Weight and Resistance Training - Body Composition, %fat too high

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12-28-2007, 05:55 PM
I would love some advice. I just had my body fat percentage done and it is pretty high for my wt. I am 5'5'' and 129lbs, but my body fat is 27%. I was floored! But, I know this is a result of my yo-yo dieting and inconsistant exercise. So, my lean body weight is low and my pounds of fat are pretty high. I would like to lose a few pounds of scale weight but what I am most interested in doing is making a shift in my body comp. My goal is to increase my lean weight by at least 9lbs and decrease my fat by 9 pounds. Now, I know that to lose fat you need a deficit and you can't build muscle without a surplus (i think), but then again I haven't been weight training or working out regularly, so I am looking for any insight on what to do. I don't want to risk losing more lean bc my lean weight is already low but i also don't want to build lean without losing the fat. I hope this isn't too confusing:?:

I'm just not sure how to do the calories and workouts to achieve my desired results. My guess would be a mild deficit and a hard core strength and cardio program?

If anyone has any experience or insight I would greatly appreciate it!


12-28-2007, 06:38 PM
mild deficit and a hard core strength and cardio program--seems right, but....

Just don't go all cardio (ever notice there are a lot of skinny-fat people there (the ones who may weight little but have high fat for their weight).

IMO, you will have to build muscle first and allow your body to let that take care of the rest, given that you're already at an ideal weight for your height.

12-28-2007, 06:51 PM
I wouldn't get to upset over what seems to be a high body fat % number, I think the numbers are skewed if you are on the shorter side, but try to get the numbers redone in about 3 months. The handheld calipers can be inaccurate too and you need to have the trainer measure the fat exactly the same way.

My body fat is around 30%, I know I could lose a couple of pounds but think the formula that says to lose the ten or fifteen pounds of fat would have me be too thin. You are slightly taller than me but around the same weight as me.

12-28-2007, 09:17 PM
When I first started serious weight training, my body fat was 27%. 12 weeks later, my body fat was 22%, I weighed a pound or two more on the scale, and my jeans size had gone from a tight 6, loose 8 to a 4 that fit well.

I you're just starting or are currently do very sporadic weight training, you can build muscle and lose fat at the same time. The key is consistent training to muscle fatigue and clean eating.

My suggestion would be to take a look at some good basic programs like "Body Sculpting Bible" or "Body Sculpting Bible for Women", "Body for life for Women", or look on the Krista Scott Dixon web-site (http://www.stumptuous.com/cms/index.php) for ideas.

Changing your body composition is a very doable goal. Muscle are good for you in the long and short run, and you'll look better as well be healthier. Keep in mind tho, that once you build muscle, it doesn't just stay there. Like a beautiful garden, it requires tending. Whatever you choose to do to change your body, you need to keep it up as a lifestyle. That's not to say that you need to do the same thing for the rest of your life- just that like weight maintenance, exercise needs to be a maintenance habit. So pick something that you can enjoy!


12-29-2007, 08:18 AM
Thanks so much for the response.
I do love weight training but had avoided it bc the RD said that it would only make me bigger, specifically in my lower body, and that is a "trouble zone", so to speak. She is a fan of the "exercise for your body type", in which you avoid any kind of resistance for areas of the body you don't want to grow or "thicker". I was/am so afraid of adding any mass to my lower half that I would avoid weights in the lower body and just do upper body.

Also, a female trainer at my gym who used to compete in figure told me to stay away from anything below 15 reps for the lower body if I didn't want to grow or make my thighs thicker...Then, I read that women can't grow and weights will make you smaller and denser.

I get so confused. I know that when i do lift legs my pants are really tight for a few days and this always scares me away from doing it again because i always end up feeling "swollen" and "leg heavy". This is part of the reason I have over-cardioed and under weight trained and now I am here, worse than when i started.

Suprisingly, I do have a high RMR (~1600), I had it done on a metabolic cart. So, I am thinking if I keep my cals around 1600-1800 and focus on the weights and a high protein, multiple meal, clean diet I should be able to change my body comp without having to gain or bulk and then lean down? Also, Mel, how much cardio/cals would you recommend.

The RD does not want me below 2000 cals because she says I will go hypometabolic or lose lean weight, "starvation mode" and that putting my body on a restricted calorie level will only elicit a consequence of restriction for life? I can't imagine that 1600 cals would put me in starvation mode but she says I will lose lean on that and set my self up for rebound fat gain. Ugghhh! Any insight, experience would be much appreciated! I feel like my head may explode from all the conflicting info but I am always one to ask those with actual experience...

Thanks again!

