Charles Poloquin, who passed away earlier this year, was a highly-favoured but highly-contested strength coach.
I enjoy a phrase he used in his interviews: “You know you’re fluent in a language when you can be funny in that language.”
He said this to point out that you can only get to the point of understanding a topic when you understand the quirky nuances that appear in it.
In the same way, perhaps you can gain more understanding of a topic by looking at these nuances and trying to understand them.
One of these nuances in relation to body composition is the idea of body fat vs. body fat percentage.
You may not have ever thought about what the term “body fat percentage” actually means, but it’s quite obvious when pointed out. It is literally what percentage of your body weight is made up of adipose (fat) tissue.
That means that someone who weighs 100kg at 15% body fat has 15kg of body fat, since 15% of 100kg is 15kg.
So here’s the paradox.
You can actually gain body fat, while seeing a reduction in your body fat percentage, IF you gain significantly more muscle than fat, over a period of time.
For example, let’s say the person in the prior example was to gain 10kg over the course of the next two years, with 1kg of that being body fat gain and 9kg being muscle gain.
That person now weighs 110kg, with 16kg of that weight being body fat.
By performing a quick calculation, (16/110) we can see that that person now has a body fat percentage of 14.5%, so they’ve technically decreased body fat percentage by 0.5% while gaining 1kg of body fat.
Of course, this isn’t a commentary of the practicality of achieving this change, or whether or not this is a sensible goal to have. After all, body fat percentage is notoriously difficult to accurately calculate, and regardless, there aren’t a lot of circumstances where knowing your body fat percentage would be useful.
Instead, I think it is a strange quirk that most people would never think about, and by thinking about it and understanding it, maybe it will help you to click a few things together that you’ve never thought about before.
Or at least maybe you can win yourself a bet the next time you’re talking to your gym buddy.
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