document.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', function() { var languageLinks = { 'de-DE': 'https://de.inbody.com/', 'de': 'https://de.inbody.com/', 'nl-NL': 'https://nl.inbody.com/', 'nl': 'https://nl.inbody.com/', 'en-GB': 'https://uk.inbody.com/', 'en': 'https://uk.inbody.com/', 'ro-RO': 'https://ro.inbody.com/ro/', 'ro': 'https://ro.inbody.com/ro/', 'fr-FR': 'https://fr.inbody.com/', 'fr': 'https://fr.inbody.com/', 'da-DK': 'https://dk.inbody.com/', 'da': 'https://dk.inbody.com/', 'es-ES': 'https://es.inbody.com/', 'es': 'https://es.inbody.com/', 'pl-PL': 'https://inbody.pl/', 'pl': 'https://inbody.pl/', 'sv-SE': 'https://se.inbody.com/', 'sv': 'https://se.inbody.com/', 'ar-ME': 'https://mea.inbody.com/', 'ar': 'https://mea.inbody.com/', 'x-default': 'https://uk.inbody.com/' }; var head = document.querySelector('head'); document.querySelectorAll('link[rel="alternate"]').forEach(function(link) { head.removeChild(link); }); for (var lang in languageLinks) { var link = document.createElement('link'); link.rel = 'alternate'; link.hreflang = lang; link.href = languageLinks[lang]; head.appendChild(link); } });
All Posts By

InBody

Why You Need to Know Your Body Fat Percentage

By Body Composition, Health, InBody Blog
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on October 1, 2018for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on April 20, 2016

 

Do you know what your body fat percentage is, right now?

What range is considered ideal for your gender?

Or why you should even care?

Your body fat percentage is a value that tells you how much of your body weight is made up of fat.  In terms of your overall health, your body fat percentage can be one of the most useful numbers available to you, more than how much you weigh and even more than your Body Mass Index (BMI).

You might argue that you can just rely on visual appearance, everyone knows what an overweight or obese person looks like. When you get to that point, you know you need to start making a change in your lifestyle. Unfortunately, once you get to the overweight/obese stage your risk for developing health complications will have increased and weight loss becomes difficult.

If you are interested in developing or maintaining a healthy and productive lifestyle, measuring and understanding your body fat percentage is incredibly important.  

Here are three reasons why understanding your body fat percentage can positively impact your life.

#1 Understanding More About Your Weight

Knowing how much you weigh tells you very little because two people can have the same weight but have completely different body compositions and health risks. Your body fat percentage (PBF) puts your weight into context, telling you far more about yourself than how heavy you are.

Here are the body compositions of three types of people, all around the same weight (~154 pounds) and height (5’10”). To make each of these easier to talk about later, we’ll give them each a fictitious name.

Bill has a body weight of 154.0 pounds and a PBF of 28.3%. Notice the large differences between the bar for Body Fat Mass (BFM) and SMM (Skeletal Muscle Mass). Because of this very large difference, Bill likely falls into the category of what is popularly calledskinny fat.”

Ted has a nearly identical weight to Bill – less than half a pound in difference – but has a PBF of 15.6%, almost 13% less than Bill! This is because, unlike Bill, Ted has average amounts of muscle and fat for a 5’10” person.

Within about a pound of both Bill and Ted is Brian, with a body weight of 154.8 and a PBF of 10.1%.  The bars for his SMM and Body Fat Mass are the complete inverse of Bill, who had a skinny fat composition.

Now it’s true that even without these charts, it would be quite obvious to tell skinny fat Bill from athletic Brian just by looking at them.

However, the more extreme examples of Bill and Brian are helpful to illustrate how three individuals with roughly the same scale weight and BMI can have wildly different body compositions— something that scale cannot reveal.

Of the three individuals, Bill stands to be the most at risk for health problems because of his high PBF and low muscle mass, but especially so because his weight and BMI are considered normal. Bill may not be aware that he has increased risk for developing health complication, because visually he looks fine.

Without the context body fat percentage provides, it’s very difficult to understand what your weight means when you stand on a scale and whether or not you should consider making changes to improve your body composition.

#2 Helps You Decide on Your Fitness Goal

man stretching

Understanding your body fat percentage helps you decide which of the two goals that reflect healthy body composition changes – increasing Lean Body Mass and decreasing Fat Mass – you should be working on.

It’s difficult to point to any single “ideal” percentage because what may be ideal for a bodybuilder may be different than what’s ideal for a soccer player. For this reason, ranges are used to give people an idea of where they stand in terms of health.

  • For men: 10-20% is considered normal/healthy
  • For women: 18-28% is considered normal/healthy

These ranges may vary depending on who your source is. The American College of Sports Medicine has ranges that may differ from the Mayo Clinic (more on that later in the next section)

Knowing where your body fat percentage falls in these ranges can be very helpful for you to decide how to improve your overall composition.

For example (and this may come as a surprise): many overweight/obese people actually already have a significant amount of muscle development compared to an average person of the same height.

Now, while strength training can be healthy and useful for everyone, a program based on bulking up and developing huge muscles may not be the best method for improving the body composition of someone who is overweight. That’s because the diet that encourages muscle mass growth typically requires being in a caloric surplus (eating more than your body needs to maintain its weight).

This person would benefit from a more conventional weight loss strategy. While it is true that fat loss can occur while strength training and gaining muscle, for someone of this body type, results will likely be achieved faster by a combination of restricting calories, increasing energy use, and weight lifting to maintain – not grow – muscle.

For someone like Bill, who is not overweight but still “overfat,” the opposite advice may apply.

Based on the relative lack of muscle compared to other people of the same height, Bill can likely get the quickest and most positive body composition changes by focusing on strength training to build muscle, not losing fat.

The reason this approach is better for this person and not someone who is overweight or obese is due to the lack of developed muscle.  While an overweight person already has a lot of muscle due to the need to support a larger frame, a smaller person will need to actively work to develop this muscle while maintaining or reducing the amount of fat mass they carry.

#3: Reduce The Risk of Heart Disease

healthy heart pulse

Understanding your body fat percentage has uses outside of fitness, too. Keeping your body fat percentage at a healthy level can help reduce your likelihood of getting serious health risks, specifically, heart disease.

Heart disease is most often caused by a buildup of plaque on the walls of your arteries. This occurs when small pieces of cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) damage your arteries, causing them to harden, forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout your body.

What does body fat have to do with your heart? Quite a lot, actually.

According to new research published by the Mayo Clinic, having a healthy body fat percentage has a significant effect on your cholesterol levelsincreasing the good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) which helps to remove the damaging LDL and lower overall total cholesterol. This means less artery-clogging cholesterol in your bloodstream, which means less stress on your heart.

To be clear: this research isn’t linking this to overall weight or even total fat mass. These positive effects are linked with the amount of body fat you have compared to your current weight. The body fat percentage ranges needed to have this positive effect have an upper limit of 20% for men and 30% for women.

While the research doesn’t suggest that this is any type of complete preventative for heart disease – many lifestyle factors, as well as genetics, play into whether you will develop it or not – it does suggest that you have some degree of control over reducing your risk factor by maintaining a healthy body fat percentage and consuming a diet that promotes healthy cholesterol levels.

Know Your Percentage to Take Control of Your Health

Perhaps one of the best things about your body fat percentage is that it compares you to yourself.

If you just track weight, this invariably leads to comparing yourself to someone else. Even though there could be significant differences in height, muscle mass, genetics, or other factors, all people hear when they talk about or think about their weight is the number.

That’s what’s so great about your body fat percentage. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh; the only thing that matters is what that weight is made up of. You could be overweight (and even have a BMI that tells you that) but if you’re a woman with a healthy body fat percentage of 25%, why care?

To take control of your health and fitness and gain the positive benefits of living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the first step is to get your body composition measured.  Find a facility near you that offers body composition testing, get your body fat percentage, and start tracking it to start living better!

 

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Muscle and Fat

By Body Composition, InBody Blog, Nutrition
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on September 14,, 2018for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on January 27, 2016.

Your body is a wonderfully complex machine.  Without any conscious direction from you, your body manages to convert food into energy, regulate your body temperature, create new cells, remove waste, and perform thousands of other processes to keep you alive and healthy.

Because your body is such a complex machine, a lot of misconceptions and half-truths exist about how it works, especially when it comes to muscle and fat.  This makes it hard to figure out what’s true and what isn’t when it comes to body composition, especially since nowadays there seems to be a supplement for everything and a steady stream of late-night infomercials claiming to have the next greatest invention for fat loss or muscle gain.

To help shed some light on these issues and cut through the clutter, we’ve collected a few key points about muscle and fat for you to take away to help you make the right decisions when you are ready to get healthier and optimize your body composition.

#1: Muscle Isn’t Just for Strong Bodies

Image Source: Flickr

Many people think that muscle gain is only necessary if you’re an athlete.  Why would you need to be stronger if you’re not a competitive athlete? Not everyone needs to fight off an opposing defensive back (or wants to muscular), but everyone needs to be able to fight off infection.

What does muscle have to do with infection? Quite a lot actually.

Protein is a important macronutrient that your body needs in order to function properly. Muscle is made up of primarily water and protein content.  When your body enters a stressed state (becomes sick), your body’s protein demands suddenly skyrocket, up to four times the amount it normally requires in the event of serious trauma.

If your body does not get the necessary protein it needs from your diet, it will look to your muscles – which your body can treat as large protein reserves – and begin breaking them down.  If your muscles aren’t sufficiently developed or underdeveloped, you will have a reduced ability and strength to fight off current infections and may be more susceptible to future ones, especially in serious cases.  According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

If there is a preexisting deficiency of muscle mass before trauma, the acute loss of muscle mass and function may push an individual over a threshold that makes recovery of normal function unlikely to ever occur.

 

The key takeaway: focusing on muscle gain may pay big dividends down the road with recovery in strength and function.

