Good to Great
“Good to Great” is a management book by Jim Collins that describes how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how most companies fail to make the transition. Originally published in 2001, the book went on to become one of the bestsellers in its genre, and it is now widely regarded as a modern classic of management theory. One key premise in the book is that few people attain great lives because it is so easy to settle for a good life.
This post is not about management theory, but about my effort to move from good to great as it pertains to my percentage of body fat (PBF). Why is PBF important? Weight alone is not a clear indicator of good health because it does not distinguish between pounds that come from body fat and those that come from lean body mass or muscle. Carrying too much fat is a condition called obesity and puts a person at risk for many serious medical conditions including heart disease, diabetes and even certain forms of cancer. In fact, obesity contributes to at least half the chronic diseases in western society.
To put things into perspective, I have never been close to obese, but I added a modest five pounds of body weight after my knee surgery during the winter which I easily lost as spring arrived in Minnesota. My goal however, was to convert a couple of additional pounds of body fat into muscle.
Our body mass (weight) consists of body water, dry lean mass (protein and bone mineral), and body fat mass. The percentage of body fat is the total mass of fat divided by total body mass, times 100. Body fat includes essential body fat and storage body fat. Essential body fat is necessary to maintain life and reproductive functions. The percentage of essential body fat for women is about 6% greater than that for men due to the demands of childbearing and other hormonal functions. PBF is a good measure of a persons’ overall fitness level, since it is the only body measurement which directly calculates a person’s relative body composition without regard to height or weight.
I was doing pretty good at 19% PBF which is well within the acceptable guidelines recommended for the general population as defined by The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and within the athletic guidelines of the age-adjusted industry standard. During my 30’s and early 40’s I was able to maintain a PBF between 10% and 12%, but I was not going to be able to get back to this level in my 60’s because of the decline in lean body mass and increase in adipose tissue that accompanies aging. I could have settled here with a good measurement, but I really wanted to move from good to great in this area.
In an article “How Men Lose Body Fat” published on livestrong.com, “To get a defined, enviable physique, a man needs to lose body fat — not just overall weight. Having too much body fat puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, while shedding fat can help you feel healthier, fitter and more energized. You can lose fat by reducing calories, tweaking the types of foods you eat and spending extra time at the gym — especially on the weight room floor.”
I was pretty well maxed out in terms of exercise and strength training, so I had very little leverage there to make improvements, so my only leverage was diet. My dietary habits were already pretty good. However, there was room to cut down on some excess carb calories by reducing processed and high glycemic carbohydrates whose excess calories are stored in the body as fat cells.
For many years athletes were encouraged to carbo load which is a strategy commonly used by endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, in the days leading up to a long run or race. The idea behind carb-loading is to saturate yourself with carbs so your muscles will have plenty of glycogen to use as fuel while you exercise. However, many professional athletes are rethinking carb loading, as a more balanced diet provides more long-lasting fuel and has an overall better impact on metabolism. Metabolic efficiency is key to weight loss and athletic performance, and there are scientifically proven strategies to train your body to consume a higher percentage of fat calories than carbs.
Long story short: I set a goal to lose 1% of body fat per month for four months between Mach and June by applying better dietary and metabolic practices to lower my PBF from 19% to 15%, and I did it!
This is just one area of my life. I am also a trainer, a writer, a father, a grandparent, and a husband, so I want to apply the same level of effort to move from good to great in these areas as well.