What’s the Ideal BMI?, II

Hans Keer of Cut the Carb posted this picture on my Facebook Wall and it made me laugh, so I thought I’d share it. Which 33.9 BMI is the ideal?

UPDATE: The Perfect Health Diet aims, first and foremost, to transform the right-hand body type into the healthier left-hand body type. In the comments, erp says she’s experiencing just that change: in six weeks on the diet, her weight has not changed, but her dress size has dropped from 14 to 10. Presumably, the weight has migrated from fat cells into muscle and bone — just what we want for good health!

Leave a comment ?


  1. I remember seeing that graphic when I researched Charles Poliquin’s Biosignature Modulation; http://www.charlespoliquin.com/TheBiosignatureMethod/TheMethod.aspx

  2. Hi,

    How exactly does weight ‘mirate’ from fat cells to muscle cells? Is it in terms of energy usage/partitioning, or can fat actually turn into muscle somehow?

    Thanks and great blog!


  3. Hi Rick,

    Adipose cells can’t turn into muscle cells … but fatty acids within adipose cells can be released and transported through the blood to muscle cells (including newly formed muscle cells) where they can join the cellular membranes.

    So the fat molecules migrate, the adipose cells get smaller and lighter and the muscles get thicker and heavier.

    Best, Paul

  4. What a great blog! I’ve just discovered this via comments on


    You are now in my rss reader and I’ll be back. I’ve also just downloaded your book and am looking forward to reading


  5. I cannot take the credits for the picture itself Paul, I found it somewhere on the internet and I use it in one of my lectures. But, …. I surely appreciate the mention on your great blog.

  6. Thanks for the response. I know fat can’t turn to muscle, I just wanted a little more detail about the process you mentioned. I have another related (stupid) question regarding fat loss and muscle gain:
    Everyone (almost everyone) says you can’t, or it’s really hard to, lose fat and gain muscle at the same time because you need to EAT MORE to gain muscle, and EAT LESS to lose fat. BUT why can’t the excess fat stores on a fat guy be used to fuel the muscle building?

    Thanks again,


  7. Rick,

    Exactly! That’s what the healthy process is, using the excess fat stores to supply resources for muscle building. To think this is not possible is a terrible mistake, which is one reason people eat all these unhealthy starvation diets.

    We have to distinguish a bit between healthy metabolisms and damaged metabolisms. Damaged metabolisms can indeed make it hard to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.

    With a healthy metabolism, it’s easy to drive fat from adipose cells to muscle: resistance exercise causes muscles to build, while calorie restriction causes fat to be lost. Just eat something like 400 carb calories, 300 protein calories with an emphasis on ketogenic/branched chain amino acids, and be slightly calorie restricted, and the fat will move.

    With a damaged metabolism, as in metabolic syndrome / obesity / diabetes, it can be tougher, but the same diet and lifestyle will help to heal the metabolic damage, so the recipe isn’t really different. In this condition it’s helpful to supply ketones to get around some of the broken metabolic pathways. Coconut oil, higher doses of ketogenic amino acids as in whey protein, and intermittent fasting can help push the fat into muscle.

  8. Awesome. That’s what I want to hear. I think I must have a touch of the damaged metabolism though, I find it hard to gain muscle without eating more, but then I just start to get fatter. If I don’t eat more, then I can’t seem to recover very well. That said, I could probably be smarter about my food choices. I will give your advice a try!

    Thanks again,

    • Hi Rick,

      Yes, I think “smarter about food choices” is the key. Removing food toxins from your diet, being well nourished, and getting the right macronutrient proportions are all important to getting this working right. If you haven’t read our book, I recommend it — it’s our recipe for getting all of those many things right.

  9. Here is a good example:


    That is Dmitry Klokov who is 182cm and 105kg(6 feet, 230lbs). Now we just need a fat guy and we can do a real world version of the image.

  10. Great image, Anders, thanks!

  11. Paul,

    I was just having a conversation with a friend this morning about body fat % and BMI. She is an endurance athlete who is currently training for an ultra marathon. This means she is running about 15-20 hours/ week and weight training two days/week. I am generally the one to give her advice on food intake and so on, but with such a massive exercise load it has become tricky. She recently had her body fat measured and it’s 17% (pretty low for a woman). She was then told she needs to gain at least 10 pounds, preferably in the form of muscle. What is in your opinion the best way to do this for someone with such high calorie needs? Obviously the most calorie dense foods are generally grains, but logically that seems like a bad choice. Thoughts?


  12. Hi Lindsay,

    For people who are purely focused on athletic performance, we recommend carb intake (largely from safe starches) of 500 + 50-100 calories per hour of training, protein around 600 calories, plus fats.

    So for her this would translate to 600-700 carb calories and 600 protein calories and maybe 2,000-3,000 fat calories daily (adjust to appetite, no specific amount for fats).

    Carb calories would come from our safe starches: white rice, taro, sweet potato, potato, cassava/tapioca, sago, etc., plus some fruits and berries. Rice is a good choice if you’re trying to eat a lot yet not be too full for exercise/running.

    Protein largely from fatty meats plus a bit of whey powder. This would be 3/4 to 1 lb meat per day, plus maybe 100 calories whey powder.

    Fats from fatty meats (ribs, bacon, fatty cuts of beef like ribeye, salmon, lamb), fatty plant foods (e.g. avocado, nuts), egg yolks, dairy (cream, butter, whole fat yogurt, cheeses) and low omega-6 oils: coconut oil, butter, beef tallow are best.

    Mix the fats into the other foods: e.g. make mashed sweet potato with coconut oil and butter, or put lots of butter or cream cheese on the potato. You can put butter on top of steak, to increase the fat content if you need more calories.

    This should give her plenty of calories. If she needs more, just add fat.