#2: There’s 2 types of Fat – and one is really dangerous

visceral and subcutaneous fat

Most people know that being overweight can lead to health problems over the long term, but not many people know why.  Current research is now revealing that your fat mass isn’t just empty weight like a bag of sand, but is in fact metabolically active tissue that acts like an organ inside your body.

But unlike the other organs inside your body that are designed to help keep your body in proper condition, excess visceral fat works to sabotage it.

According to Harvard University, fat mass, and particularly visceral (belly) fat, can have significant negative effects on your health.  Visceral fat spreads certain types of chemical called cytokines into the body, and although cytokines aren’t by their nature harmful, the types of cytokines emitted by fat can have serious repercussions on insulin resistance, cholesterol level, and blood pressure.  

Over time, visceral fat can lead to developing serious diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. For skinny fat individuals, they may not be aware their high visceral fat level puts them at risk for these disease because visually they look “healthy” in comparison to obese individuals. In actuality, they share similar health risks. Fortunately, working to reduce fat mass in your body can help reduce some of these harmful effects visceral fat can have.  

#3: “Lean Mass” Isn’t the Same as “Muscle”

Lean Mass. Lean Body Mass. Muscle Mass. Skeletal Muscle Mass.  It can be really easy to get lost in all these same-sounding terms.  Are they all the same?

The most common mistake is when people use the term “lean mass” and when talking about increasing it – “lean gains.”  Many people equate muscle mass with lean mass, which is only partially correct.

While it is true that if you develop your muscles you are developing lean mass, that doesn’t mean that your muscle gains are lean gains.  Lean Body Mass is different from skeletal muscle in that Lean Body Mass includes the weight attributed to muscle, body water, bone, and everything else that isn’t fat.  To illustrate, take a look at the body composition breakdown of this 162-pound male:

Note that this subject has a Lean Body Mass of 128.5 pounds, the majority of which is reflected by Total Body Water.  The actual muscle that people try to develop in the gym – skeletal muscle – only accounts for 73.2 pounds of body weight.

While it isn’t likely that the weight of your organs or bones will change significantly, your muscles and water can change in volume and mass depending on a variety of circumstances.  Because Lean Body Mass includes body water, increasing your weight by hydrating your cells with sufficient intracellular water is also technically a “lean gain.”

Another way of thinking about it: All muscle gains are lean mass gains, but not all lean mass gains are muscle gains.  Get it?

#4: Muscle Doesn’t Become Fat

Admit it– you were pretty sure it didn’t work like this, but you sometimes catch yourself saying that your muscle turned into fat.

Although your body is an amazing machine, there is no process by which your body converts muscle to fat.  Many people comment that their muscle has turned into fat after they stop working out regularly, and it really does seem like that’s what’s occurring – you were once lean and muscular, and now you have less muscle and look flabbier.  But what’s really going on is a change in body compositiona loss in muscle mass that occurs at the same time fat mass increases.

This can happen for any number of reasons. Many people, especially athletes, can experience muscle loss and fat gain in the off-season when they stop performing entirely and continue to eat like they did when they were playing at a competitive level. That’s because the amount of calories you use in a day – your Total Daily Energy Expenditure – decreases significantly if you change your activity level. So to recap, muscle to fat conversion isn’t real. If you are going to be less active, make sure you adjust your diet accordingly.   

#5: Being Skinny Isn’t Great If You Have No Muscle

Image Source: Flickr

When people think of someone with an unhealthy body, they think of someone who is overweight.  So, when people think of someone with a healthy body, they naturally think of someone who is skinny.

Not so fast: just because someone looks like a runway model doesn’t mean they are healthy.  In fact, it is often the opposite. In some cases, people who strive to be skinny – like runway models for instance –  become so excessively skinny that they become severely underweight, lose a significant amount of lean mass, and develop conditions like anorexia. It was for this reason in particular that the French government imposed a ban on hiring runway models with BMIs of less than 18.0 in 2015.

However, not everyone is a runway model, and a much more common condition that some skinny people have that is certainly not healthy is something called sarcopenic obesity, something popularly referred to as being “skinny fat.”  Skinny fat people don’t have healthy amounts of muscle mass, so they can actually have a body fat percentage that is similar to someone who is obese, even though they appear to be skinny.  They often have body composition profiles resembling this one:

Despite having a normal weight (within 15% of the ideal weight for this person’s height), muscle mass is very underdeveloped while body fat mass is quite high.  By dividing fat mass by weight, this person’s body fat percentage would be 36.9%, well over any acceptable range for women – including the ranges set by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise.

End the Confusion

Lots of these myths and misconceptions occur because many people do not measure their weight accurately.

The only way to properly understand your weight is to have your body composition analyzed.  Body composition analysis breaks down your weight into muscle, fat, and body water. Relying on a scale only leaves you in the dark as to why your weight is increasing or decreasing, which can lead you to such thoughts as “my muscle turned into fat” or “is it muscle loss or fat loss”.  To learn more about how understanding your body composition can help transform your health, click here.

