How to Measure Fat and Muscle in Your Body

Are you tired of feeling defeated by the numbers on the scale? You can take control of your health and weight in your 40s and beyond, and in this episode, I explain how body composition is key. How do you measure it exactly, and what are the best (and worst) tools for the job? You’ll learn the metrics that matter, because when you have the right information, you can take the right action. And, when you address what your body needs, you’ll naturally—and effortlessly—start to lose fat.


00:00:01 – JJ Virgin shares her expertise on body composition
00:06:22 – Bio impedance scale measures body water; contestants dehydrate for weight loss; bone density test recommended for all ages; importance of measuring body composition
00:16:30 – Tall, athletic build versus other body types, struggles with weight
00:19:13 – Bio impedance scale measures weight, body composition
00:24:08 – Consider body type and frame size, focus on increasing fat-free mass Use DXA scans to track progress
00:28:13 – Subcutaneous and visceral body fat analyzed in DEXA
00:30:08 – Gained muscle, decreased body fat, lifelong dedication
00:34:35 – Comparison of Android and Gynoid fat distribution, Android Gynoid ratio, appendicular skeletal muscle index, and bone mineral density assessed through a DEXA scan
00:38:20 – Boost metabolism by optimizing thyroid, building muscle
00:41:18 – Computer analyzing breath reveals oxygen consumption

Mentioned in this episode:

Use a bioimpedance scale at home: Tanita’s Body Composition Scale

Learn more about a DEXA scan

How to measure your waist-to-hip measurement plus a chart 

Evaluating your waist-to-height ratio is another important measurement

Using BMI to help you evaluate your goal weight 

Tanita’s Segmental Body Composition Scale

The ideal body fat percentage from the American Council on Exercise 

Podcast episode: What’s a Loaded Smoothie and How to Make One 

Shop Reignite Wellness All-One-One Protein Shakes

Shop Reignite Wellness Collagen Peptides Powder to add to your protein smoothies  

Click Here To Read Transcript

ATHE_Transcript_Ep 522_Weekly Q&A
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, this is JJ Virgin four time, New York Times bestselling author, celebrity nutrition expert, and fitness Hall of famer. I’ve been on a lifelong quest for answers to the toughest health questions, and now I’m sharing what I’ve found with you. Welcome to Ask the Health Expert. Each week I answer big questions directly from the folks in my community and chances.
There are topics you’ve been wondering about too. If you’d like to submit a question for me to answer on a future episode, send it to
Okay. This is going to be a big episode today. We are gonna unpack, Body composition and really get into, okay, so if it’s, if it’s more about what your weight’s made up of than your weight, [00:01:00] what should it be made up of? And really we’ve got two different things. We’re gonna be talking about fat versus muscle, but we’re not just talking fat.
We’re gonna talk about where that fat’s located. And then also in terms of muscle, do you have enough and a little bit about bone density as. And I’m going to talk about some of the different ways that you can look at things. Basically my big recommendation is that you get a bioimpedance scale for home.
These things have become so much less expensive. I will tell you, when I had my first professional one, it was a $5,000 one. It’s actually the one I used on the Dr. Phil show for a couple years. More on that and a bit. But now a hundred bucks, maybe you really splurge and get an amazing one for 300 bucks.
That plus a tape measure, plus an annual or semi-annual biannual DEXA scan and you are in business. So we’re gonna walk through all of this stuff. So you really know what you need, what you need to be looking at, and more [00:02:00] importantly, you know what you measure and monitor, you can improve. How the heck you can improve this?
Because especially as you age, and I’m thinking it’s over, it’s either after the age of 30 or after the age of 40. Apparently we lose 1% of our muscle mass every year. So if you’re losing muscle, And I want you to think about this, but your weight staying the same or going up, it’s way worse because now you’re having higher body fat, less muscle, and we wanna avoid that.
And you wouldn’t really know unless you were measuring it correctly. So that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. Now I will tell you that way, way back when, when I was doing my PhD program over at USC, we had a whole semester that we just focused on body composition testing, and back then there were not a whole lot of really good options out there, pretty much in the field.[00:03:00]
you over at USC, actually went to all of my clients way back when with a scale, a tape measure and calipers. Skin fold calipers. You know, where you’d pull the skin away from the muscle with the fat. So you have your skin and fat, you pull it away from the muscle, and from that you take a series of three to seven sites.
You look at their age and their sex, and you make a. And of course this is going to be based heavily on how good you are at pulling away the skin from the fat. But there was a big challenge I saw with caliper’s back then. And the big challenge with caliper’s was if someone had a lot of visceral fat, fat around the organs.
Well, I couldn’t pull that away. And what I started to notice was that people would look like they didn’t have that much buddy fat, but I would look at them and their waist measurement or waist hip was way bigger than it should have been. So you knew something was up, but there was no way to see it after time.
Once we had bioimpedance. What I decide to do, and I [00:04:00] saw it first with underwater weighing. So again, we were doing mainly underwater weighing and calipers. And what I decided to do was realize that the disparity between the Body composition measures, because there’s always some disparity, and I’ll tell you why, but you know, when you account for that, if there was still a lot of disparity, meaning that everything that the calipers rated you lower than say Dexa or.
Bioimpedance or hydrostatic weighing that would tell me that you had more visceral fat. Fortunately, now we don’t have to worry about that because there’s plenty of ways to see it. The other thing that I really couldn’t stand back then is I, we had, we had to go do the dunk tank so many times it was, it was awful , and what you would have to do is blow all your air out and hold it, and you’d sit under the water on a scale and you couldn’t move.
And your measurement would really depend on how well you got all the air out, [00:05:00] and if you were dehydrated or over hydrated, that would impact the results. So there was a lot of error in that. Now, thankfully, We have much better options nowadays. The first option that became very, you know, at the time I first started using a bioimpedance, it was way more expensive.
They were more professional grade scales. I was using one on the Dr. Phil show and my first one didn’t do this, but my second one was segmental, which was super cool. And what would happen was I could tell where, not just what on your body was fat versus fat-free mass. More on that in a moment. But I could also tell where it was located so I could see if your muscle mass in your arms was, even if your right arm equaled your left, if your left leg equaled your left right leg.
