Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Lean Muscle "- muscle is lean - do you mean lean mass?

Just a quicky about terminology. I've heard many folks referring to building "lean muscle" and burning fat. Even seemingly knowledgeable sites do this. Consider this wikianswer response about building "lean muscle" A review of Staley's muscle logic refers to building "lean muscle mass." Or just do a search for "lean muscle" and check how many sites come back with that term in the title.

The thing is, muscle *is* lean in that (a) lean means wanting in fat and (b) muscle has very little fat in it. Pretty much ever. It's very particularly designed to be that way.

The "lean muscle" may come from conflating the desire for muscle gain and fat loss on the one hand and measuring "lean mass" relative to body fat % from body composition on the other.

Or maybe it's that gaining muscle is supposed to go with burning fat and hence getting lean. Not always true by the way: see "bulking."

Anyway, lean muscle may be a redundant term but it's pretty pervasive. So let's take these terms apart then:

Lean, in lean mass refers to the measurement of the body sans adipose tissue - the fat that's under the skin (and can be measured by calipers) as opposed to visceral fat, which is the stuff around our internal organs.

Body composition by the way is formally the meanure of fat, bone, muscle tissue. So a lean person - say a man below 10% body fat with a six pack starting to show - is "lean" - as in wanting in fat (that's another great word: to want, wanting - as in to lack). He may be more or less muscular at that bf% than another person who is say bigger or smaller boned, so not everyone at a particular bf% looks the same to be sure.

Similarly someone can gain lean mass, or gain muscle, and not necessarily put much of a dent in lowering their body fat percentage (as seen recently with obese kids on exercise programs). In fact many folks will eat more to gain muscle mass, and pack on some more fat while doing so. This is partially why it's hard to gain muscle mass while reducing calories to get lean: the fuel to build the muscle mass (new tissue) isn't necessarily there (see discussion on hypertrophy here).

So, there's muscle, there's lean mass, and there's body fat. Muscle and bone is lean; fat is fat. Working to gain muscle doesn't necessitate getting lean(er), but eating at a caloric deficit may (scroll dow to see discussion on weight loss, nutrition, habits, change is pain, here for more).

Now, for most situations the above may be considered a nice distinction (nice is another cool word like want - means fussy or fastidious or jesuitical for that matter), but sometimes folks make the assumption that muscle gain means fat loss when thinking about "lean muscle gain" and since it doesn't, it may help to have this cleared up - help a person working on weight loss and fitness to have a better mental model of what's happening within us.

And so thar we go: muscle is lean already, to get lean is to drop fat, but building muscle is no guarantee of fat loss, though developed in the right circumstances, it can certainly help.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails