Blog post by PPT Trainer, Mary Elasi
Time and time again, as clients walk through the doors to start a training program we are presented with client A who wants to lose X kgs.
Fantastic! They have GOALS and goals are important.
There is a fundamental problem however with this approach, weight loss does not always reflect a positive movement in body composition, and don’t I know it! My recent dexa delivered my worse results to date, yet my weight was down 2 kgs. Before you all leave us in droves and question my lack of results as a trainer, let me put it all in perspective.
A week out from a powerlifting meet, I was in the best shape of my life, lean, fit & feeling really strong (well in my opinion anyway!). I had everything on point. Nutrition was great, body weight tracking exactly as it had to for my weight division and I was in a peaking phase looking set to have a great meet.
Then I broke my arm….
As if the break wasn’t enough, it was one that required surgery, then post surgery I ended up quite unwell. Lets say food was not my friend. All said & done:
- 2 weeks of zero training
- 5 days of not eating
Knowing all the while this was not an ideal situation if I wanted my body to recover as best it could and mend a broken bone. This was a disastrous combination for body composition maintenance. I had an idea on the effect this would have, but to see it in black and white reported back was something else entirely.
The human body is pretty clever and it does everything it can to keep us alive. It’s no surprise then that the metabolically expensive muscle was first on the hit list. I went along and got another Dexa, only this time my reason for the scan was to check my bone density in light of this unexpected break. I had previous dexa’s to compare the current scan against, so it was important for me to make sure that there was nothing unexplained going on with my bone health.
The great news, in the 3 months since my last Dexa, I had an increase in bone mineral density. Given my resistance training background, my bone density was never a concern in the past, but to see it increase further through the powerlifting training was comforting. With all the lifting I had been doing, I was hoping this would be the case so to say I was relieved was an understatement.
Then came the not so great news, muscle mass DOWN, fat UP. Now remember, all of this in spite of the fact I was in fact lighter on the scales. Once upon a time these results would have had me devastated. Truthfully, this time I was a little relieved because all of this information confirmed EXACTLY what it is we tell our clients here at PPT. Imagine if my scan came back good off the back of no training and poor food? What does that say about the way we live our lives as trainers and what we expect of our clients? Instead these results directly reflect the following.
- Weight on the scales isn’t the measure of success in fat loss
- Body composition improvements are reliant on nutrition and training
- Our bodies need sufficient food to support and maintain muscle
- Constant training is crucial to avoid muscle atrophy
- Weight training improves bone density
- It is bloody hard work, but well worth it!!!
My unexpected break if nothing else was a provided us with a fantastic case study to really demonstrate the importance of all these factors in body composition. So don’t be disheartened or confused if the scales aren’t shifting, yet your clothes are getting loose. For goodness sake, never rely on the scales alone. They are only one piece to this complex puzzle!
So now I am left one arm down but certainly not out. I have legs!! Cant wait to see what the next DEXA says after what will be a pretty concentrated lower body program for the next 3 months.