where, Body Fat Weight = Current Weight * Current % body fat
Current % body fat is measureable by taking seven different measurements with calipers and them plugging into calculator.
With all this knowledge in hand, I started my journey. On May 17, 2013, started with these measurements:
Notice that in May 2013, at 23.9% body fat, my ideal weight was150.0 lbs. And, as it generally happens if I were to lose 17.5 lbs to get to 150.0, it will prTable 1obably not all be body fat. So, as more weight I lost lower my ideal body weight would need to be. No wonder this is a sucker’s game (or obsession)!
My goal was to lose body fat, while at the same time gain lean mass!
I changed my diet per Joe Dillon’s recommendations. Basically, took breads and sweets totally out of my meals and all processed foods, added more raw fruits and vegetables, decreased quantity of what I would eat and added about 150 grams of proteins through Whey concentrate and isolate shakes. I kept to my then most recent routine of one fitness/resistance training workout and two to three Bikram Yoga sessions a week.
I progressed along pretty well as you can see in the table below, especially through the end of the year.
Every month I was losing about a pound of fat and gaining a pound of lean mass. That seemed very encouraging. After a few months of watching that trend, I even raised my target. I started to ask, “Wouldn’t it be cool to get six-pack at sixty?” I have never had six-pack abs before. Why not? May be 12% body fat would do it.
And, then starting beginning of year, the progress sort of plateaued. In April, I added to my weekly workout routine Joe Dillon’s power walks with weights about three days a week. And, I started to make a very gentle progress again.
About then, I did some blood work and found out that my testosterone was low. Aha, may be that was the reason my progress had stalled! I theorized. Low-T and elevated estradiol wreaks havoc on lean mass for muscle. “Man boobs” are signs of low-T and elevated estradiol in men. Health literature is quite sure about this, e.g., check out, Testosterone for Life: Recharge Your Vitality, Sex Drive, Muscle Mass, and Overall Health by Abraham Morgentaler, MD.
So, I started to work on that through herbal supplements, which is still work-in-progress and another story for another day. Joe Dillon recommends getting that test up-front, which I did not do, so I did not really have any baseline numbers to compare.
About a month ago, I saw an exercise program by Shawn Phillips, who is a world class body sculptor. He called this program, Muscle Mania – a program made up of intense workouts, one muscle a day, every single day for 21 days. His promise was add 4 pound of muscle mass in 21 days.
I talked to our trainer Saleem and my wife Kimberly. Both were encouraging and we went for it. Starting July 16th, for the next 21 mornings, under Saleem’s coaching Kimberly and I worked out. (Actually on day 20, I did not feel well, so we skipped a day and finished the program in 22 days). For 21 days, we bombed one muscle group every morning: chest, biceps/triceps, legs, back, shoulders in whatever order and with whatever exercises the program recommended. Some days, I felt totally exhausted, some days very energized. But we pushed through it and finished the program as intended.
My right shoulder stiffened up a little during one of the bench press exercises. So, I started using the foam roller for rolling. Found it to be incredible beneficial. From then on, I incorporated about 10 minute of rolling as part of the warm up routine. Jeffry S. Life, MD Ph.D. in his book, “The Life Plan: How Any Man Can Achieve Lasting Health, Great Sex, and a Stronger, Leaner Body” recommends rolling for warm-ups and flexibility by working on the fascia.
So, here is the result.
As of August 9, if I am measuring, it correctly (Kimberly did the measuring wherever I can’t reach), I have achieved 15.1% body fat! And, as the table shows my weight of 161.0 is the same as ideal weight of 160.9 at 15% body fat.
I did not really do the measurements before and after the 21-day program. But no doubt, I made most of this progress between May and August during the 21-day program. During this period, I lost 4 lbs. of body fat and gained 2 lbs. lean mass.
And, I can see hints of my six-pack! It seems like 12% body fat will surely make my abs visible.
So, there you have it – the story of my chase for 15% body fat and in turn for my ideal weight.
I definitely, feel more energized. This has also brought my cholesterol in line. I quit taking Lipitor last year in May, the same time I started this journey. And, the most recent blood work showed total cholesterol of 145, LDL of 88, HDL 43 and Triglycerides of 69. That is the best it has been even with Lipitor!
To continue the progress, for the near future, Kimberly and I are planning on two days of strength/resistance training, two days of some aerobics including power walks and two days of Bikram Yoga for flexibility, balance and cleansing the internal organs.
What are your thoughts or comments on this whole endeavor?
If any of this helps you or inspires you to take on some health challenge, I would love to hear about it and/or answer any questions you may have.