    Is there some kind of medical concern about her leanness, e.g. amenorrhea or low bone mineral density? Does she lack muscle mass?

  13. Paul-I love your book (still reading it) and have referred patients (I’m a chiropractor) to your web site. I want to get your opinion on something: I have several resources that advocate calorie restriction for fat loss but also having a cheat day, or several “3-hour windows” per week that allow you to eat at will. The physiological explanation has been that when you restrict calories, leptin decreases (leptin decreases with decreased fat mass and calorie load), eventually damping fat mobilisation and burning. A short cheat period (several hours or one day)dramatically increases calories and thus stimulates an increase in leptin-and thus fat burning. If you have been over to the Leangains web site, I am convinced that is why Martin Berkhan does the occasional “cheese cake mastery” (consuming an entire cheese cake in a single sitting) and the occasional meat overload. In fact, for fat loss, I’m not even convinced the intermittent fasting he advocates is that big of a deal as long as one is in a clorie deficit most of the time. What do you think about this? Am I off base here?

  14. Hi Thomas,

    Well, I think Martin’s program is pretty good.

    As you’ll see in our weight loss section, we don’t advocate severe calorie restriction — we think it’s healthier to eat a diet you can stick to long-term, one that provides a lot of nutrition.

    I think it’s highly desirable if you’re intermittent fasting to have windows — I’d widen them to 6-8 hours — in which you can eat all you want. Otherwise, you’re liable to get too few calories and risk the ill consequences of starvation diets. Including the hormonal derangements you mention.

    The key is to eat healthily within those windows.

    I think in practice if you’re intermittent fasting, your appetite won’t be that large in those feeding windows, and people won’t eat a huge amount unless they need it.

    Hunger is a sign of malnutrition. If you’re meeting all the body’s nutrient needs, it should fairly quickly (within a month) adapt to a fat-rich “cannibal” diet and you should never be hungry.

    If hunger does occur, it’s important to think about what’s missing. It could be carbs, it could be protein, it could be vitamins such as vitamin C, it could be minerals. Our book discusses needs of various items.

    I do recommend a supplement program – multivitamin plus our 8 others – for everyone, but it’s especially important during weight loss.

    To me, the important thing in weight loss is healing past biological injuries which led to metabolic derangement / metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance in the liver, leptin resistance in the brain, impaired mitochondrial function and fat transport in muscles, impaired adipose cell function, etc. You need a healthy diet to let these things heal. Then appetite control returns, calories get partitioned to muscle instead of fat, and the body returns to its proper weight.

    Intermittent fasting, resistance exercise, and ketogenic dieting are all helpful tactics for bringing that healing about faster.

  15. Paul,

    Thanks for the info. I am not sure if there is a reason for the concern about her being lean. She had some crazy body fat work-up–I think it was one of those immersion chamber type things and she was told she needs to build muscle mass so to increase her caloric intake. She has been doing mainly distance running with no real HIIT or weight training involved so I imagine she has depleted a lot of muscle mass. But with the start of the new super-endurance workouts that will involve weight training I am trying to help her to lose fat mass and build lean mass. I’ll let her know your advice!

    Because you’re so knowledgeable, I wonder if you can speak on cellulite. My friend (same one) is generally lean, but has cellulite deposits on the upper thigh. It’s odd really. I have consulted a lot of sources (that are generally not helpful) to try and understand cellulite; what it is, how to lose it, is it harmful, etc. Can you speak on this at all? I can generally guide in the way of internal health, but when it comes to outward appearance issues such as this… I am lost.

    Thanks again!


  16. Hi Lindsay,

    Well, apparently cellulite is characterized by fibrin-rich deposits in the subcutaneous fat. I don’t know precisely what causes that, but I can tell you that our skin feels a lot younger, smooth and elastic now, so I think something in our diet and nutrition must help to maintain healthy skin and subcutaneous tissue.

    If I had to guess, I’d say vitamin K2, vitamin D, a low-carb diet to keep insulin down, vitamin C, avoiding food toxins to keep inflammation down, getting thyroid levels optimized, magnesium, and a good night’s sleep might all be factors.

    Another thing that might help are collagen-promoting nutrients, to shift the matrix from fibrin toward collagen. We eat a lot of bone soups so we get a lot of cooked collagen.

  17. Hi Paul,

    …”So the fat molecules migrate, the adipose cells get smaller and lighter and the muscles get thicker and heavier.”

    Does this again validate the bodybuilding practice of “bulking” up to gain muscle, so there’s surplus calories and bodyfat to support muscle growth?

    I recall Boyer Coe stated “You need to get out of shape to get in shape”.

    Is it also why naturally lean individuals like myself have a harder time putting on muscle as the “reserves” just aren’t there, although calories from food consumption are more likely to be shunted towards muscle growth vs. fat gain?


  18. Hi winalot,

    Overfeeding does promote muscle gain, and maybe there might temporarily be some storage in the belly on many practical programs.

    But I don’t think it is necessary to get “out of shape” in order to get into shape. The advantage of a little stored fat may be that the pace of muscle growth is not constrained by fat intake … so it might be slightly faster. But calories from food should work just as well as stored calories.

    I think hormonal issues are the controlling factors. And obese people can have hormonal obstacles to muscle gain. So I could see getting intentionally “out of shape” backfiring too.

  19. Hi Paul,

    Of course bodybuilders want most muscle in little time with least fat gain so bulking up isn’t necessarily healthy. I remember the “abs on show, muscles won’t grow” as well. Basically if you’re fighting to keep a sub 10% bodyfat your muscle gain potential is limited. So carrying a bit of extra bodyfat (say 4-pack abs vs. 6-pack) can aid the muscle gain.


Leave a Comment

NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.