Forget BMI and Focus On This Instead

building muscle general health weight loss Aug 01, 2022

If you or your doctor has been focusing on BMI, I really encourage you to let that belief system go, and start focusing on these five things instead. 

In this video we are talking about BMI. More specifically, if you or your doctor has been focusing on BMI, I really encourage you to let that belief system go and start focusing on these five things instead. More specifically, I’m going to argue that one of these five things is the most important of all. 

BMI, the body mass index was coined around 200 years ago, by a mathematician and statistician. 200 years ago - stop and think about that for a moment. That’s roughly the 19th century! 

He was a mathematician who created this equation to determine what we're calling the body mass index, so that the government could determine how to allot supplies. The whole goal of it was to categorize people into “underweight” -they need more food, and “overweight” - they need less food. 

Would you stop and think about that for a moment? The government had to determine who needed more food than other people in the 1800’s. People were categorized as underweight and people were categorized as overweight. So if they were overweight, they didn't get as many rations.


If you were underweight, you got more food from the government. 

That was the whole reason this equation was created. And let's not forget, this goes back to the 1800’s in Europe. Not exactly reflective of our current society in 2022, is it?

The vast majority of the population was sedentary. And let's not forget if we go earlier into world history, those who were underweight were looked down upon and were considered poor. And those who were robust and large, were usually those that were royalty because they had more access to food.

Have I made my point? The BMI is so outdated and it doesn't accurately reflect where we are in 2022. I would even argue it doesn't even accurately assess where we were in the 1990’s because even fitness has evolved since then.

Health has evolved in a huge way in the past 10 years, largely because of the advent of social media. Because of social media my industry has been completely revolutionized, and people like me and you are now privy to more advancements.


BMI goes way back to reflect a time that isn't even relevant anymore.

You've gotten more advanced in your understanding of health, fitness, and nutrition. So the BMI goes way back to reflect a time that isn't even relevant anymore. And oh, by the way, these statistics were very likely based only on men.

And number two, as I already said, it reflects a sedentary population. It doesn't at all take into account how much muscle you have. And it also doesn't take into account different ethnicities, different family and geographical genealogies, right? It really reflects Europe and the statistics and the humans that we were looking at in the European regions.

It's not going to be taken into account if you have a bigger build, a bigger bone structure, or denser muscles, right? If your family history tends to be a little bit heartier, versus if your family lineage is smaller in structure and frame.

The BMI is not accurate at all. I'm going to call out our medical institutions and physicians who still use this as a general way to categorize you, because they have not been really educated on the body sciences. Your general family physician has zero education on the body sciences. They know medicine, disease identification and maybe prevention. Your doctor is then needed in the correction of the disease state and the prescription of medicines. They don't have any formal education in the body sciences.


It's time for us to start looking at a different way to assess and categorize where you fall in terms of the health spectrum.

So why would that profession adopt something new or different from the BMI? It's time for us to start looking at a different way to assess and categorize where you fall in terms of the health spectrum, but also as a predictor of your future health. And to me, isn't that all that matters?

We are talking about why you should get rid of the conversation of BMI. And I'll be honest with you, I stopped paying attention to BMI probably 15 years ago, maybe 20 years ago when I started to realize how nonsensical and completely irrelevant it is.

Body composition it's all that matters. How much muscle do you have? How much of you is bone and how much of you is fat? Now we could argue that your cardiovascular health and fitness matters and it does.

If you improve your body composition through strength training, and you increase your lean muscle mass, your cardiovascular health is going to improve. I am going to tell you what to focus on instead of BMI. 

Right now, my BMI is a flat 20, and that is smack dab in the middle of the normal range. Normal BMI range is 18.5 to 24.9. Let's call it 25. And I'm a 20, so my BMI is putting me smack dab in the normal. And I don't consider myself normal in any way. I've got a little more muscle mass than most women of my age, because let's not forget BMI doesn't even take into consideration age.



Do you know that BMI only takes into consideration your body weight divided by your height squared? Why are we squaring your height, and then dividing it by your body weight? It doesn't take into consideration sex. And if you ask me, women are very different from men!

The BMI doesn’t take into consideration how old you are. The BMI calculation is your body weight (generally in kgs, but you can figure it out in pounds) divided by how tall you are, squared.

Those are the only factors to figure out your BMI, and therefore to tell you if you’re healthy or not, or if you're obese or not. It doesn't make sense, especially if you are someone who strength trains, or if you’re someone who does any kind of workout that looks like CrossFit, and if you're serious about your strength training.