But I also could see truncal fat and something that we specifically called Android fat or visceral adiposity Android fat. Is not all visceral. Adiposity would have some extra [00:06:00] stuff, but what we’re really looking at is that visceral adiposity, that’s that fat that surrounds your organs. That is the really dangerous fat.
So bioimpedance works basically because it sends an impedance wave through your body and fat. Is going to put up a resistance to it. And the amount of resistance is how it predicts body fat. Now it’s really based on your total body water. So if you are hydrated, over hydrated or under hydrated, your results will look different.
And in fact, it was how I could tell that something was up with the Dr. Phil Challengers. And I’ll tell you the little story. It was crazy. We were having this contest, and the contest was the group that lost the most weight in a. Collectively got to all go to Canyon Ranch and bring a friend. Now, I don’t know about you.
I was like, bring me, you know, I wanted to go. And the end result between these two groups was a half a [00:07:00] pound difference in weight loss total, one half pound total between the two groups. Like one group lost, you know, 80 pounds, one group lost 80 and a half pounds. The group that won though, what I noticed on the scale is that their body fat went sky high that morning.
And so I, I figured something was up. And when I queried them, this is what they told me. Now, here’s the thing. We didn’t have this in the rules, so they won legit, right? But the reality was they won by , by dehydrating their tissue. So what they did the day before is they didn’t eat, they didn’t drink, they sauna.
They went into their rooms, they stuffed towels under their bathroom doors. They turned the water up, steamed, you know, lost a lot of water, dehydrated themselves, did a ton of cardio exercise. And so the next morning, cuz they were so dehydrated, the body fat looked high, right? Because they’d lost a lot of the water.
And higher body water means higher [00:08:00] muscle. Because your body uses carbohydrates, takes, takes carbohydrates with water and stores it as glycogen in your muscles. So there you go. A little insider scoop from the days on the Dr. Phil Show. Now. Overall though, when you’re using a bioimpedance scale every day, and we’ll talk about this as we get into recommendations and you’re looking for the average over the week, both of your weight and your body composition, that’s perfect.
Then those daily fluctuations won’t, won’t be a big deal right now. . I was able, in my thirties, I went and had a bone density test. I did it in my late thirties. I might have even been 40. I don’t remember exactly when it was. I just remembered that the local pharmacist in Palm Desert had a DEXA scan and he goes, come on over and get your bone density done.
I’m like, okay. And I wanted to do this because in my early twenties I was put on a medication called Lupron that makes your body go into early menopause. Now you come out of it, but it mimics [00:09:00] that. And so I was always concerned about my bone density and I’ve always done things to really load my spine and my hips, so I got to do this DEXA
now I’ll tell you a little bit about it cause I just did it again and I did it and I also did a resting metabolic rate test. And that’s what I’m gonna share with you is all of this and help you unpack it. So a bone density test is or a DEXA scan. What that stands for is dual energy x-ray absorbed geometry and.
You don’t need to freak out about that cause you’re like, oh my God, X-ray. It’s like so low level it scans, you know, these are the most widely used tests to measure bone mineral density. But here’s what’s cool about it, that’s important. And we’re gonna talk about my bone mineral density and how, what you need to do there as well.
That’s super important. And honestly, I don’t know why we wait till women are 50 to 60 or men too to do that. We should be doing that in our. I actually caught a client in Palm Desert [00:10:00] who came to me with celiac disease. And was just a mess. No one had told him about cross reaction with corn or problems with dairy when you’d celiac.
So he was eating that stuff and his gut was a mess. We got him off of that and got him better. But the challenge was he’d also done a lot of damage with nutrient absorption. So I sent him, I said, you know, you should get a bone mineral density test. And they, you know, I think maybe he was even in his forties.
Needless to say, the doctors thought I was, they were like, why are you doing that? That’s a waste. Well, guess what? Osteoperdoic. So we wanna catch this as early as possible. And really, you know, your twenties up to 30 is, is really your teens or your best bone building years, but we gotta catch this early. So whatever age you are listening to this, I’m gonna recommend a bone density scan, but I’m gonna recommend a DEXA, something you do one to two times a year anyway.
And because of being able to get the gold standard, Your body composition, cuz that’s what we’re really gonna look at here. It’s gonna tell your [00:11:00] body how much is fat and muscle and where that fat comes from. Is it visceral around your organs? Cuz that is really the, the scary stuff. Or is it subcutaneous?
You might not like it, but that’s not the dangerous stuff. So again, we’re gonna go through the different ways that you can assess your body composition. A tape measure. A bioimpedance scale. A DEXA and also I’m gonna talk a little bit at the end about resting metabolic rate, and then we’re gonna talk about what you should be doing on an ongoing basis.
And by the way, yes, this is gonna be a lot of numbers. I’m warning you, it’s a lot of numbers, but these are really, really important numbers. So stick with me. We will have show notes. You can get all the information. And then we’re gonna talk about like what you should be doing every day and every week so that you just do this because what you measure and monitor, you can improve.
