Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Shaving Pounds

Hey Everyone,

Well, I was going to write this great post about how we all count every ounce in our packs, and scrutinize every piece of gear for its weight, but never think about losing weight ourselves. However, upon doing the research for this post I have found that it is a lot more complicated than that. No wonder people have to have degrees in this field. The truth is that we are not all thru-hikers, and we don't spend every day on the trail. It is not so true that we all could easily lose weight to be lighter, thus feeling like we took twenty pounds off of our backs. Upon reading some articles about sports fitness, I have come to find that you can burn fat, but that doesn't mean you will be lighter. When you start to working out and burning fat, you also start to build lean muscle. So what does that mean? Well, when you step on that bathroom scale, after six months of training, you may not be lighter. The goal, I have found, is to have the correct body fat percentage. I'm pretty sure that, for most of us, getting to a correct body fat percentage will make us lose some weight. If your body fat percentage is good, then that means the weight you are carrying is all working for you instead of just sitting there. Ive looked at body fat percentages,for athletes, and have taken an average from triathletes, swimmers, and runners, to come up with what I think is a good number for hikers.

Males 9- 15%
Women 12 - 19%

I was measured in the military to have 6% body fat. When I did triathlons I was measured at 8%. So, from my experiance alone these percentages seem reasonable. Another thing I have found is you can't always count on you BMI (body mass index) score because it does not take muscle mass into account. For instance I am 5' 10" and weigh about 190 lbs and my BMI score is 27.3 which is technically overweight. According to this scale I would have to weigh no more than 170#. However, my doctor says that, with the muscle build I have, I could never get below 175 lbs and be healthy. So your BMI is good to use as a rough estimate, but don't let it discourage you. If you would like to read more on this topic, I have posted a couple of links to my resources at the bottom of this post. I hope you all have learned something... I know I sure have. I think I owe my scale an apology as well.

I have set a goal to get back to 10% body fat at 175-180 lbs. This should be, not only good for my health overall, but make me a more efficient hiker. We'll see how it goes. Let me know if you set a goal and how you plan to or did accomplish it.

See you on the trail,

P.S. I also have some cool health related stuff coming up- like video interview with a friend of mine, who has a degree in sports medicine. We're going to go over food choices for hiking and look at things like calories, sodium, and electrolytes.

UPDATE: After talking with my friend he recomended that I up my body fat percentage to account for any weight loss that might occur during a hike. You will also notice that I have changed the recomended percentage for men due to this discussion.

Resources :


  1. Just found this via Hendrik.I was measured via hydrostatic weighing earlier this year at 7.2% which is on the low end since body building competitors sit in the 4-6% range. Under 15% is considered healthy so I'd shoot for more in the range of 9-12%. I like being 7% fat but I can't really take any long backpacking trips because I can't carry enough food to offset possible weight loss. If I lose 2-3 lbs of fat at this point (which would definitely happen) I'd start burning essential fat needed for organ function and protection.

  2. Chris,
    I was talking with a nutritionist about this same topic the other day. They did recomend that I up my goal to about 10% for that very reason. Thanks for the post as well.