About Jacques Courseault, M.D.

Jacques CourseaultDr. Jacques graduated from Tulane Medical School and has seven years of experience as a personal trainer.

He is one of the founders of Don't Weight to Lose, a faith-based program for diet and weight loss that is run by Tulane University School of Medicine medical student volunteers.

Exercise Right!
with Jacques Courseault, M.D.

The First Step to Success: Committing to More than Yourself
How to Begin an Exercise Regimen
Walk Your Way to Better Health
How to Begin a Walking Program
Eating and Exercise: What to eat and when to eat it
Weight, Lean Body Mass and Exercise
Strong Muscles Fight Disease
How to Exercise with Disabled or Weak Legs
How to Conserve Muscle Mass During Weight Loss
How to Build Muscle Mass
How to Build Muscular Endurance
Exercise Ideas: Play Video Games!
Exercise Improves Eating Habits


Weight, Lean Body Mass and Exercise

You have finally made a commitment to regularly exercise, build up strength and tone your muscles. You step on the scale a few weeks later to find that you have not lost or maybe even gained weight! You figure that something is wrong with the scale, because your pants are too big and you look and feel thinner. Chances are that your scale works just fine. The truth is that combining healthy nutrition with proper exercises has caused you to gain weight in the form of lean body mass (LBM), or fat free mass. This extra weight is a good thing.

Lean Body Mass

Lean body mass (LBM) is the mass, or weight, of your body minus the fat. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs. and you have 30 lbs. of fat, then your LBM is 120 lbs. Therefore, this is the weight of bone, organs, body tissues and muscle. Because the weight of your bones, organs and body tissues do not significantly change, LBM can be a direct measurement of muscle mass. Resistance training increases your muscle mass, and thus, increases your LBM and total weight. Another example, let’s say you have been walking and resistance training. You may be frustrated because your weight is still 150 lbs., but you likely lost 2 lbs. of fat and gained 2 lbs. of muscle. Unfortunately, expensive specialized equipment is used to measure LBM; however, you are on the right track if you feel that your strength is increasing during your workouts and your pant sizes are getting smaller.

Little Muscle and Lots of Fat Predict Early Death

Unfortunately, as we age we tend to lose muscle and gain fat, particularly around our abdominal area. Fighting these changes may decrease your risk of early death. In 2007, a study was published in which researchers followed 4107 men between the ages of 60 and 79 for six years to determine the relationship between muscle, fat and early death (Am J Clin Nutr 2001; 86:1339-46). They found that men with low muscle mass or high abdominal fat had the greatest risks for early death. Therefore, it is not necessarily your weight that you should pay attention to. Maintaining or increasing your LBM, or muscle mass, and decreasing the fat around your abdomen are important factors in preventing early death.

What This Means For You

You should not use your weight as feedback for how well your body is adapting to your nutritional or exercise improvements. Instead, increases in LBM and decreases in abdominal fat are better correlated with improvements in health than weight alone. While specialized equipment is used to professionally monitor these changes; simply, noticing increases in muscular strength and a decrease in pant size are positive signs that your new habits are favoring your overall health.