Many of us thinking about the word fitness, think along the lines of ‘healthy lifestyle choices to lose weight’. While there is a smaller, yet significant number of people actually trying to gain weight.
Something that few of us(I being among them) that are trying to gain weight think about, is gaining fat. Gaining muscle mass is great, but where do you rank in terms of BMI? Is your percentage of body fat unhealthy on the side of low? Well, it’s definitely something to consider and address in your nutrition/fitness regimen.
Why is low a bad thing?
So you’ve checked your body fat percentage and came in at 4.4% (that’s my actual level) and the little indicator says that it’s unhealthy on the low side. Many of us know the negatives of too much fat, but how can too little fat be a bad thing?
Let’s start with disease. People without enough body fat tend to get sick more often than most. And when you’re sick, low body fat means that you will probably be sicker, longer. Your body needs energy when you’re sick to fight off bacteria and viruses. Since most of us don’t tend to keep up our caloric intake while we’re sick, our body needs to use our fat reserves for that energy. 4.4% means I’ve got just enough fat to pad my organs, with little room for leeway.
Low body fat percentage (on men specifically) has lead to metabolic and reproductive system dysfunction. When you’re not in physical state of motion, your body uses fats for energy. People that are too skinny tend to need more sleep. You’ll also feel colder because body fat regulates your body temperature.
So what do I do about it?
Many people that are working to gain muscle mass tend to follow fitness guidelines that are meant only to increase your muscle size. Most do not address how to get up your body fat % in a healthy way. Here are some general tips:
When you exercise: insulate. Your body uses up carbohydrates, fats and proteins as a source of energy when you’re exercising; in that order. So before and after a workout, you should load up on carbs to make sure your body is not going to your fat reserves for energy.
There are great free resources that give you a general idea of what you should be consuming to gain muscle mass. (DailyBurn is a great one that I use.) However if you want to increase your fat based on their suggestions; here is the general rule. 3500 calories per week = 1 pound. So, as daily burn told me I after I plugged in my data, and my goals, I should be at 3,400 calories per day. I want to increase my body fat % by two pounds per weak-ish. 7000 divided by 7, means I need to eat 1000 more calories a day on top of the 3,400.
Quick Tip: Milk is your friend. Drinking around a gallon of chocolate milk daily can be a great way to get some necessary calories and fat.
These tips are general and may increase/decrease in effectiveness based on other factors that you should be aware. Do you have hyperthyroidism? Are you consuming a large quantity of diuretics (caffeine, etc?). These hamper your body’s ability to store fat and increase what may already be an overactive metabolism.
Some sites out there will tell you to drop yourself down to eating two meals a day to force your metabolism to slow. This is not the best idea. Staying at 5 meals a day for an active lifestyle, but increasing the calories at each meal to 1000 is going to get you the results you want without reeking havoc on your metabolism.
So there you go. Get out there and put some fat on those muscles, your body will thank you in the end.