Why Building Lean Mass Is Important for Everyone (even you)

By Body Composition, Fitness, Health, InBody Blog

<div class=”pf-content”><h6><span style=”font-weight: 400;”><i>Editor’s Note: This post&nbsp;</i><i>was updated on&nbsp;</i><i><strong>July 1, 2018</strong>,&nbsp;</i><i>for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It&nbsp;</i><i>was&nbsp;</i><i>originally published on October 30, 2015</i><i>.</i></span></h6>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>People have all sorts of reasons for working out and developing Lean Body Mass. &nbsp;Athletes are interested in muscle building to improve their performance on the field. Bodybuilders want muscle growth for that trophy-winning physique. &nbsp;For us regular joes and janes who struggle to find enough time to diet and workout, it can be as simple as looking losing weight and looking lean. </span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Whatever the reasons,</span> <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16960159″><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>recent research</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> has made a very strong case that building Lean Body Mass (LBM) has health benefits<strong> far beyond aesthetics and athletic performance</strong>. &nbsp;Sufficient amounts of LBM are actually critical for building a healthy life over the <strong>long-term.</strong></span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> This doesn’t mean that you have to work out twice a day lifting heavy weights. Male or female, young or old, everyone can benefit from increased Lean Body Mass. &nbsp;Here are four important health benefits that you gain from developing your Lean Body Mass.</span></p>
<h2><b>1. Lean Body Mass Combats Obesity</b></h2>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-3083″ src=”https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/obesity-993126_1280.jpg” alt=”” width=”1280″ height=”853″ srcset=”https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/obesity-993126_1280.jpg 1280w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/obesity-993126_1280-300×200.jpg 300w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/obesity-993126_1280-768×512.jpg 768w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/obesity-993126_1280-1024×682.jpg 1024w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/obesity-993126_1280-900×600.jpg 900w” sizes=”(max-width: 1280px) 100vw, 1280px”>In a world where more than</span><a href=”https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity”><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> 2/3 of Americans have too much fat are considered overweight or obese</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>, it’s hard to avoid advertising that guarantee weight loss in X number of weeks, or a new workout technique that promises to shred fat off of your frame, or that new diet that promises to increase your metabolism and burn body fat.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>However, most of these shortcut approaches fail to address the basic issue regarding weight gain: it’s about calories in vs. calories out. According to research by Dr. Robert Wolfe (emphasis added):</span></p>
<blockquote><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The development of obesity results from an energy imbalance over a prolonged time. An effect on energy balance can be therefore achieved by altering either energy intake or energy expenditure. </span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>– AJCN: “The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease</span></p></blockquote>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>“Energy imbalance” in this context refers to consuming more calories than your body needs. &nbsp;Do this for a long enough period of time, and you’ll gain fat. Gain enough fat over a long period of time, and you can become<strong> overweight or obese.</strong></span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>“Energy intake” refers to how many calories you consume through eating and drinking, in other words, your diet. &nbsp;This is what many people think of when they think about<strong> calorie reduction.</strong></span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>However, its “energy expenditure” where you can really make a big effect on balancing your calories in and calories out, and this is why developing your <strong>Lean Body Mass is so important.</strong></span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Lean Body Mass is associated with your <a href=”https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/49311425-how-to-use-bmr-to-hack-your-diet/?__hstc=165164192.92f192c76e6bd4f9577729991b2d474d.1599028489575.1599028489575.1599028489575.1&amp;__hssc=165164192.5.1599028489576&amp;__hsfp=2972673961″><strong>Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)</strong></a> – the amount of calories you burn at rest. &nbsp;The greater amount of LBM you have, the greater your BMR will be. This means that people with greater amounts of Lean Body Mass will have a greater energy expenditure while doing nothing, helping to avoid calorie imbalances, and ultimately, obesity.</span></p>
<h2><strong>2. Lean Body Mass Helps You Battle Disease</strong></h2>
<h2><strong><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-3084″ src=”https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/thermometer-1539191_1280.jpg” alt=”” width=”1280″ height=”853″ srcset=”https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/thermometer-1539191_1280.jpg 1280w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/thermometer-1539191_1280-300×200.jpg 300w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/thermometer-1539191_1280-768×512.jpg 768w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/thermometer-1539191_1280-1024×682.jpg 1024w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/thermometer-1539191_1280-900×600.jpg 900w” sizes=”(max-width: 1280px) 100vw, 1280px”></strong></h2>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>When you become sick and your body becomes stressed, your body’s immune system gets kicked into high gear. &nbsp;When that occurs, your body’s nutritional demands change. In order to support the immune system and contribute towards recovery, your body requires protein – and a lot of it. &nbsp;Diet alone won’t supply the amount of protein required to defend against illness. Where will your body find protein reserves? Your Lean Muscle Mass.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>For example, in burn victims, the need for increased protein can increase tremendously: around 4 g of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about</span><a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16960159″><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> four times the normal daily intake</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> of protein. Too much protein for a person to consume through a healthy diet. &nbsp;This demand for protein exceeds the demands put on the body during fasting (times where you aren’t bringing in calories), which is when muscle breakdown occurs. &nbsp;The same trend was also found in cancer survivors. In those whose overall body protein decreased due to cancer and cancer therapy, the rate of recurrence of cancer increased.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>In both cases, the ability to survive these serious conditions ultimately came down to<strong> how much Lean Muscle Mass </strong>each patient had to begin with, and how much their bodies lost due to increased demand for protein.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Bottom line: your Lean Muscle Mass can act as protein reserves that your body can draw off of when the immune system is triggered. &nbsp;If you have built sufficient Lean Muscle Mass through diet and workout, your body will have a much easier time fighting off infection because it will have enough protein in reserve to power the demands caused by the immune system.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>If you don’t have sufficient Lean Muscle Mass, your body will have a much more difficult time <strong>defeating and recovering from illnesses</strong> because it won’t have the type of nutrients it needs to power the immune system.</span></p>
<h2><strong>3. Lean Body Mass Contributes to Strong Bones</strong></h2>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-3085″ src=”https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/knee-2253047_1280.jpg” alt=”” width=”1280″ height=”960″ srcset=”https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/knee-2253047_1280.jpg 1280w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/knee-2253047_1280-300×225.jpg 300w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/knee-2253047_1280-768×576.jpg 768w, https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/knee-2253047_1280-1024×768.jpg 1024w” sizes=”(max-width: 1280px) 100vw, 1280px”>One common concern that both men and women have as they age is the onset of osteoporosis or frailty in general. &nbsp;These conditions can put people at serious risk in the later stages of life because they can lead to falls and broken bones. &nbsp;Sometimes, these falls are so serious that some people never walk again.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>What can preserve bone density and bone mass later in life? &nbsp;Maintaining sufficient and healthy amounts of Lean Body Mass.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>In the</span><a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15824844″><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> Mediterranean Intensive Oxidant Study</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>, researchers found that lower amounts of skeletal muscle mass, a</span><a href=”https://www.inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/45434945-lean-body-mass-and-muscle-mass-whats-the-difference?__hstc=165164192.92f192c76e6bd4f9577729991b2d474d.1599028489575.1599028489575.1599028489575.1&amp;__hssc=165164192.5.1599028489576&amp;__hsfp=2972673961″><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> significant and major component</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> of Lean Body Mass, was correlated with weaker and thinner bones in elderly men. &nbsp;Because Lean Body Mass is made up of multiple components that cannot be readily increased, such as the weight of body water and internal organs, increasing skeletal muscle mass is the primary means of increasing Lean Body Mass. This, in turn, builds up greater bone strength and density.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>In order to protect against thin and weak bones, maintaining and developing sufficient skeletal muscle mass is key.</span></p>
<h2><strong>4. Lean Body Mass Can Protect Against (and potentially reverse) Insulin Resistance</strong></h2>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-2913″ src=”https://inbodyusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/diabetes-1724617_1920.jpg” alt=”” width=”1920″ height=”1280″>Insulin resistance occurs when the body is unable to clear the blood of excess glucose due to the presence of Fatty Free Acids. &nbsp;The release of Free Fatty Acids into the body is generally associated with high amounts of Fat Mass, which lessens insulin’s ability to clear glucose from the blood. &nbsp;If this insulin resistance becomes significant over a duration of time, the development of Type 2 diabetes can occur.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Once again, developing sufficient amounts of Lean Body Mass can help prevent the onset of insulin resistance/Type 2 diabetes. &nbsp;Because insulin resistance/Type 2 diabetes can strike anyone at any age, ensuring that your LBM levels are sufficient while keeping your Fat Mass low (i.e. a healthy body composition) is very important for everyone.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>In a large-scale study of over 13,000 people over a 6-year span conducted by the UCLA School of Medicine, the researchers concluded their findings by illustrating an</span><a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21778224%20″><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> inverse relationship between skeletal muscle mass and insulin resistance</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>. &nbsp;Not only that, they found that for every 10% increase in skeletal muscle mass, there was an 11% decrease in insulin resistance. &nbsp;For people without diabetes, the decreases were even more pronounced.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Developing your Lean Body Mass also has the added benefit of increasing your BMR, which will increase your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) all on its own, which, when combined with proper diet and nutrition, causes Fat Mass reduction. &nbsp;This reduction contributes to less release of Fatty Free Acids into the body in the first place, which will, in turn, make it easier for the body to clear excess glucose and transport it into muscle cells.</span></p>
<h2><strong>Fitness for Long-Term Health</strong></h2>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Muscle building isn’t something that only bodybuilders and athletes should worry about; for long-term health, everyone can benefit from building their LBM.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>For this reason, it is important to monitor the changes in your Lean Body Mass by having your body composition measured. &nbsp;Body composition analysis can divide your weight into its various components – Fat Mass, Lean Body Mass, etc. – which will give you a much clearer picture of your overall fitness and health.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Building Lean Body Mass is an investment in your future. The more LBM you build while you are still young and healthy, the more you will have in reserve when you really need. But before you start adding protein shakes and resistance workouts to your daily regimen, you need a plan. The first step to building a healthy level lean body mass is to measure how much you have with a body composition analysis. &nbsp;You can learn about the different types of BIA devices that analyze body composition and the types of outputs you can expect to receive by</span> <a href=”https://www.inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/39971073-bia-once-flawed-not-anymore?__hstc=165164192.92f192c76e6bd4f9577729991b2d474d.1599028489575.1599028489575.1599028489575.1&amp;__hssc=165164192.5.1599028489576&amp;__hsfp=2972673961″><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>clicking here</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>.</span></p>
</div>