And I know there’s a whole lot of hoo-ha right now about getting on a scale. We have got to look at a scale, like we’d look at a DEXA body scan, like we’d [00:12:00] look at a tape measure, like we’d look at a blood pressure cuff For a continuous glucose monitor, it is a biometric tool to give you information to tell you what you need to focus on.
And for so many people, it’s actually not losing weight, it’s holding onto a building muscle first as the most important thing that you can. Or finding out that you’ve got high visceral fat and that you need to make some changes to fix fat. So we gotta get over the scale and all the scale you know, emotional stuff we have around it.
And I’ll, I’ll share a little bit about what I’ve been doing, cuz it showed up for me too. I’m not immune. And we just gotta get over that and start to really focus on the metrics that matter. You know, bone density, where that fat’s located. Is it visceral fat? And your skeletal muscle? So first thing we’re gonna do is start with the tape measure.
Tape measure what costs like under $10. Now the type of tape measure that I want you to get is a little bit wider, right? And what I want you to do [00:13:00] here, you’re gonna be measuring three things. Number one, measure your height. And you might think you know your height, but if you’ve not measured your height since you were 20, it’s changed.
So measure your height, measure your hips, the way you measure your hips, as you put your feet together and you measure around your hips at the widest point. and then you measure your waist, and that’s right around the belly button. And don’t suck in. Okay? . And do not pull the tape. Measure tight. The tape measure should not have any slack in it.
But don’t like yank it, right? You know my I can’t tell you how many men, when I was seeing clients, would tell me their waist measurement. And then I do their waist measurement. And generally I found that their waist measurement was two inches bigger than what they told me their waist measurement was because they were used to putting on pants, yanking the belt tight and then their stomach would come over it.
So again, that’s not what we’re doing here. We are having a reality check because what, you know, when we have this [00:14:00] information, we can take the right action about it. Okay? Now one of the things I really love, we’re gonna talk two different ratios. The waist to hip. And the waist to height. And the reason I’m looking at these is this is one of the easy ways to tell if your visceral fat is improving, right?
Because people hate that belly fat, but it’s the deep internal fat around the belly. That’s really the problem. Like if you’ve got, and I, I used to have a client like this that, that, I just love this Italian. And I remember, like I would do her skin folds around her belly and they were bar, I could barely pull ’em, but she had like, it was like she had a big potato.
I always called it like that potato on stilts. That is a very metabolically unhealthy body where you’ve got thin arms and legs and this big trunk. And that’s what she had. She had thin arms and legs. She didn’t have a whole lot of body fat on her arms and legs. You couldn’t get to her body. You know, because her stomach was pushed so hard [00:15:00] against because she had so much visceral fat.
And so that’s what we want to pay attention to is that waist to hip and waist to height ratio. So on a waist to hip ratio, and we’ll have all these statistics for you. What you wanna do is waist to hip for a woman, ideally should be somewhere 0.8 or lower, and that’s for a low health risk and for men 0.95 or.
Okay. High health risk for a man, by the way, is one or higher. So if your waist and hip are the same, your risk, your health risks are, are high. And for a woman it’s 0.86 or higher. Now, other one we’re gonna look at is waist to height. So waist to height is obvious, right? So what you wanna do here is you wanna have a waist to height ratio.
That’s somewhere in the 0.4 to point 0.49. That is a good one. Anything at 0.5 to 0.59, increased risk and 0.6 high risk. There you [00:16:00] go. So we’ll also have a link to that as well. So it’s super easy to do. Let’s just briefly touch on B M I. It makes me irritated. . And I guess I’ll never forget in high school.
So I will tell you that I have been athletic my whole life, not an athlete. I was never that great at anything. Sadly, I looked like I should be this really great athlete. Cause I’m so tall, I’m six feet tall. And coaches, when I would come into school for the first time, were like, you know, salivating, and then I and then they’re like, oh, forget it.
You know, I played volleyball, I played basketball. Not good. I ran track. Not good. I mean, just average, right? But I always did all of these things. I did gymnastics, I lifted weights with the football team. So I’ve always been super active. I really gravitated towards, towards much more of the strength stuff.
Like I liked more of the sprinting and the resistance training and gymnastics. I loved gymnastics and acrobatics. And so because of. I was always heavier than all [00:17:00] the other girls. I had a lot more muscle mass on me and I’m a more of a mesomorph by nature. A mesomorph is a more muscular body type.
There’s also ectomorphs, the thinners and the endomorphs, the kind of, I call it chubbier, fluffier. And I remember when I met my birth mom at 25, same body type as me. Easy to put on muscle. Very mesomorphic. So. in my early teens because I was so tall, you know, it was like, oh, you should be a model. And I remember going into modeling school and I’ve literally weighed since I’ve been like 14, 150 pounds, pretty much 150 pounds most of the time.
And they said, oh, you need to weigh 120. And I remember trying to drop weight. My dance teacher asked me if I was anorexic at 140. I just couldn’t do it. And that is why B m I, which is your kilograms over meter squared, right? So, Weight over height [00:18:00] squared is just really difficult because for the Mesomorphic person, it can make you look bigger than you are.
