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. Two primary interventions drive body composition improvement: 1. Strength training in order to increase lean muscle tissue; and 2. Nutrition intended to lose body fat (and support increased muscle tissue). With so much misinformation and wasted effort in our pursuit of improved body composition, I thought I would share a 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, Director of Concierge who works at all of our locations. Taylor has worked at Discover Strength for a little over three years and her body composition 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. Note, I wrote about her results over a year ago, but she continues to utilize this approach and shows tremendous progress.
- Taylor does almost NO traditional cardio. Her last run was 14 months ago (she did a video shoot for our Instagram about 2 weeks ago, but it was a total of 20 seconds, so we aren’t counting that!).
- 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 and portion size.
Three 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 16.6%. She weighs 104.9 pounds and carries 87.5 pounds of muscle. She has produced and sustained one of the greatest body composition changes I have seen in 12 years.
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.
- Do not overemphasize additional exercise or activity (or at least, don’t feel guilty if you aren’t more active).
- Eat the foods you like, simply count calories (or monitor portion size) and make sure your daily and weekly intake is appropriate.
- Ignore the nutrition shaming that accompanies eating fast food.