Body Water: Percentage and Ratios You Should Know

By Body Composition, InBody Blog
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on September 19, 2019for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on August 13, 2015

When it comes to your health, most of the focus is on your levels of body fat and muscle mass, which is important. But not to be overlooked is your body water. Body water, and not your muscle or fat, makes up the largest percentage of body weight. Let’s learn more about this very important element of the human body.

What is Body Water?

Body water is the amount of water content found in your body. Up to 60% of the human body contains water.

Almost every cell in your body contains water: body water makes up 79% of your muscles, 73% of your brain, and even 31% of your bones. Overall your body weight can be 45-65% water.

What should your body water percentage be?

The amount of water within a person is influenced by your age, sex, and fitness level.

When we are born, we are almost 80% water. By the time we reach our first birthday that number drops to about 65%.

A major influence on our body is the amount of fatty tissue and lean body mass that we carry. Lean body mass carries much more body water than body fat.

An adult man will be about 60% water compared to an adult woman that will be about 55% water. If you are physically active, that number will increase depending on your lean body mass.

You might be wondering what is your ideal body water percentage. A better gauge of healthy body water levels is your ratio of extracellular water to your total body water. To understand what that means, we must first define your extracellular water and intracellular water.

What is extracellular water and intracellular water

Like discussed above, your body water can be found inside not only in your blood, but in your muscle tissue, your body fat, your organs, and inside every cell in your body.  To account for all this, your total body water (TBW) can be divided into two basic groups.

  • Extracellular Water (ECW)

Extracellular water is the water located outside your cells.  The water in your blood falls into this category. Roughly 1/3 of your fluid is attributed to ECW, and this water is found in your interstitial fluid, transcellular fluid, and blood plasma.

Extracellular water is important because it helps control the movement of electrolytes, allows oxygen delivery to the cells, and clears waste from metabolic processes.

  • Intracellular Water (ICW)

Intracellular water is the water located inside your cells.  It comprises 70% of the cytosol, which is a mix of water and other dissolved elements.  In healthy people, it makes up the other 2/3 of the water inside your body.

The intracellular water is the location of important cellular processes, and although it has many functions, a very important one is that it allows molecules to be transported to the different organelles inside the cell.  Essentially, the Intracellular water picks up where the Extracellular water left off by continuing the pathway for fuel to be transported to the cells.

What is a healthy water balance?

When it comes to your body water and you, the most important thing to strive for is balance. Your Intracellular fluid: Extracellular fluid must remain at the same levels with respect to each other.

A healthy fluid distribution has been estimated at a 3:2 ratio of ICW:ECW. If your body water falls out of balance, this can signal changes in your health and body composition. Whether these changes are positive or negative depend on which type of water becomes unbalanced.

What does increased intracellular water (ICW) mean?

Having slightly more ICW than normal isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can signal positive changes in your body composition. 

Increased muscle mass is due to the enlargement of the number and size of muscle cells.  When the muscle cells become enlarged, they are able to take in (and require) more ICW in order to power their cellular functions.  Research has shown that resistance exercise can lead to increased intracellular water in humans. Increased ICW as a result of exercise is a sign of increased Lean Body Mass, which is a very good thing and has positive health benefits, including:

  • Increased Energy Use

Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories you burn at rest.  It is the baseline for the calories you need every day in order for your body to operate and maintain daily functions.  With increased Lean Body Mass, your energy needs will increase as a result of a higher BMR. If you don’t increase your daily calorie intake, but increase your Lean Body Mass/BMR, you will create a calorie deficit – which can lead to body fat loss.

  • Increased Strength

Your Lean Body Mass is sometimes described as your fat free mass.  Your Lean Body Mass accounts for all your weight due to water, muscle mass, bone, and protein.  One of the easiest ways to influence the amount of Lean Body Mass you have is to increase your muscle mass.  Generally, increased muscle mass leads to increased strength.

  • Increased Immune System

Increased Lean Body Mass through exercise has been associated with increased immune system functionality.  This will help your body fight off illnesses more easily.

What does excess extracellular water mean (ECW)?

If your ECW increases in relation to your ICW, this is something you should take special note of.  Unlike ICW, you do not want to see your ECW increasing beyond normal levels. Excess ECW can indicate health risks, including:

  • Inflammation

During inflammation, the body sends additional blood flow to the damaged area.  This causes an increase of extracellular water in a particular area. Inflammation occurs when part of the body gets damaged or bruised and is a normal bodily response to injury.  This is called acute inflammation, and is a temporary increase in ECW.