12-29-2007, 08:56 AM
Evelove -- conflicting advice is frustrating. The trick is to seek out the good advice, and ignore the rest. Here's one hint: registered dietitians don't necessarily know diddly squat (squat -- get it? ha ha) about exercise or weight training. It's like asking a plumber to repair the electronics in your BMW. (No offense to the registered dietitians out there -- it's simply a matter of what your education covers and what it doesn't)

Here's another: women can grow muscle, it just takes us longer, typically. As for the advice about not doing less than 15 reps because otherwise your legs might grow, it's true that different rep ranges are better suited for different goals. BUT, the difference is so minute that the most important thing for a beginner is just to get started. It'll take you years of training before your leg muscles grow enough that they start to get "too big." (Note, too, that big thighs are caused by fat, and increasing your muscle mass will help you lose that fat.)

Speaking of "too big," I also have an issue with the assumption that women shouldn't have strong legs, or that having muscular legs is a bad thing. And, the only type of weight training that doesn't grow muscles is the "complete waste of time" kind.

OK, end rant. The single most bestest advice you can find is at stumptuous.com (krista Scott Dixon's site). It's advice free, it's commercial free, it's well researched and beautifully written, and it's RIGHT.

Good luck!


12-29-2007, 09:57 AM
Thanks for the prompt response, you're absolutely right, RDs don't have to take exercise phys., it was the trainers advice that threw me for a loop. I noticed that you have an incredibly low bf percentage and I was was wondering if you could give me insight on the calorie level for my goal considering my RMR. Also, cardio (min per week). I really don't want to go into "starvation mode" or lose any muscle. My main goal is to change my body comp. Thoughs?


12-29-2007, 11:11 AM
Oh, I'm glad kiB showed up here bc all I could say was ugh, ugh, ugh when reading that "advice" you had been given. I was going to quote something from Skwigg's blog that I think was quite good, about a new book that has come out (btw, who's gotten their hands on it yet? Came out thursday right?) New Rules of Lifting for Women

The purpose of lifting weights is to build muscle. THANK YOU!! The purpose is not to tone, tighten, sculpt, lengthen, firm, spot reduce, de-jiggle, banish trouble spots, or any of the other idiotic euphemisms that women's publications normally use to trick women into lifting; the purpose of lifting weights is to build muscle (duh!). Another one of my very favorites is Calorie restriction is the worst idea ever. Clearly, I'm all over that one. Back in my diet ninny years, I was a hungry flabby mess. As long as I dieted, I sagged. Now that I eat often and eat well, I'm lean and strong. Funny how that works!

12-29-2007, 11:16 AM
It sounds like you havent been doing much exercise. How many calories have you been eating to maintain that weight? If you are looking to solely change body comp, and are adding exercise, then you will need to eat probably a little bit MORE than you are eating now. At the very least dont go lower.

If your RMR is 1600/day -that is if you sit on your butt all day. (and that is a high RMR) If you are at all active you will burn more, if you add specific exercise, you will burn more. How much more depends on how much exercise you end up doing.

12-29-2007, 12:07 PM
I've been a chronic dieter and go thru binge/restrict periods with inconsistant activity, espcially through the Holidays, way too many cookies and pie.

I have a great cardio base (just did a 5 mile run) and plan on running 20-30mpw with strenght training consistantly. I definitely hear Christa on the calorie restrction and over-cardio and becoming a flabby mess, bc that is pretty much what I have done because when I lightened up on the restriciton and cardio over the Holidays I got a rebound fat gain of 5+ pounds.

I like cardio more for my anxiety and it makes me feel amazing. Also, I have read it is preferable to get a deficit through activity bc this will be mostly fat loss?

I am going to start consistantly training with weights in addition to my cardio and focus on 6 small meals a day (1800-2000cals).

Does that sound right?

I just want to make sure that I have enough cals for fueling the metabolism while keeping or building the muscle and losing the fat weight.

Thanks again.

12-29-2007, 03:32 PM
I think that sounds like a good starting place. If you are a beginner, you WILL build some muscle if you lift, whether you restrict calories or not. I bit my tongue about what your RD said, but others have told you what they thought.


12-29-2007, 04:34 PM
Evelove: Here's (http://www.3fatchicks.com/forum/showpost.php?p=1927012&postcount=59) an old post that gives Too Much Information about my diet & exercise routine.

In losing mode I only do 2 days/week of cardio, usually interval training on the elliptical or bike. I guess I also walk to and from work every day, about 25 minutes total walking time (i.e., round trip); this isn't much, but I suppose over the long haul it helps. I don't do more cardio than this for one simple reason: I find it terminally boring! :) I'm in awe of people who can tolerate it, day in and day out.


PS: Here (http://www.3fatchicks.com/forum/showpost.php?p=1925225&postcount=44) are pics from appx. 12-13%.

12-29-2007, 04:43 PM
Oh, and how old are you? 20s/30s/40s? It may not be entirely due to your eating/training when you refer to being worse than where you were. If you were looking at something several years ago, it is easier to put on additional fat if you're comparing a decade of time or you've gone thru something like pregnancy. It doesn't have to happen, but I'm just saying there's more at work than just something you may have done, so don't beat yourself up too much.