So we’re gonna give you the statistics for that. But to me, I don’t care. Because again, I wanna know what’s that weight’s made up of, because you could have someone, we just went, we just went and saw a football game, and finally here in, in Tampa. And you know that those defensive line are, have got high body mass index, but they’re also, you know, they’re, they’re, they don’t have high body fat.
Well, maybe they do. I don’t know. One of ’em looked like he might have. But most of ’em, the way they’re moving and working out holy smokes.
So what we’re gonna look at instead is we are gonna look at weight, but we wanna look at weight. Weight, what weight’s made up of. And honestly, the easiest way for you to do this on a regular basis is with a bioimpedance scale. And I already told you how it works. [00:19:00] Here’s what’s gonna give you, it’s gonna give you weight, it’s gonna give you body fat percentage, it’s gonna give you total body water.
It’s gonna give you fat-free mass now, fat-free mass and total body. Total lean body mass are almost the same, so I’m not gonna get into the semantics of it. One thing to know is that you’ve got your body fat in your fat free mass. It still has a little bit of body fat because you need body fat around your organs.
You’ve got some fat in your bone marrow, all that kind of stuff, right? So but we don’t need to major in the minors here, really. I’ve always looked at this and went way back when all we really looked at was body fat percentage and either fat-free mass or lean body mass. That’s what I looked at. And total body water.
Now we can see visceral fat, which is fantastic. And if you’ve got a segmented body fat machine, not only can you see segmented fat, you can also look at your arms and legs and you can see if they’re even like, I just discovered [00:20:00] that my left arm has got a pound less muscle than my right, which is really disappointing.
and I will be doing more things. Single lever. So using, instead of using say a bar, I’m gonna use two dumbbells. And the interesting thing is I do most of my workouts that way, so it’s kind of like, how the heck did that happen? A little frustrating anyway, but it allows you to see if your legs are the same, if your arms are the same, both in fat and muscle, I don’t know what you would do if you had a fatter armor, a fatter leg.
Since I don’t know how to spot reduce but maybe we could do some like heat shock protein work with hot compresses. I don’t know. But it’s really much more about the muscle. So that’s what it allows you to do, but it also lets you see visceral adiposity. We didn’t used to be able to do that, which is great.
It might show up as truncal fat, but these are the things you’re looking for. Basically on your, on your machine is how much your body is fat, how much your body is fat free mass, [00:21:00] and how much of that fat is visceral fat. Okay, those are the important things. Your visceral fat should be 10% or less of your overall body fat.
So if you’ve got 25% body fat, 2.5% of that should be, or less should be visceral audipose tissue. So let’s say that you have 30 pounds of fat mass. You need to have three pounds or less of visceral adipose tissue. Okay, so here’s what’s wild. back when I was in school long I, granted it was a long time ago.
However, we’ve not changed and what I don’t understand is what we were told were the ideal ranges back then. don’t seem to be the same ideal ranges as now, like what I was taught back in school. Was it? Well, the, the essential fats stayed the same, and this will help you understand why men and women are different, right?
Men have only two to 5% essential fat they need on them to survive. [00:22:00] Women, 10 to 13%. So you see already. That even though we tend to be like women tend to have more type two muscle fibers, we’re capable of the same amount of hypertrophy. We just don’t have as much muscle as men. We can build muscle the same, but we don’t have as much muscle.
So we won’t be as strong Men have less fat than us right out the gate, which is why they have better metabolism. They have more muscle, right? That’s gonna dictate a better metabolism. Not a better metabolism, but a metabolism that burns more calories. So once you get into the athletic range, this chart I’m looking at from the American Council of Exercise on exercises, athletes male athletes will have like somewhere in the six to 13% body fat range and female athletes, 14 to 20%.
Now in the fitness range, and this is where I disagree because in fitness what I was always told for men is 10 to 15%, and for women, 18 to [00:23:00] 22 for fitness. In this one it says 14 to 17% for men, 21 to 24% for women. I’m gonna tell you kind of what this all means in a moment, and you’ll get the chart. Then the sedentary average, you know, Is 18 to 24% for men and 25 to 31% for women.
32% are more for women obese, 25% or more for men, obese. Here’s where I take this. Men I would really want to hit, have you hit somewhere in the 15 to 20% range. Ideally really much more like 15. If we were gonna say, Hey, strive for 15% women, 20 to 25%, if you’re one of the curvier women, you know, depending on your body type.
I had a great, great gal who was a client And she was like, I don’t wanna look like you. I go, you’re not gonna look like me. We have such different body types. You have, you’re so curvy. And I wish I could have those curves. So if you’re more of the curvy type, you might be [00:24:00] a 25%. She was more of an end you know, an endomorph.
If you’re more of the fit type, you might be 20%. But I, that’s where I tend to go with women. And it just keeps it easy. That way when we’re starting to think about the next part, which I’ll tell you about at the end, you’ll be able to do it because basically what I like to do is say, okay, I can figure out your ideal body weight.
Right? What you do is you get your frame size and your height will put links to this, and then you determine your ideal body weight from your ideal body weight. You go, okay, I want to be 20% body fat, so let’s. That you are 120 pounds is your ideal body weight, and you wanna be 10% body fat, right? So if you’re 10% body fat, what does that mean?