Chronic inflammation, however, is something more serious that isn’t always readily detected. It is marked by long-term swelling/ECW increases caused by cellular stress and dysfunction. Chronic inflammation can lead to serious diseases if allowed to persist over time, including renal failure, cancer, and heart disease. including renal failure, cancer, and heart disease.

  • Renal Disease (Kidney Failure)

One of the kidneys’ major functions is to filter your blood and remove toxins produce in the body.  One important substance that the kidneys filter out is sodium, an element that is found in salt.

When your diet includes more sodium than your kidneys can filter out, which occurs in people who have failing kidneys, your extracellular water levels will increase.  In some cases, this increased extracellular water shows in visible swelling throughout the body and is a condition known as edema. Edema can cause additional strain on the body by contributing to weight gain, blood pressure, and other complications.

  • Unhealthy Fat Mass Levels (Obesity)

Obese individuals are characterized by having too much body fat, which among other things, leads to body water disruption due to excess ECW.  This is because excess visceral fat can trigger production hormones that can lead to the disruption of a bodily system called RAAS.  This excess ECW causes stress in the body due to its effects on the internal organs, which can exacerbate obesity and cause a dangerous cyclic effect.

How to find your total body water?

Since it’s so important to keep an eye on your fluid balance, you’ll need to know how you can determine yours. There are two major methods to measure and determine your fluid levels.  These are the dilution method and the BIA method.

The dilution method involves drinking a known dose of heavy water (deuterium oxide) and allowing it to distribute around the body.  Once the water has had time to settle, the amount of heavy water is compared with the amount of normal water. The proportion will reflect the amount of total body water.  To determine ECW, sodium bromide is used instead of heavy water.

The dilution method is recognized as a gold standard for measuring total body water; however, these tests would need to be done at a hospital under the guidance of a trained physician.  This test takes several hours to complete during which any fluid of any type going in or out of the body has to be carefully recorded.

For these reasons, you’re unlikely to have this test performed unless your doctor needs to know your total body water with absolute certainty because of a serious health complication.

The second, more accessible method to determine body water content is bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA).  For most people who do not have serious medical issues, this method is much more practical than the dilution method.

A small electrical current is applied to the body, and the opposition that current experiences (impedance), is measured.  From that impedance result, a BIA device can report your body water percentage. Advanced BIA devices are able to reflect the difference in Intracellular and Extracellular water as well, which can reveal the ICW:ECW balance.

Bringing Yourself Back Into Balance

Maintaining a balanced ratio of approximately 3:2 is ideal for optimal health.  If you find that this ratio is beginning to fall out of balance, there are some things you can do.  Fortunately, these tips aren’t anything you already haven’t heard before: maintaining a healthy diet, staying hydrated by drinking enough water, and exercising regularly.

Avoiding excess ECW is ideal.  From a dietary standpoint, one simple change that can work to reduce excess ECW is reducing the amount of sodium (salt) in your diet. Sodium is located primarily in your ECW, and when excess sodium is introduced into the body, the body’s natural response is to draw water out of your cells at the expense of your ICW.  Reducing your sodium intake has a number of positive health benefits, so this tip can be considered simply a best practice for optimal health in addition to being a tactic for reducing high ECW.

On the flip side, increasing your ICW can be achieved by increasing your Lean Body Mass/increasing muscle mass through exercising.  As the muscle cells increase in size, they will require more water to maintain their function. Exercise has the additional benefit of combating obesity, and as fat mass is reduced, ECW increases due to obesity will decline over time.

As you can see, body water can be an important indicator of your overall health.  Without a healthy ICW:ECW ratio your body will begin to have problems.

The best thing you can do for proper body water balance is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you can achieve a healthy lifestyle, your body water will fall into balance naturally.  The first step would be to find out where your body water levels are today, so you can start planning for a healthier life now.

 

Unpacking Body Composition Lingo

By Body Composition, InBody Blog

Just like any other industry, the world of health and fitness comes jammed with lots of technical words and terms once you go past a surface level understanding. It can get confusing fast, and terms can get jumbled (Lean Body Mass? Lean muscle? Which is it?).

This is really unfortunate.  Body composition analysis allows you to understand your body in a much clearer way, and it gives you insights into your health that you would have otherwise never known.

Here, we’re going to demystify these technical body composition terms for you and give you a basic understanding of how they are relevant to you.  You can think of this as part glossary, part action guide.

A Guide to Basic Body Composition Terminology

Percent Body Fat (Body Fat Percentage)

If you walk away with just one new term under your belt, walk away with this one: Percent Body Fat.  It’s a reflection of how much of your weight is made up of body fat and is calculated by dividing the weight of your body fat mass by your total weight. It is a deceptively simple metric but has an awesome number of highly relevant uses.

What You Can Learn From It:

Percent Body Fat is always expressed, obviously, as a percentage. This percentage can then be applied to set percent body fat ranges. While there are no official, set-in-stone ranges like there are for BMI, you’ll find that the healthy ranges tend to hover around 10-20% percent body fat for men and 18-28% for women. Organizations offering set ranges include ACSM and ACE; you can view theirs as well.

