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The Importance of Body Composition

Body composition is more important than scale watching

What is Body Composition?

Body composition is an individual’s overall percentage of body fat, bone mass, total water and muscle mass. Body composition is the body’s relative amount of total body fat compared to fat-free mass. Fat-free mass includes bone, water, muscle, and tissues.

What is Body Fat

Body fat is the fat located within and around the body. Some fat is necessary for overall health as it helps us protect our internal organs. It provides us with sufficient energy and also helps regulate our hormones. Basically, fat allows our bodies to function efficiently.

However, when someone is overweight, they will most likely have an excessive accumulation of body fat in and around their bodies. Excess accumulation of fat, however, is no longer beneficial for our health.

Let’s take a closer look.

Body fat can be broken down into two types: essential fats and nonessential fats.

Essential fats

This includes lipids. This type of fat should make up approximately five per cent of a man’s total body weight, and about twelve per cent of a woman’s total body weight.

Nonessential body fat

This is the fat that is found predominately within fat cells and adipose tissue is usually found below the skin and surrounding major organs, most commonly sitting in and around our waistlines.

Excess nonessential fat is usually attributed to lifestyle: consuming excess energy compared to what we are burning off from metabolic functions and physical activity.

What Affects a Healthy Body Composition

Optimal body composition is typically associated with greater fitness and overall health. Several factors affect our body composition; age, gender, our activity level, and even our genes, as well as our weight maintenance and caloric intake. As we get older our total lean muscle mass decreases. It becomes harder to maintain optimal muscle mass.

As a general rule, men tend to have more muscle mass compared to women, who rather tend to have a higher percentage of body fat mass. A healthy eating plan that includes moderate fat and carbohydrates, adequate protein, and minimal sugars, will help maintain lean muscle mass and overall healthy weight.

Body Fat Ranges

Extremely Lean (still considered healthy)Very LeanLeanModerateOver Fat
Women12 – 16%*17 – 20%21 – 25%26 – 29%30%+
Men7 – 11%12 – 15%16 – 19%20 – 24%25%+

* Anything lower can increase the chance of amenorrhea or missed periods, affecting fertility.

Why Is Body Composition Important for Your Health?

Having altered body composition or an appropriate balance of lean muscle and body fat is essential for overall good health.

Having excess body fat in relation to lean muscle, which varies from person to person, is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other related conditions such as elevated cholesterol and blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

Measuring tape is a useful tool for calculating body composition

Ways to Measure Body Fat

Skin Fold Test: Using a Caliper

The “skin fold” test is a very common method, used particularly in gyms by personal trainers. You need special skin-fold callipers to use this method.

The skin-fold calliper measures your body fat percentage by pinching your fat around your skin, from certain areas.

The calliper provides measurements in millimetres, which you then need to compare on a graph, taking age and gender into account.

Anthropometric Measurements

Specific parts of the body are measured with a tape measure.

  • For men: waist, neck, and height circumference.
  • For women: hips, neck, and height for women.

With this method, you need a tape measure. You then need to find an appropriate calculator online to input your measurements.

Hydrostatic Weighing

Unlike the first two methods mentioned, this option considers bone and muscle masses, as well as water weight.

This method requires being submerged in a specialised tank of water. A person with a larger percentage of muscle and fat-free mass will weigh more in the water and have a lower percentage of body fat.

Conversely, a large amount of fat mass will make the body lighter in water and have a higher per cent of body fat.

This method is timely, expensive and extensive. It is only available at some universities, and research centres.

Body Composition Analysis – Inbody Scale

This method involves a scale that measures and analyses an individual’s body composition, in terms of total body water, body fat mass and skeletal muscle mass, and much more

The InBody uses BIA (bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) by sending an electrical current through the body to analyse your body composition.

Many gyms and personal trainers now have similar scales available to members.

How Does Knowing Your Body Composition Help?

It is generally agreed that too much body fat is a serious health risk. But now, more than ever before, we are obsessed with how much we weigh and have to be thin.

But being thin does not necessarily mean we are healthy. When we think of being thin, we aim to weigh less than the recommended values (that are based on age and height).

We should rather be focusing on being lean; the muscle, bone, and fat composition of our bodies.

Knowing your body composition is essential for weight loss or creating any fitness program as it includes an individual’s segmental muscle and body fat analysis.

The muscle and fat analysis component is an effective and quick indicator of your current health status, creating a generalised shape that is a good marker to determine your overall body composition rating and help you set healthy, appropriate goals.

Mason Brezinscak

Mason Brezinscak

Meet Mason! He's on the Marketing Team here at Bulk Nutrients and is an amateur basketball player who loves the game.

He's tried many supplements to help him on the court and in general health.

More about Mason Brezinscak
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