Body weight has been used as an important biomarker over time. Quantify body weight it’s a useful tool to measure and clinically assess individuals in health settings, biometric tracking and even a category marker for sports. However body weight per se and the popular weight loss can be misleading. Weight loss has became a boat which dangerously navigates an ocean of biological function and aesthetics, heading to misleading culture, society ideals and an industry taking advantage of superficial desires ignoring true human biology. In this post we reveal what does actually body weight describes, what does it mean and most important how exercise can contribute to body weight management and health.
1. Body weight Vs Body composition
Weight has been used incorrectly over the years and its popularly understood as a unit that displays the mass of an object in the kilogram (Kg) scale. Technically, although close enough, weight really describes the relation of mass conditioned by the gravitational constant which turns out to be measured in Newtons (N), therefore it describes the force the object exerts in the physical world. Nor weight neither mass describe the shape, volume or what the object is made of. Mass it only describes how much matter is in that object or body.
So what does have more mass, two Kg of iron or two Kg of straw? As you already know, they have the same mass but they do not have the same volume in space. How much mass does it has one kilo of iron wrapped in one kg of straw? It has the same but its distribution is different and so its volume.
Human biology as well as other organic life in earth have the complexity of merging in one body different tissues and structures which have different properties. Just like iron and straw. Therefore the total body mass can be understood as a compartmental model composed by bone, muscle, fat and so called residual tissue. That is body composition, the detail of what total body mass stands for. This valuable information can help us understand what really “weight” is, its distribution and have a more accurate qualitative and quantitative descriptive picture of an individual or collective. These information really allows to understand the scenario, needs and potential lines of action for health and athletic purposes.
2. The weight loss journey…
Measuring and tracking body weight is not useful anymore? Do I need to constantly track body composition? Not really. Although body composition can be detailed and extremely useful, it requires other specific tests and measurements to accurately determine its components.
The aim of this post is to reveal what the weight loss journey means and how it is really affected by body weight distribution and the 4 compartment model (Bone, Muscle, Fat and Residual tissue). Like the wrapped iron-straw example, just having the goal to get the body weight numbers down ain’t a reliable marker during loss weight journey, it can be a misleading if a glimpse of the whole picture is not available.
Body weight can have important or nonexistent fluctuations over short to mid periods of time. Without understanding and reading what is really happening, make a pure number the main target can be strongly demotivating and absolutely misleading.
In fact body composition and fat loss are outcomes of a bigger and more effective goal, health-fitness which also includes as long term benefits increased vitality, stress relief, build muscle, pain relief, body function and ultimately health. The “weight loss” journey is an outcome of an health-fitness pathway reachable and accessible through constant healthy habits, solid energy balance and total energy expenditure, which include exercise and physical activity.
To learn more about why fitness, exercise and metabolism are vital. Read this post.
3. Body composition and physical exercise
Physical activity is a powerful tool to target energy balance and total energy expenditure with extensive effects on metabolism and hormonal regulation thanks to muscle tissue and biological stress.
It is important to highlight that weight loss and fat loss ain’t the same.
Weight loss can reduce the body mass. Weight loss involves all compartment model tissues and can has potential and dangerous effects for health over long term periods due to long stressed energy balance, systems and malnutrition. Negative impact can lead among many others to reduced bone density, loss of muscle mass, organ dysfunction and metabolic alterations. Really no ideal scenario.
Fat loss, on the other hand, is specifically targeted towards a particular compartment of body composition, fat loss is achieved through optimized energy balance increasing total energy expenditure through physical activity and increased muscle tissue and activity. Exercise triggers muscle tissue activity and its hormonal regulation, increasing overall metabolism and ultimately impacting resting energy expenditure (REE).
Exercise has the potential to modify and improve body composition, increasing bone density, increasing muscle mass and reducing fat tissue among other important health benefits.
Paradoxically to what the “loss weight journey” means, depending on every particular scenario the goal to reach a more beneficial body composition distribution can imply you might gain or lose weight. Its solid explanation is muscle and bone tissue density are higher than fat, and therefore heavier.
4. Exercise and health, let’s go!
Physical activity and exercise are fundamental tools for health. The real secret is maintaining health as the goal, the rest are consequences of the journey. Exercise is a wonderful instrument to successfully attain and enrich health against sedentarism, overweight and weight management among many others in health or athletic scenarios. A whole Strength & Conditioning program oriented towards multiple attributes, exercise progression and tolerance will strongly contribute towards body composition distribution, healthy habits and enhanced fitness. Physical activity will help regulate energy balance through energy expenditure. This physical activity must contain exercise programs which target metabolism progressions, cardiorespiratory fitness and most important, resistance training. Enhancing muscle strength and endurance will directly help and benefit metabolism tolerance and cardioresipratory systems efficiency. Additionally, an Strength & Conditioning scope will generally contribute into injury prevention, in specific and detailed scenarios like deconditioning, overweight or athletic development. Personalized preventive programs are highly recommended to increase efficacy and possibly supervised by an Exercise Science Professional.
A well planned exercise and Strength & Conditioning program has to be design and adapt strategies based on goals and needs. An effective and successful lasting “loss weight journey” can imply different strategies which will target body composition distribution as a primary marker, among important others. These physiological and structural adaptations transcend culture, society ideals and misleading industry, directly rising qualitative well being, health and function.
About the author:
Albert Piñol – MSc in Physical Activity and Sports Science, MSc in Exercise Physiology, DHE Snowboard Coach, DE Mountain Guide and Mountain Bike Coach. Specialized in exercise physiology, hypoxia, neuromuscular system and motor skill development. IG: @albert_pinol