What Weightlifters Should Know About Body Fat
Body fat percentage is one of the most misunderstood topics in weight training. There are many misconceptions about it, which may lead to improper training techniques or even injury.
The human body is composed of three types of tissue: muscle, bone and water (or fat). Muscle makes up 80% of your total mass; bone accounts for 10%; and water constitutes only 4%. These percentages vary from person to person.
Muscle is made up of long chains of amino acids called proteins. Each protein has its own chemical structure and function, but they all work together to make up muscle fibers. When you train muscles, the energy used to do so comes from ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is stored in the form of phosphate groups inside the cell’s phosphocreatine molecule. Phosphocreatine is broken down into ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and P i , which are then converted into energy through a series of reactions. One such reaction is creatine phosphate synthesis, which occurs when the phosphate group attached to creatine phosphate attaches itself to another phosphate group in phosphocreatine.
Creatine phosphate is needed for muscle contraction, growth and repair.
Bone consists of calcium carbonate (which contains carbon atoms bonded with four oxygen atoms). In addition, bone is made up of about 22% minerals, such as phosphorus, magnesium and sodium.
Water is a combination of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. It composes the blood, organs and tissues of the human body. Without it, you would not be able to survive.
Fat, also known as adipose tissue, consists of a glycerol molecule bonded to three fatty acid chains. The cardiac muscle is found in the heart, which is responsible for pumping blood through the body. It does not respond to conscious control, but rather to automatic nervous system commands.
Smooth muscle can be found in the arteries, stomach, intestines, bladder and genitals. It is also not under conscious control, but is stimulated by one’s emotions.
The skeletal muscle, which makes movement possible, is what you see when a body builder displays bulging muscles. It is under voluntary control and responds to commands from the brain.
Calorie burning is directly related to the amount of muscle in your body. The greater the muscle, the higher the daily resting metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories). This is why you may notice a difference in how many calories you burn at rest between weightlifters and endurance runners, even if they both have the same height and weight.
Muscle is denser than fat, which is why it is possible to be skinny and still appear fat (if you have a higher percentage of fat in your body than muscle). A common myth that has been perpetuated by the media is that lifting weights will make you big and bulky. While this may be true for some men, it is not true for most. The majority of women who lift weights do not experience huge increases in muscle size, even after years of training. The media (magazines, television, movies) often portrays images of women with exaggerated muscular bodies in an attempt to sell products and entertain viewers.
It is a myth that women who weight train will become big and bulky. If this were true, then all professional female body builders would look like the women you see on the cover of fitness magazines.
Hormones play an important role in building muscle. The most important of these hormones are testosterone and growth hormone. In fact, women do not have the testosterone levels to build large amounts of muscle.
After lifting weights, it is normal to feel soreness in the muscles that you have trained. This is caused by tiny tears within the muscle fiber and is repaired within a day or two after training. As you grow stronger, your muscles become more resilient and can repair themselves faster. The more you stress your muscles (through things like weight training), the more testosterone your body releases. Testosterone is an androgen (a male hormonal agent), which exercises a strengthening effect on muscle tissue.
The average woman naturally produces far less testosterone than the average man. One way to increase your testosterone levels is to engage in physical activity, especially weight training.
Another important hormone when it comes to building muscle is growth hormone. Most of the soreness results from the initial trauma to the muscle fiber and will not appear with increased training. It is primarily released while you are sleeping. Most adults do not experience a significant release of growth hormone on a regular basis, which makes building muscle more difficult after puberty. Growth hormone affects the muscles and the immune system, increases the rate at which cells regenerate, and affects bone growth.
Some people abuse anabolic steroids in order to accelerate their muscle building (and other) goals. Anabolic steroids are artificial hormones, related to testosterone. If it does, then you may have hit the limits of your body’s ability to increase muscle size and strength.
