The Science behind Gaining and Losing Body Mass

Whether it’s gaining or losing body mass, the two may appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, but the science of both still deals with basic factors like lifestyle choices/habits, diet, exercise and managing stress levels. Body mass is comprised of fat, muscle and water; reducing these components is relatively easy by making modifications in daily habits, and having a knowledge of how these changes can help either increase or decrease body mass.

For those wanting to lose weight, the principle is still ingesting fewer calories than what are being utilized throughout the course of daily activities. To achieve less body mass, you must calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate), factor in how active or sedentary your lifestyle is, and go from there. Basic guideline for women is approximately 1500 calories per day, while, for men, it is about 2000 calories. To lose one pound a week, a person must eat 500 calories less per day than what they generally consume. It takes a deficit of 3500 calories to lose a pound.

When people go on diets, the first component of body mass loss comes from water weight. For every gram of carbohydrate the body stores, 3 grams of water are stored along with it. By reducing carbohydrate intake, as in a low-carb/high protein weight loss program, the reduction in stored water will result in decreasing blood volume and loss of body mass.

Those wanting to lose body mass would do well with cardiovascular exercises that include running, cycling, swimming, etc. For an effective exercise program, run or jog for 60-90 minutes, at least five times a week. On the other hand, engaging in weight-resistance training would increase both body and muscle mass, thus an increase in weight as well, since muscle weighs more than fat. Obviously a person would be more toned, sculpted, and muscular through resistance training instead of only doing cardiovascular workouts.

Diet-wise, to decrease body mass, aim to eat several small meals throughout the day, as compared to two big meals. By eating frequently, your metabolism is constantly revved by stoking the body furnace every four hours, with portioned meals that are low in fat and high in fiber. Eat enough to be satisfied. If it’s belly fat you want to lose, avoid foods like concentrated fruit juices that have no fiber and lots of sugar. Margarine which contains trans fats increases cardiovascular problems by raising LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol), with a potential for building plaque in arteries. This tendency also helps a person put on belly fat. The third offending food is bread of any type, pastas, muffins, cakes etc. Reducing belly fat is a critical component in decreasing body mass.

The last factor in weight loss is managing stress levels. In a “fight or flight” response, the body creates high levels of cortisol (stress hormone), which makes you crave comfort foods. These extra calories tend to be stored in the abdominal area. Balancing carbohydrate intake with quality protein can help offset the spiking tendencies of high carb or sugary foods.

The science behind gaining body mass is similar to that of losing weight. If your goal is to increase body mass, especially muscle mass, aim to eat foods that are high in nutrients and will not pack on body fat. By adding an extra 250-500 calories per day to food consumption, a person can gain 1/2 to 1 1/2 pounds per week. Eat nutrient-dense foods like nuts and raisins. Avoid processed meats, junk food, margarine and sweets if you want to gain healthy body mass and muscle.

Weight lifting is still the best exercise for body mass gain. Use of heavier weights can help burn calories and build muscle. This type of training also increases metabolism; to maintain weight gain, a person must continually consume more calories. When working out, avoid weights that are too heavy or are unbalanced in order to prevent injury. Always choose the right type of weight resistance that feels comfortable for your regimen, then gradually increase weights within a prudent time frame.

Resting and stretching is critical to any weight-training program. Because the muscles are exhausted from depletion of glycogen, which normally stores energy, the body must be allowed to rest so body mass can increase accordingly. People wanting to increase muscle mass should also take a comprehensive  multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, as nutrients are essential to a body mass increase program. Vitamins such as A, B-complex, C, D, E and K are necessary for body-building, as well as minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium, in addition to plenty of fiber foods. Each time you exercise, nutrients are being used; it is important to replenish them quickly through supplementation. Liquid supplements are best, as they are easily absorbed and quickly get circulated through the bloodstream. 

Whether a person wants to increase or decrease body mass, he/she must make changes to diet, how he/she exercises, and take steps to maintain a balanced lifestyle.