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I thought that this might be something someone has asked before but I cannot find it so here it goes...

I am a 46 year old male. Weight 180 and height 5'10. According to every chart out there, I am overweight. However, I physically do not look overweight since I have been working out for over 20 years and have pure muscle. Not a body buider, mind you, but athletic and elongated muscles. I work out 6 days a week doing all kinds of interval, cardio and weight training.

There have been times when I dropped the weight to the supposed ideal (I have dropped to 165-175 on occassions througout my life) just to see how it looked on me and what I have found is that not only do I lose strength but I also look extremely thin. And by extremely I mean EXTREMELY thin.

Is it that these charts are just plain wrong or is there some way to remain strong (and by this I mean, as an example, to continue to bench 205 lbs, etc.) and still maintain the ideal weight according to the chart?

Thanks in advance.

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Screw BMI

Body Mass Index (BMI) charts are wrong and useless and should be ignored. They're only used because they're easy: plug in height and weight, compare to The Chart Of Truth, and you're done. But they aren't useful for individuals to predict the bad health outcomes we want to avoid. BMI causes so many false "healthy" and false "unhealthy" results that it's simply not trustworthy.

BMI was designed to be used for populations. If you're basing your workout, diet, or health goals on BMI, you've done something wrong. It's only a mistake of history that we still use BMI. It should be discarded.

Screw IBW

"Ideal Body Weight" calculations come with a disclaimer:

The IBW and ABW are used to calculate medication dosages when the patient is obese.

Alternatively:

Ideal Body Weight, specifically the Devine Formula, is used clinically for multiple reasons, most commonly in estimating renal function in drug dosing, and predicting pharmacokinetics in morbidly obese patients.

So-called "ideal" body weight calculations are not in any way supposed to be used as a guideline for how much weight to lose. Do not allow them any power over your life.

Superior Alternatives

Using BMI or IBW to measure how much you should weigh is pointing your efforts at the wrong goal. If you want to be lean, work on your body fat percentage. If you want to be healthy, work on strength, conditioning, and mobility goals. (If you're tremendously overweight, picking a goal weight for your initial weight loss can work, but there's absolutely no reason to bring BMI into it, and once that goal weight is reached, it's better to target more useful numbers.)

Instead of targeting a specific BMI goal, measure what you want to improve. Want to look better? Get a camera and a tape measure and track how you look (with consistent clothing, pose and lighting) and measurements of your arms, legs, hips, and waist. Or set a performance goal, like "finish a 5k" or "squat twenty times with a barbell as heavy as I am". Want to be healthy? Develop a strength and conditioning program to work towards your desired health markers, like body fat percentage.

The closest useful analogue to BMI is the Body Shape Index, which seems to be a better predictor of one's risk of death. Keep in mind that while it takes belly fat into account, it still does not keep track of muscle or actual markers of physical health, like mobility, strength, inflammation, diabetic state, or cardiovascular disease.

Body Shape Index= Waist Circumference/[(BMI^(2/3))*(height^(1/2))]

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  • I have checked many of the charts and formulas, not just the BMI charts. It just seems to me that these charts do not take into account a person who is more muscular and naturally would weigh more than a person with the same build but with higher fat percentage. – MikeV Sep 11 '14 at 16:21
  • OK, you'll have to be more specific about what specifically you're talking about then. Which charts? What formulas? – Dave Liepmann Sep 11 '14 at 19:18
  • BMI, HAMWI, Some Nursing Calculator... each and every one of these puts me at a supposed ideal body weight around 160 to 170. The one time I dropped to 165 I looked like a bean pole!!! :-) – MikeV Sep 11 '14 at 20:07
  • The charts are wrong. Ignore them. – Dave Liepmann Sep 11 '14 at 20:28

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