One of the very first things that I learned in exercise physiology is what we refer to as the five components of fitness. How fit your body is - not just your body weight divided by your height.

This takes into consideration your athleticism, how active you are, and the construct of your exercise programming. Are you doing cardiovascular activities? Are you looking at your flexibility? Are you looking at your bone density, your lean muscle mass, your muscular strength, your muscular endurance?

These are the five things that I want you to be focused on instead. I want you to come to understand what is referred to as the five components of fitness. These are the five areas of what we call “physical readiness” or general physical preparedness. 


What classifies you as being physically ready for life's challenges? 

Let's not forget that it’s your 3-D real world, physical body that's going to carry you through this life. And while there are a lot of aspects to your health - your longevity and predictors of disease - these five things are the things that directly correlate to the reduction of many of the chronic diseases we see today.

I would classify obesity as a disease - and some may not actually call it a disease-  but it is a predictor of our biggest cardiovascular diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dyslipidemia, and any kind of cholesterol issue that you may have, and these five components of fitness are directly related to the reduction of the risk of those chronic disease states.


Here are five components of fitness


Component of Fitness #1 

Flexibility. When we are looking at your general physical preparedness, we do want to look at flexibility. Why? Because flexibility from my perspective also does indicate mobility. Flexibility generally is how flexible your muscles are. And mobility is really the range of motion around joints. How mobile are you? That is an indication of your fitness, so it's an indication of your potential for good longevity and healthy longevity. That is one component of fitness. That's far more telling than BMI (your body weight divided by your height squared). Flexibility and mobility are a much bigger predictor of future health and longevity.


Component of Fitness #2

Cardiovascular Endurance or Cardiovascular Fitness. Cardiovascular endurance reflects how long you can go for a period of time at a moderate heart rate. And I actually do think higher heart rate activities like sprinting or running at a challenging pace are also important. That is what we refer to as cardiovascular fitness. Cardiovascular fitness is how well your cardiovascular system - your heart and vascular system - functions.

If we had to rate you, where would your cardiovascular health, fitness and endurance rank today? Because this is another big indicator of your overall health and your general physical preparedness - GPP, right? Isn’t your physical readiness, and fitness, a whole lot more indicative of your health and your future longevity?


Component of Fitness #3

Muscular Endurance. Muscular endurance reflects the ability of your muscles to perform at a certain percentage of the muscle’s strength. Generally we measure this as a “1-rep maximum”.

So if I took you into my laboratory, and we evaluated your fitness, and we determined that you could perform one repetition or three repetitions of a barbell back squat. And we determined that the weightload that you could perform one repetition was 185 pounds. Therefore, let's say your one repetition, maximal strength ability is 185 pounds.

Muscular endurance is when we take that number, cut it in half, and see how many repetitions you can perform nonstop. We look at your 1, 3 or 5-repetition maximum weight load on a movement like leg press or squat, and then divide the weight load in half and see how many total reps you can perform to determine muscular endurance.  

We divide your maximum weight load in half and see how many repetitions you can complete at your 1,3,or 5- rep maximal ability on the same movement pattern. That's what muscular endurance is - how long you’re able to sustain a repetitive movement. Again, your muscular endurance is far more indicative of your health than your BMI.


Component of Fitness #4

Muscular strength. This is represented by the maximum weight load you’re able to perform on a given movement for 1, 3, or 5 repetitions. This tells us how strong you are for various movement patterns. 

How would you rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 today in terms of what you imagine your muscular strength to be right now? 

How strong do you feel you are? Can you pick up the heavy box? Can you carry four bags of heavy groceries over a huge parking lot? 


Component of Fitness #5

Body Composition. A big part of predicting your risk of disease depends on how much of your current body weight is lean muscle mass, and how much is unnecessary body fat. What percentage of your body weight is lean muscle? Isn’t this a much better measure of your health than BMI?

How would you rank yourself in terms of lean muscle and body fat?

If your body fat is higher than the healthy range, it says something about your health. And if your lean muscle mass is high, your body fat will be lower. Isn’t this better information as well?

So body composition is by far the best replacement for BMI. And I would argue in the next 15 to 20 years, we will start to look at that instead of BMI. The only reason we aren't there yet is because up until five to 10 years ago, assessing your body composition was prohibitively expensive.

The only way to accurately assess your body composition is through a DEXA scan. And prior to five or 10 years ago, DEXA scans were very expensive and rare. Up until recently, DEXA scans were only used for determining bone density, or for clinical purposes, say at a weight loss clinic.

The BMI is outdated. I encourage you to let go of it all together. What matters is how you rank in terms of each of the five components of fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, and body composition.


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