That means 24 pounds of you are fat, right? So if 24 pounds of you are fat, 96 pounds of you would be fat-free mass. Now, when we get on the bioimpedance scale, we can go, [00:25:00] okay, let’s say that you’re 130 pounds. But you only have 90 pounds of fat-free mass. My first focus with you would be let’s get that fat-free mass up because if we get your fat-free mass up, you’ll be more insulin sensitive.
Your metabolism will burn more calories. It’ll act like metabolic spanks. Hold everything in tighter, right, and you’ll naturally, it’ll naturally help you start to lose that fat. Then when we get your, your fat free mass up to where it is. , we can start to go, okay, we can start to work on the other. But a lot of it will have been taken care of just by focusing on building muscle.
See how we can use the scale in such a more sane way. It’s so cool. Okay. Let’s talk DEXA and here’s what you get from the Dexa. And I’ve got like, I have been digging through, I’ve been listening to decks of podcasts. I am showing my, my nerd, my inner nerd showing I had been going through all my Dexa scans.
I wish I had my DEXA scan from way back when, but I remember the [00:26:00] number and I remember my weight. So there, so Dexa is gonna give you your body fat, it’s gonna tell you where that fat is. You think, you know, trust me. But it’s not where you think it is. It might be, it’s gonna tell you is that. , Android, apple shape, gynoid more in the hips and thighs.
And where is it in terms of your arms, your legs, right? Because each body part, you’re gonna be able to see how much is fat, how much is lean, how much is bones, how much is just tissue. So you’ll also, again, be able to compare your arms and legs, right and left sides. You’ll be able to see what’s going on with your trunk.
Oddly enough, my right side of my trunk and my left side of my trunk had this big disparity. I’m like, what the heck is that? They go, oh, it’s just probably your organs. I go, okay. Cause I’m like, I don’t know really how to fix that. It’ll give you your total body fat, percentage body fat in each area. And again, that Android gynoid you also get this other rating [00:27:00] called the Appendicular skeletal muscle index, or relative skeletal muscle index, which we will talk about, and you’ll get a predicted resting metabolic rate.
Okay? Which you can also get that predicted resting metabolic rate from the bioimpedance machine. I’ll show you why. It’s not gonna be quite accurate unless you really have it done. So if you wanna totally geek out, you can do that too. So, . Remember, when you’re looking at total body fat, you’re gonna get subcutaneous and then visceral around the organs.
So one of the first things you’re gonna get from DEXA and I will tell you here’s, here’s what I gotta tell you about this. I genetically have low body fat. In fact, in order for me to, to kind of stay in a reasonable zone of, of everything, I have to stay pretty. But I naturally do. I mean, I don’t naturally do, I work my butt off, let’s be honest with my workout program.
More on that, on a whole separate podcast where I will tell you exactly what I do for, for workouts. [00:28:00] If you want, let me know if you’d love to hear about that. But literally when I had my Dexa done in my late thirties, I remember it was 13% body. And I was, my weight was probably around 152. And I remember like my trunk was super lean and, and I, and at the time I was like, I’ve always felt like my trunk’s, my part I don’t like, and it was funny cause I was like, it’s super lean.
Okay, I gotta get over myself. And what’s interesting is I just did it again at 59 and it’s 14.2% body. And my trunk is super leaned. So it is interesting cuz I’m really, what I’m working on is putting on as much muscle as possible. Right now, because I’m heading into the zone, I’m sliding into the gears where it’s harder and harder to put on muscle, although I haven’t really hit that yet.
I seem to be totally fine. And I’ll tell you what just happened. So I’m really monitoring this now and I’m also monitoring my husband who just [00:29:00] had his body composition over the last year changed and his hormones changed. So we were able to nip that in the bud. And as we go through his process, I’ll probably share about his too, cuz he’s cool with it.
Anyway one of the reasons I wanted to go in and do the dexa was I decided that I was going to really up my workouts and I was gonna work on putting on a couple pounds of muscle mass. My weight was sitting around 1 48 to one 50 and I thought, you know, I would like to put on two to five pounds of muscle, and I knew that that could take.
You know, I mean it could take three to six months, it takes a while, but I figured I could put on a pound or two of muscle in a month or two. Anyway, it has been three months and my weight is now sitting at about 1 53, put on three pounds of muscle. Cuz I was looking at my body composition on my.
Impedance scale and there it [00:30:00] was sitting more around 15% at 1 52. So I put on muscle drop body fat, right? I didn’t necessarily drop body fat, but when I added muscle, the body fat percentage improved. Now I will tell you I have a crazy low body fat percentage in a lot of muscle for a female, especially at 59 years old, 59 and a half to be exact.
That’s just crazy. However, I’ve also been lifting weights and working out since I was a little kid, and I started lifting weights in high school. Before it was cool to do it before there were gyms, right? So this has been a long, long time where I’ve really never not worked out. Even when I had my hip and knee surgeries, cuz of old injuries, I still would work out.
I remember driving to the hospital after I had A meniscus repair. Literally driving to the hos, driving from the hospital to the gym. I did this. I kid you not with my left foot on the gas and brake and cuz my right leg was the one that was repaired [00:31:00] going on crutches. To the gym floor, finding the Schwinn Aerodyne where I could put one leg up and use my arm and my leg to do intervals, and then hopping around to weights, to lift weights.
