Why you should gain 5 pounds, like now.

Interesting title, eh??  I’ve spent the last 4 days cramming for a continuing ed class (I take it today!), so I asked Travis if he would write one of his famous (fabulous) guest posts for me.  He agreed so here you go.  Thanks babe!

Hey all, Travis here again.

Recently I was having an online discussion about the benefits of creatine.  The conversation itself was a typical, “Should I take creatine given these stats and these goals” and while I’m generally a fan of creatine and have used it very effectively in the past, in this case the answer was no.  But then the conversation took an interesting turn.  You’ve no doubt heard some version of, “Don’t DIET – Make a LIFESTYLE change.”  And in defending short term changes, I had the opportunity to share a well known common sense fact that while obvious, is counter intuitive.  Basically you already know this but it’s not something you would naturally think about or realize:

The best thing you can do for your health, weight wise, is gain 5 pounds.

You know from science class that muscle is much denser than fat.  In fact you probably know two people who weigh roughly the same but one is much fitter than the other.  You’ve all seen pictures of Lindsay’s abs, but I expect you would be quite surprised to know how much she actually weighs (I don’t think she’s typed out the number before).  So it’s obvious that if you straight swap 5 pounds of muscle for 5 pounds of fat you will “look” thinner, and be healthier (not always connected BTW).

Ok but swapping 5 pounds of muscle for fat is really hard.  In fact, it’s kind of the dream.  It’s the goal of nearly everyone working on human body composition.  So I’m going to put forth that the next best thing is just gaining five lean pounds.  So here’s the example:

Let’s take 2, 20 year olds.  One fat, and the other fit.  Put them both on an identical diet, and exercise program (doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad). Let’s say they are both 200 pounds – the hypothetical fit person at 10% bodyfat and the other at 30%.  Don’t get me started on BMI.  Depending on the BMR calculation (Basal Metabolic Rate) you use, we are talking a difference of 300-400 calories per day and when you factor in even the lowest Activity factor of 1.2-1.3, there is a 500 calorie difference.

So at 40 years old, the “fit” hypothetical person will have burned over 1,000 extra pounds off compared to “the fat”.  And all the benefits that go along with that: better blood work, better cardiovascular health, lung function, joint health, and on and on (even better looking).  And this is all in vitro.  In real life, “the fit” is more likely to get up and dance while “the fat” just sits at the bar.  Because of the 1,000 pounds less “the fit” has put on, he’s also less likely to go on very unhealthy crash diets.  And then we have the whole other dimension of social approval, self-esteem, enjoyment of life, etc.

Given this, I again claim there is permanent benefit to temporal improvement.  By the way, 30% body fat is considered healthy so don’t think I’m using some extreme example for “the fat”.  In fact I probably need to apologize for calling 30% body fat “Fat” – that’s actually incorrect.  30% just gave me nice round numbers.  So consider for a second what an actual fat person’s stats would do to even further my argument.


Now I’m going to get crazy by adding in compounding.  See if you could just zap someone with 5 pounds of muscle, (change nothing about them expect in this instant you weigh 5 pounds more, distributed evenly over your skeletal frame, so for most people no visible change), you would give them a better, longer, healthier, more enjoyable life. That 5 pounds burning an extra 75 calories a day (using the common 15 calories per pound), which works out to just over 3 pounds of weight loss per year FOR CHANGING NOTHING.  Three years from now, they will have lost 10 pounds, along with all those health benefits. Being that healthier person they would naturally be more active further improving their health, so that over the next 10 years they would benefit even more.

 So, have I convinced you to gain weight yet?

QUESTION: Who much do you think Lindsay weighs?   Should I write a follow-up post telling you HOW to gain muscle?

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  2. Yepper muscle burns more calories than fat! People tend to be surprised at my weight although I don’t think I’m as built as Lindsay! ;)

    I’m kind of confused at burning 1000 pounds though? They are both 200 pounds…when do they burn the 1000 pounds? Or does this mean if they are both fit their whole life until the age of 40 they burn 1000 pounds?

    I think a follow-up post would be great but tricky to write! People build muscle and gain weight differently, (and have different levels of self-control and might not even have access to body mass instruments) so I’m not sure it’s a simple formula type of thing.

    You would also be assuming that everyone reading the blog is already at a healthy weight because otherwise weight loss is needed to prevent the risk of diseases. ;) But I’d love to hear your (and Lindsay’s) take on all of this! :)

    Aaand I don’t think 30% body fat is healthy. I know a BMI of 30 is considered obese, so I’m not sure why that would be healthy for the fat percentage. :)

    Sorry I just didn’t write a “you are awesome” comment, although you both are! I’m studying dietetics right now so I’m learning about all of these issues now.:)

  3. Excellent post! Love that you used actual numbers to make the comparison; so hard to demonstrate the point to people if you don’t! And yes, would love to see your follow up post (but don’t reveal Lindsay’s weight unless she wants you to…)

  4. Yes, please, a follow-up post. I’ve been on a nutrition plan and weight training, and although my body fat % has come down, so has my lean body mass! ugh!

  5. Yes on the follow up post!!! This is exactly my goal but I don’t really know how to go about it.

  6. I meant my comment to go to Lindsay from her blog on Feb. 22.
    Sorry for any confusion. I liked Travis’ post also.

  7. I have no idea how much Lindsay weighs and I don’t want to guess (because guessing something like that could trigger certain behaviors in some of us, including myself!)

    I’d love to see a followup post.

    Also, I did a post that was similar to this, but not quite as well-thought-out, a while back on Twenties Hacker (link in my comment).

    1. I originally wrote this and put in the question intending to make Lindsay laugh when she was editing and remove/replace it. Also I don’t know what “link in my comment” means. I don’t see a link.

      1. Hey Travis! Click my name. I put the link as my website in the comment form (you get pinged as spam if you put a link in the comment itself).

        Also, I amend my first answer, Lindsay is 3,000 tons of awesome packed into a neat little sweet package. :)

  8. I love building muscle. Especially that muscle burns an extra 75 calories a day. :-) I recently bought a scale that measures my body fat because I know the other number isn’t such an accurate representation of my health. I’ve got a body fat percentage well within the healthy range, but my BMI (which I hate as a stand alone measure) is considered overweight.

    Great post!

    1. The other guest (or resident guest) post I was considering was a, “Thousands of people workout multiple hours everyday, spend thousands of dollars and break laws in a failed attempt to bulk. You aren’t so incredibly amazing that your body is going to do that by accident.”