Body composition is still a topic that’s very misunderstood or at least not taught yet by most health professionals. I’m not sure why it’s not used by doctors and taught in schools. It’s just not, and instead most standards continue to use the very outdated measurement of BMI (Body Mass Index). I think it may have something to do with the complexity of the topic, but I’m here to help you understand it. What is body composition and why is it so important?
Most people still think weight alone is the most important thing in your health. But the difference between, fat and lean muscle on your body is also extremely important to understand. The percentages of fat versus kilos of lean muscle can dictate our body shape and is very important to status of our overall health.
For example there can be two people of the same height and weight; however each person can look entirely different dependent on their fat levels. If one is higher in fat percentage then they’re also more prone to disease, especially if major fat is around the abdominal region. This is known as visceral fat. Visceral fat is the fat within the internal organs and that of the abdominal region is the most dangerous of fat deposits on you body.
A body composition analysis is used to measure how lean a person is. How much lean body mass (comprising of organs, muscle, bone) they carry and how much their body comprises of fat. Dependent on the method used, visceral fat can also be measured.
Learning what your body composition is much better than gauging what your health status is, then using weight alone. It is recommended that a healthy man should have between 10 – 15 percent body fat. Females tend to carry a little more fat naturally and a healthy percentage for them would be between 15 – 20%.
If you’re looking at becoming more of an athlete or body builder then you would usually strive for between 4 – 10% body fat for men, and 10 – 15% for females.
There are several methods to measuring your body fat. No one method you may hear of is entirely accurate, but it’s good enough for tracking purposes.
The most common methods used, are ones you can also do at home.
They basically just measure the skin fold (basically the layer of fat you can pinch) of certain areas of your body in Millimeters (mm) This is generally anywhere between 4-7 areas. Those areas are then input into a calculator and a body fat percentage and lean mass is given.
Bio-electrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)
Another method to measure your body composition are body fat weight scales. They use bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIA), which measures the resistance of electrical flow through the body to measure body fat. You can buy basic scales from most retailers these days. However more expensive and advanced scales by companies like Tanita, can also give you other important readings about your body such as bone mass, water levels, visceral fat levels, metabolic age vs. your biological age, base metabolic rate, BMI and more.
There is something everyone should understand when it comes to just knowing your overall weight. When someone is at a leaner level of body fat, that doesn’t mean that they should weight less than someone who looks similar but has a lower level of lean muscle and higher body fat.
You see, lean muscle weighs heavier than fat. In some cases you may have an extremely lean person who looks like they should weight less but in fact weighs more, and is healthier than someone who has a higher body fat percentage.
This is why you need to keep body composition in mind. Overall weight just doesn’t give you the whole picture.
Body composition is important to our health, because high fat levels for both male and females can be the cause of many diseases out there. Being overweight and obese are just an example of two diseases, that can lead to diabetes, cardio vascular disease, etc.
People who are looking to lose weight and increase muscle are also much better off using their body composition to set and achieve body fat goals. Remember that, lean muscle weighs heavier then fat, so don’t be fooled by the scales alone. Putting on lean muscle and reducing fat levels should be the ultimate goal.
You’re always best to get a professional to measure and track this. After getting your reading ensure you take measures to reduce your body fat level and increase lean muscle mass, if you don’t fall in any of the healthy percentages mentioned above.
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