I really did that. So I’ve literally always been, been consistent with this stuff, but over the last couple years, Five probably. I’ve been in a bit of an exercise route except for the hot yoga, which I’m really pleased with myself about. Although last two summers ago I went and did a Dexa and same thing.
No, I did an InBody scan. Same thing. 14% body fat. So. I decided it was time to really up the weights, and one of the things that I changed was I’d been doing fasted workouts and I’d been really monitoring my protein intake and making sure as I was going into this building phase, I was gonna get a gram per pound of ideal body weight.
So I was going for 150 grams a day, starting out with 50 to 60 grams [00:32:00] because that bumper meal is so key critical that first meal. So and fifties, really my benchmark there. So I, I found that when I ate and then went to the gym an hour or so after that. My workouts went up 30. I kid you not. This is a ton.
30%. 30%, 30%. And I’ve been working out forever. You don’t usually get much in the way of gains, but all of a sudden the difference between me going in and having had some food versus not unbelievable. Unbelievable. I mean, so I kinda went, well, that’s that. Like the most important thing with your workout is the quality of your workout, right?
So the answer of should you work out faster or not, it’s like, depends on the quality of your workout. If I have a, one of my protein smoothies where I dump in some extra collagen and that’s what I’ve been doing is protein smoothie, extra collagen using this flax milk that’s also got protein [00:33:00] in it.
It to kick up my protein levels. That changed everything for me and my weights went up, but I literally kicked up all of my weights significantly. So it’s been fun. And then I’ve added extra sets. I’ve been alternating one day heavy, eight to 12, four sets, one day burnout, 25 reps, three sets, which I truly hate.
Okay. I will break down the rest of this and what, what went down? So the first thing, Android versus gynoid fat, and again, gynoid, that’s the pear shape. You know, fat in the hips and thighs and Android. That’s the apple shape, which is mainly visceral fat. It’s that fat in the upper thoracic region. So, or Android is fat around the midsection.
gynoid is fat around the hips. , top of the thighs. So the Android gynoid ratio is something that you wanna have [00:34:00] at, you want this to be, be 1.0. Or below actually wanted to be below that, right? Super important. So mine was 0.37, which I was super excited about. My Android, I had 4.7 pounds, my gynoid 20.8 pounds.
And again, what else can you look to look at this? You can look at your waist to hip or you can look at your waist to height. . Okay. So that’s how you can do it at home. But you’ll you, when you go get your Dexa scan done, see I’m already future pacing you that you’re gonna get your Dexa scan done. This is one of the things you’re gonna look at.
Next thing you’re gonna look at and your report should have all this stuff on it so that you do not have to go do math as the appendicular skeletal muscle index or relative skeletal muscle. Index. What the heck is that? Well, the apendicular skeletal muscle index is the upper and lower extremities, so it’s the sum of them adjusted with height, and so it’s the [00:35:00] sum of the four limbs.
And then it’s divided by height squared. Okay? And what you wanna have here is you want to have a 7.23 or higher for men, 5.67 or higher for women. Mine was 7.8. And then also, of course, you want to compare your right and left sides, interestingly enough to make you a little crazy on the dexa. My left arm was 5.99 pounds of muscle, and my right was 7.5 pounds of muscle.
That’s a big difference. Then at home, my right arm was a pound less than my left. I was like, but I probably wiggled at home, so I’m gonna do it again at home. I’m assuming the dexa was correct. So now one other thing, two other things I got from the dexa. I got my bone mineral density. Again, that’s super important and what you’re really looking at is.
Your T-score and your Z score, and really your T-score is looking [00:36:00] at how many standard deviations your bone density is from a young adult’s bone density. Basically someone who’s got great bone density. And then your Z score is how many, how you are based on someone who is your age and gender.
Gender, really that doesn’t matter. You t-score is really what you care about because comparing yourself to someone else at your age when, like, let’s say in our fifties, sixties, seventies, you’re losing bone. I don’t want that. You wanna compare yourself to optimal, which is your T-score. Okay. It’s funny, I looked at all of mine and the score I got the highest on was my head.
I was like, dad, you were right. I have a hard head. You are so right. Okay. So the final thing that you can get from this, but I also did something different to find it out, is resting metabolic rate. Now, how often do you hear? I know one of the biggest [00:37:00] questions I had asked, how do I boost my metabolism? I get asked it all the time.
All the time, and the answer has always been, make sure your thyroid is optimal, not in range. Do not fall for that. and put on more muscle because muscles, metabolic spanks, right? It muscle protein synthesis, what it takes to keep that muscle on and repairing itself, because remember muscles like a brick wall where they’re pulling out old bricks, putting in new bricks.
That’s always happening as you age. They start pulling out more old bricks than they put in new bricks. So that’s breaking down. That’s not good. We wanna make sure we have really good muscle protein synthesis, which is why we need to push. More protein as we age. We need to make sure we’re not inflamed, which shuts it down.
And we wanna make sure that we don’t have anabolic resistance. So weight training helps overcome that. Super important. But resting metabolic rate is gonna be based on really on the bioimpedance scale, be based on your muscle. On the dexa, I got rated at [00:38:00] that. I have 5, 1596 calories, basically 1600 calories at rest.
