Body Composition - What You Need to Know About Body Composition

Man getting body fat measured
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Body composition refers to how much body fat you have as opposed to lean muscle tissue.  Obviously, the more lean tissue you have, the better you're going to feel and look.

Now, lean tissue is composed of more than just muscles.  It also includes the bones and organs.

Meanwhile, fat tissue is composed of three different types of fat: Essential fat, or what your body needs to continue to function, storage fat and, our least favorite nonessential fat.

Factors That Determine Your Body Composition

There are ways we can change body composition which you already know about.  There's cardio, strength training and eating a healthy, low calorie diet.  Big news.  However, there are other things we can't control that affect body composition:

  • Age - Remember when you were young and lean?  Me too.
  • Gender - Women tend to have more body fat than men because we make babies.
  • Genes - Yep, you can totally blame your parents for at least some of your body composition.
  • Hormones - If you're a women who's gone through perimenopause or menopause or you've had any thyroid issues, you know of what I speak.

Burning Body Fat

So, let's say you have excess body fat.  How do you get rid of it?  I mentioned exercise, but just how much exercise?  It depends on so many things, I couldn't give anyone a specific answer, but I've written quite a bit about this and you should find some answers here:

Measuring Body Fat

There are a number of ways to measure body fat, most of them requiring both money and some kind of machine or calipers.

  • Bioelectrical Impedance - This is a painless test that measures how quickly an electrical current travels through the body.  The more body fat you have the harder it is for that current to get through the body.  This test can be off based on your hydration and other factors.
  • DEXA Scan - This is like an x-ray and one your doctor may order to check bone density
  • Hydrostratic Weighing - This is considered the gold start of body fat measurement.  It's an underwater test that you can sometimes find at universities or labs.
  • Skinfold Measurements - For this, a personal trainer or expert uses calipers to take skinfold measurements at different parts of the body.  This one can also be affected by the person taking the measurements - You want them the exact same place every time, which is difficult.
  • Body Fat Calculator - This probably the least accurate, just because it doesn't take into account all the factors that affect body fat, but it can give you a number to measure on a regular basis to track your progress.

One more thing.  Too often we worry about the number on the scale, but your body composition or body fat measurement is much more important.  The scale can drift higher or lower all day long and you don't know what you're gaining or losing.

However, you can easily lose body fat and the scale may not even notice.

  Maybe your weight didn't go down, but you're slimmer and you've lost inches.  That's really what counts.  Try using body measurements to track your weight loss progress.

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