Fitness attributes – lean mass to fat ratio

This is the next in the series on each attribute in my What do you need to do to be fit? post.

I’ve been a bit slack with keeping up with this series of posts, work has been extremely busy which has left my brain a bit fried.

I have also been back and forth about what to write here. I am no expert in nutrition and, as much as it’s good, my food intake is not perfect – so I’m not best placed to give dietary advice. That said, your levels of fat and lean mass are important to overall fitness and should be managed carefully.

We can all agree fat is not fit for performance reasons but fitness is also synonymous with looking good. I think you would be safe to say that losing weight and improved appearance is the most common reason people exercise and care about fitness.

The idea of losing weight, not fat, is slightly misguided though. If appearance is a priority then what you see in the mirror counts as much as the weighing scales. Even if you have very low levels of fat, to look good, you will still need a decent amount of muscle.

The benefits go beyond just looks. In the excellent book Biomarkers muscle mass is listed as the number one determining factor for increased health and longevity. We need to build some muscle mass to increase our health. If you consider that muscles atrophy with age, you need to build muscle just to maintain your current levels of lean mass as you get older.

A desire for some extra lean mass should be a part of everyone’s fitness regime, including you ladies out there. You’ll look better and feel better. Providing you don’t eat like a horse and take a ton of steroids you WON’T end up looking like a bodybuilder.

Be sensible with it though – the pursuit of greater muscle mass shouldn’t negatively effect mobility, flexibility or any other fitness aspect.

Seeing the new muscle may involve losing some fat (not necessarily weight) and this is were diet comes into it. There are more diet approaches out there than I can list all with plenty of scientific studies to back them up.

Look for a diet that is based on good general principles that make sense to you. The most important thing is that it is sustainable – crash diets are no good – it has to become part of your lifestyle to have a lasting effect.

Be realistic though. You still need to live – an occasional Jaffa cake will keep you sane, an occasional packet will keep you fat.