Now what does that mean? This thing. That means that at rest when I’m not doing a thing, if I was just sitting there sitting around all day long doing nothing, that I burn 1600 calorie. Now the minute you start to do anything, like one of the big ways that that people can expend a lot of calories is something called non-exercise activity.
Thermogenesis problem is you can’t force that. That’s kind of a genetic thing. Do you fidget or not? And what they found is lean people when they overeat, tend to fidget more to get back to homeostasis. And lean people in general tend to be bigger fidgeters. There’s just, the activity is daily living, you know, going up and down the stairs digestion, and that’s why I love protein.
It’s a, it’s more thermic than the other ones now. It’s gonna make a big difference, but it makes a difference. Everything counts. And then of course, exercise and people always think exercise. Yeah, exercise is one of the most modifiable ones that you can do. But the reality is the big [00:39:00] modifiable is put more muscle on, make sure your thyroid’s working well do exercise that.
More caloric, burn post exercise cuz of the recovery, like hit and resistance training hot yoga where your body has to go cool itself down after that craziness. So all of that stuff. Now I did another form of resting metabolic rate, which is called an indirect colorimeter, a very unpleasant thing where you stick a plug on your nose, a tube in your mouth, and you sit very comfortably.
You can’t have eaten or drank or done anything for the last six hours. So we came in fasted from, you know, we hadn’t eaten since six or seven o’clock the day before, and this was now seven in the morning. It was eight in the morning and it’s the, the computer is capturing and analyzing the composition of your breath, determine your oxygen consumption, which then measures the rate at which you consume energy.
Now this one measured me at 1699, so I was a hundred calories higher [00:40:00] on the, the machine than I was on the dexa. So which on the slow to fast, how does your metabolism compare? To someone of sex, age, height, and weight, my metabolic rate was considered fast, but again, and by 24% faster than someone at my height and weight.
But again, that’s because of the muscle that I have on my frame. That is what makes the difference super duper important. So I hope I’ve made enough of a case of why we want to focus on your muscle. Okay. Now one more thing just just to why I want to focus on muscle, and really when you think about it, you know, I was in the, the doctoral program at USC and it was, it was exercise, nutrition, and aging.
So big gerontology focus. And I saw people, these master athletes in their nineties, and one of the things they showed us is that you could get stronger when as you age, but you couldn’t necessarily put on muscle and you want both things. You want the [00:41:00] function. Of the strong muscle, but you also want the protection of the muscle size, right?
That protects you against the fall. So does the strength, protects you to catch yourself against the fall. Because one of the big risk factors for morbidity 65 and plus is. Falling. In fact, I saw one somewhere saying it was the leading cause of death. But then I, I heard it on a podcast. I’m like, that couldn’t be, you know, and then I Googled more.
It was like, no, heart disease still reigns supreme. But this is you know, accidental. This is a major problem that doesn’t have to be. So here’s the big takeaways. Here’s what, here’s what we do next. Okay? Figure out ideal body weight based on your height and frame. , figure out how much fat-free mass you should have.
And think if you’re a man, you should have, 80% of your body should be fat-free mass. If you’re a woman let’s say man, sorry, 80 to 85%, you know ideally I’d rather see you more like 85% if you’re a [00:42:00] woman, 75 to 80%. Now, if you’re overweight, but you’re under muscled, you’re low fat-free mass, relative fat number, you just figured out you gotta put muscle.
Focus on building muscle. In fact, if you’re underweight or you’re normal, but you’re under fat-free mass, put that on. That’s your, be your, your big, big, big focus Protein resistance training, right? If you’re overweight, but your fat-free mass is great. Then we can focus on holding onto that while you lose fat.
And remember, if you’re putting on muscle, you’ll put on a little bit of fat on. If you’re losing fat, you’re gonna lose it a little bit of muscle. But if you do it correctly, you know you can put on muscle with minimal fat gain, you can lose fat with minimal muscle gain. You still will have some, but you can really minimize that.
You wanna track your bioimpedance daily and take an average of it over the. Okay. If you see a whole weird thing, remember when I see big shifts, I go, what did I eat [00:43:00] that did not work for my body? Right? Or something like, maybe you had a bunch of sodium or you, you ate a food you were intolerant to, or maybe you did something that dehydrated you.
So average it over the week, measurements weekly, waist and hip and DEXA one to two times a year. There you go. And remember what you monitor and measure, you can improve, and this improving your fat-free mass. As we age is like the key to everything. There you go. All right. If you loved this, let me know if you’ve got questions for me.
By the way, I’m back doing my questions and answers, so you can submit them at, and I would love to answer it. Any other questions about this, comments, et cetera, I’d love to hear about it on social. And if you love the show, subscribe so you never miss a beat at
Okay. See you next time.[00:44:00]
This is JJ with Ask the Health Expert. I answer your questions weekly. Plus I interview the top experts in health and wellness, so make sure you never miss a show by going to Yep, it’s that easy. I’ll see you next time.


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