If your goal is to build as much muscle as possible, then there are drugs that can be taken (anabolic steroids) to ensure that you build as much muscle as quickly as possible. Most of these drugs are illegal, so it is not something I would advise. The proper use of anabolic steroids can increase muscle mass, decrease fat storage, and improve energy levels. Anabolic steroids vary in their characteristics, as some are more suited to promoting muscle growth than others. Most of them have a strong side effect of masculinizing female users (virilization).
Most anabolic steroids today are illegal for non-therapeutic purposes in most countries. Over the counter supplements do exist and are not (directly) illegal, but may have negative side effects and can be just as dangerous.
Note: I would not suggest taking any drug or medicine to enhance your weight lifting ability. Most of these drugs have side effects that will far outweigh any benefits that you might get from them. Only you can decide what you think is best in your situation, but only you will have to live with the consequences. There are several exceptions however, namely pharmaceutical anabolic steroids that are prescribed to people with medical conditions that cause a loss of muscle mass (e.g.
AIDS patients, cancer patients).
When it comes to bodybuilding, the line between use and abuse of anabolic steroids is vague, since it is not clear when somebody crosses the line from proper use to abuse.
So what does it take to be big?
First you must eat plenty of food. To build lots of muscle you need to consume more calories than your body burns (diet). It also helps to eat often, 5-6 meals a day. The body has an easier time processing smaller amounts of food more frequently.
Then you must work your muscles. Lifting weights is the best way to build muscle, but pushing yourself in football, wrestling, basketball, etc. The general medical consensus is that the line is crossed when a person takes more than a reasonable dosage. However, there is no set criteria to determine what is too much, since it can vary depending on the user’s individuality and the type of anabolic steroid.
Some people take the position that if any use of anabolic steroids is abuse then there would be no such thing as a responsible user. can all build muscle as well. It is important that you keep track of your progress, by measuring yourself and taking “before” pictures. This way you will know when you have made good progress.
You must rest. When you work your muscles they get tired, so rest them to allow for recovery and growth. Sleep is the best form of rest, 8 hours a night is ideal. There are many reasons for this. First, most people who abuse anabolic steroids have no medical need to do so.
Second, even people with a medical need can sometimes take more than is necessary and this can be dangerous. Third, some of the drugs have dangerous and even life-threatening side effects.
Most anabolic steroids are taken as pills or injections. Some can even be taken in the form of a skin cream.
Also be sure to stretch your muscles before and after working out. You want to pull the muscle tight and hold it for a few seconds, then slowly let it relax for a few more seconds.
The actual act of weight lifting should be kept to 1 hour or less. After an hour the body starts producing higher amounts of stress hormones, which break down muscle instead of building it up.
Most anabolic steroids are grouped together as either oil-based or water-based. Oil-based have a longer half-life and stay in your system longer, usually at least a week and can stay in your system for months when taken in large amounts. Water-based have a shorter half-life and clear out of your system faster, usually a couple days to a week.
The two main catagories are anabolic and androgenic. Anabolic meaning that it promotes anabolism (cell growth), and androgenic meaning that it promotes masculine traits. While all anabolic steroids have androgenic qualities, not all of them have a lot.
The most commonly used injectable (shots) steroids are Deca-Durabolin, Dianabol, Equipoise, Testosterone, and Winstrol.
Sources & references used in this article:
Body fat distribution and sleep apnea severity in women by RP Millman, CC Carlisle, ST McGarvey, SE Eveloff… – Chest, 1995 – Elsevier
A comparison of the effects of a wrestling practice and a weightlifting workout on the body fat percent of wrestlers by ME Bergerson – 1994 – minds.wisconsin.edu
Weightlifting, weight training and injuries by JR Basford – Orthopedics, 1985 – healio.com
Athletes, athletic performance, and eating disorders: Healthier alternatives by RA Thompson, R Trattner Sherman – Journal of Social Issues, 1999 – Wiley Online Library
Become insulin sensitive first to lose belly fat by E Trexler
Weightlifting vs. Powerlifting in Personal Training Programs by M Home – healthbodynurturing.com
Weightlifting by A Hedrick – ptonthenet.com