12-29-2007, 07:14 PM
Keep in mind tho, that once you build muscle, it doesn't just stay there. Like a beautiful garden, it requires tending. Whatever you choose to do to change your body, you need to keep it up as a lifestyle. That's not to say that you need to do the same thing for the rest of your life- just that like weight maintenance, exercise needs to be a maintenance habit. So pick something that you can enjoy!Mel

Great analogy Mel.
Wow there are days in the gym when I'm sitting on the bench thinking about the one billion other things I should/could be doing instead of lifting. But this statement really validates why I choose to continue to do this. We deserve and need to tend to ourselves daily too. I'm just tending to the garden...:cool:

12-29-2007, 07:52 PM
evelove - ah, the frustration of the mixed messages! They can make you insane. I think you've heard a lot of good stuff here and the one good thing for me lately is the consitency of the messages I've gotten. For a year all I've heard is less cardio more strength training - for weight loss, fat loss and better health.

I'm trying to make the shift myself and if you look in the "regular thread", you'll see a recent post from me where I took just had my BF tested and was also floored by the results. Maybe it's the wakeup call I needed. I'm going to try to make the switch in the new year. I'm still struggling with finding the right balance but I need to see the BF lower and what do I have lose (hah!) by trying to change my focus.

Keep us posted on your progress.


12-30-2007, 08:24 AM
:hug:Thank you so much for all the replies! You all are so enlightening and supportive. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

I have decided to focus on the weights and diet, without over-restriction, scale back a bit on the running and see what happens. If I keep doing the same thing, I'll keep getting what I've gotten (def of insanity, right:)

I bought the New Rules of Lifting yesterday and it had an amazing explanation in regards to all my questions. Especially, with the fear of bulking up. He (Lou Cosgrove) stated that the most you could possibly gain is a fraction of an inch and that is if you don't lose the fat on top. Also, what most women experience in the beginning is just fluid retention bc the body is trying to adjust and this is what gives the perception of bulk and why we give up too soon (that is exactly what I do!). They really put cardio last and focus on adequate cals, no more than 200-300 under maint. if you are going to restrict, and 5-6 clean meals a day. The science and studies clarified everything so well and it helped me to see where I have been going wrong. I will definintely not waste my time with high reps and low weight anymore! That is clear! Now, I just have to find a gym and I'll be all set:)

I am really, really exited to get started on this new path. If anyone has any questions about the book, let me know. I'd be happy to share as I read through.

Quick question regarding size and body fat %, if I go from or shall I say when I go from 27%bf to 17% bf what kind of clothing size difference can I expect, in general or inch loss? I was always curious as to how much different the space is that muscle takes up versus fat.

12-30-2007, 08:37 AM
Eve, here's a picture to help you visual the relative size of five pounds of muscle compared to five pounds of fat (ewwwww!):


12-30-2007, 09:05 AM
I love the picture Meg posted. It always makes me giggle. Note the caption, "exact replica fat & muscle." Who knew that our muscles had little embossed "5"s printed on them? :D


12-30-2007, 10:52 AM
:rofl: And when you can squat 250 or above, those little "5"s start to turn into "10"s and more!


12-30-2007, 03:39 PM
And that our fat looks like a FISH!

12-30-2007, 03:45 PM
OMG, Fran, you're right -- it looks like a shark! :rofl:

12-30-2007, 07:27 PM
OMG, Fran, you're right -- it looks like a shark! :rofl:

The better to eat up the little fat fishies....

12-31-2007, 02:26 AM
:rofl: You guys are too much!

And I am so jealous of evelove! I ordered New Rules of Lifting for Women from Amazon, and it's not here yet!! :tantrum: I'm anxious to read it.

I'm with Kim - I find cardio terminally boring, and while I aim for 4x a week, it doesn't get better. Good uptempo music helps; being outside helps, but it's so the wrong time of year for that! Lifting I can do longer and without the boredom.

12-31-2007, 07:15 AM

You are going to love the book! When I went to B and N they hadn't even shelved them yet! I am so happy I got it bc it really gives the science and Lou is a great writer, very witty and hilarious. He definitely knows how to get his point across but with a sense of humor.

Has anyone changed their body comp sign. without a change in weight? If so, how much did your clothing size change? Just curious...That picture of fat compared to muscle is pretty enlightening! It just goes to show how ridiculous it is for us to be so focused on scale weight.

Mel, I think you said you dropped 2 sizes with a 5% drop in BF? Is that right?

I am so exited to be starting on a new routine! Perfect timing for the new year!

12-31-2007, 01:56 PM
Yes, I dropped 2 sizes with no weight change. The body fat change was 5-6%. I've since dropped another 12 pounds and 4-5% body fat (ugh, that's as of 3 weeks ago...December was a wipe out of being sick and hostessing!).

The whole size issue is very dependent on how much you can "muscle up" and how much you can control muscle vs. fat loss and where - it's all genetic. I build muscle quickly on my upper body, but have incredibly strong chicken legs :rofl: So no matter how heavy I lift, my legs seem to get smaller and my back and shoulders seem to get bigger. Keep in mind, tho, I've been at this for many years!