Improving body composition, defined as the percentage of our body weight that is comprised of muscle versus fat, is a paramount goal for the clear majority of exercisers. Whether our pursuit is bolstered health and the prevention of chronic disease or improved aesthetic appearance, improving our body composition is a central part of the equation. With so much misinformation, confusion, and wasted effort in our quest of improved body composition, I thought I would share the ultimate success story that illustrates an evidence based, albeit unpopular approach to improving body composition.
Of all our staff at Discover Strength, one staff member embodies this approach to Body Composition: Taylor, Concierge at our Minneapolis location. Taylor has worked at Discover Strength for a little over two years and her results have been staggering. First, let's look at what she does and what she does not do in terms of exercise and nutrition. Her approach is not popular, but it is an intelligent, evidence based approach to improving body composition.
- Taylor does almost NO cardio. In the last two years, she has run approximately 1 time per month.
- Taylor strength trains twice per week. She rarely, if ever misses a workout.
- Taylor eats McDonalds 6-7 meals per week. She rotates between a "#2" (two cheeseburgers with fries) and a 10-piece chicken nugget.
- She monitors her overall caloric intake.
Two years ago, Taylor started at a body fat percentage (Bod Pod) of 27.6%. She weighed 120.11 pounds and had 86 pounds of lean mass.
Today, Taylor has a body fat percentage of 19.0%. She weighs 108.5 pounds and carries 87 pounds of muscle.
Taylor's friends mock and ridicule her for eating McDonalds because it is "unhealthy" and are confused by the fact that she only works out a total of 60 minutes per week. Meanwhile, those same friends continually increase their body fat percentage while exercising three, four, or five days per week and eating "clean." Interestingly, Taylor was a collegiate soccer player. Prior to her first Bod Pod test, she was playing soccer (exercising) for hours per day, virtually every day of the week. To be a healthier person, should Taylor cut back just a little bit on the McDonalds and substitute a healthier or more nutritious option? Yes, probably. Does eating McDonalds have a negative impact on her body composition? Absolutely not. Calories trump all else when it comes to improving body composition.
Take home message: If you are focused on improving body composition but are stagnating in your progress or are interested in expediting your progress, consider the evidence based approach employed by Taylor:
- Strength train twice per week.
- Minimize other forms of exercise (or at least, don't feel pressured to add more exercise).
- Eat the foods you like, simply count calories and make sure your daily and weekly intake is appropriate.
- Don't listen to your friends.