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September 26, 2022

Skeletal Muscle Mass

So this last year, I've taken on a few nutrition clients. It's not something I often do, but it's certainly something I'm passionate about.

And over the years, I've gained some insight as to what makes the healthiest or best-looking individuals. The common denominators are things like a solid diet, higher activity levels, a consistent 7+ hours of sleep, stress levels, and certainly, genetics play a role too.

But more recently, I've been paying attention to one specific metric using our In Body Scanner, and that is Skeletal Muscle Mass (SMM). It appears that those individuals with the lowest body fat or who perform the best aren't because they're lighter on the scale or a certain body type. It's that they simply have a little more muscle mass than the average person.

The textbook definition of SMM is that these are the muscles connected to your bones and allow you to move. These muscles can be grown and developed through exercise (your pectorals, biceps, quadriceps, and so on).  

But I've seen "skinny" people with higher body fat, and I've seen "heavier" people with less body fat. So the scale can be very deceiving if you only look at body weight. But my argument here is that the more muscle you have, the better off you are. 

Let me give you a few real-life examples:  

Example #1:
A 32-year-old female client weighs 135lbs and is 5'7". She's active and eats fairly clean. She can't lose that dreaded 5lbs, and so she decides to run or hit the peloton every day unless she loses that weight. The scale moves a little, but she doesn't feel like her bodies changing. Her body fat is on the higher side, and her skeletal muscle mass is 50lbs. Which is on the lower side.  

Example #2:
A 40-year-old female client weighs 144lbs and is 5'8". She's active and eats fairly clean. She looks and feels great and focuses on consistency in the gym. She doesn't do any extra cardio and doesn't weigh herself much at all. Her body fat is on the lower side, and her skeletal muscle mass is 72lbs. Which is on the higher side for females...maybe the highest. For full transparency, this is Lauren's Plumeys Body Scan.

Example #3:
A 50-year-old male client weighs 201lbs and is 5'9". He's active and eats fairly clean. He performs great and is very strong. He doesn't do any extra training and never weighs himself. His body fat is on the lower side, and his skeletal muscle mass is 106lbs. Which is very high as well. 

Don't get caught up on low body fat; I purposely didn't disclose those figures because it's different for everyone, and it doesn't necessarily mean the person is healthy. Instead, look at the higher amount of muscle mass. Not only is having muscle cool, but if you have high muscle mass, you can slow down muscle loss and protect your physical ability. Skeletal muscle also improves your overall metabolism. Compared to fat, skeletal muscle burns more calories at rest. Additionally, greater muscle mass is associated with longevity.

Here's my advice, for starters, don't obsess over your weight on the scale because it's misleading. Instead, obsess over eating enough protein for your body's needs, eat a diet that promotes less inflammation (e.g., processed foods, refined sugars, and saturated fats.), and don't do excessive amounts of cardio or starve yourself because the last thing we want to do is lose muscle; which will ultimately give us the bodies we want.

Got to go! We hope you found this helpful! If you need more guidance, we're here to help!

Happy Monday!  

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