Lean Body Mass (aka Fat-Free Mass)

Another very important term to be familiar with is Lean Body Mass, sometimes used interchangeably in conversation with Fat-Free Mass.  As that term implies, Lean Body Mass is the weight of everything in your body that isn’t fat. This includes your muscles, organs, bones, and body water.

While it’s important to understand what Lean Body Mass is, it’s equally important to understand what it isn’t. Lean Body Mass isn’t the same as muscle; rather, Lean Body Mass is a collection of different types of body tissues that includes muscle.

What You Can Learn From It:

Lean Body Mass plus your Body Fat Mass makes up your entire body weight.  If you have your Lean Body Mass value in pounds, you can subtract this number from your total body weight to get an approximation of your Body Fat Mass. Divide that by your body weight, and now you’ve got your percent body fat.

Another interesting attribute about your Lean Body Mass is that it is closely related to the total number of calories your body needs each day. Your Lean Body Mass forms the core of your metabolism, and you can use this number to help you determine your unique dietary needs. No more basing your diet off the 2,000-calorie diet, which in reality is a poorly fitting, one-size-fits-all approach to food intake.

Skeletal Muscle Mass

When people talk about their muscles, they’re more than likely talking about Skeletal Muscle Mass.  Skeletal muscle is one of the three major muscle types (the others being cardiac and smooth) and is the type that governs all the movements you can consciously control: everything from typing out a text to deadlifting a 300-pound barbell. It’s also the muscle group you’re growing when you exercise.

Value To You: Increased Skeletal Muscle Mass typically translates into increased strength.  If you’re trying to build up your body and grow in size, this is the value you’d want to track and see increases in over time.

However, muscle isn’t just for strength.  Muscle is composed of primarily protein and can act as a “protein bank.” Why would you want a protein bank? When your body gets put under severe stress – such as in a traumatic injury – the recovery process is triggered and requires additional proteinup to four times the amount in some cases. When it’s not able to get that amount of protein from your diet, your body will start getting what it needs from the protein bank – aka your muscles.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR, is the number of calories that your body requires to maintain its Lean Body Mass. It’s a huge component of your overall metabolism.  Someone with more Lean Body Mass will have a higher BMR than someone with less BMR. It’s the reason why a 250-pound NFL linebacker needs to eat more than a 150-pound sedentary adult – the linebacker has far more Lean Body Mass.

Value To You: Outside of your Percent Body Fat, if you learn a second thing today, learn the value of your Basal Metabolic Rate.  Used properly, your BMR can help you make a nutritional plan designed for either fat loss or muscle gain by helping you understand how much energy (read: calories from food) your body needs.

By multiplying your BMR with an activity factor, you can get a general estimate of your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Using your TDEE as a baseline, you can start to craft nutritional plans for yourself based on what you want to do with your body composition.

Want to lose fat? Create a caloric deficit by decreasing energy in (food) and increasing energy out (exercise). Looking to increase muscle? Eat more than your TDEE requires and use that extra energy to hit the weight room and build new muscle.

Body Water

You may have heard somewhere along the line that “humans are mostly water.”  Generally speaking, that’s true. Your Body Water includes all the water in your body, everything from the water in your blood, to the water in your organs, to the water inside your bones.

Your body water is usually subdivided into two types: intracellular and extracellular. Intracellular (inside the cells) includes the water in your organs, muscles, and such, composing 2/3 of your total body water. The remaining 1/3 is the extracellular (outside the cells) water and includes the water in your blood.

Value To You: Hopefully, you never have to worry about body water.  If you’re generally healthy, your body maintains a healthy balance of intracellular to extracellular water (at a ratio of about 3:2). It’s when this balance becomes broken that monitoring your body water becomes very important.

People who have severe health problems, particularly those with kidney failure, will be unable to rid their bodies of extracellular water.  This causes buildup of body water requiring removal through procedures such as dialysis.

Dry Lean Mass

If you remember, Lean Body Mass includes everything that’s not body fat, which would mean it includes body water.  When you take out all the water (becoming “dry”) what remains is known as the Dry Lean Mass. Lean Body Mass – Body Water = Dry Lean Mass. What this amounts to is the protein content of your muscles and the mineral content of your bones. Much of your Dry Lean Mass will be found in those two places.

Value To You: Why would you ever care about your Dry Lean Mass? Because you want to track real, physical changes in your body.

Lean Body Mass contains body water, and your body water levels can be influenced by many different factors: whether you’ve recently worked out for instance, or whether you are low on carbohydrates. Changes in body water are technically changes in Lean Body Mass (another reason why Lean Body Mass isn’t the same as muscle).

However, when you build muscle, you’re actually building new physical protein stores – and that’s reflected in your Dry Lean Mass. An increase in Lean Body Mass may signal muscle growth, or it may not. By contrast, an increase in Dry Lean Mass is a much stronger indicator that you actually grew muscle.

Visceral Fat

There are two major categories of body fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat under your skin, and it’s the type of fat that you can see.  The second type of fat is called visceral fat. This type of fat collects inside your abdomen and wraps around your internal organs.

Why It’s Worth Knowing About: Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. In the case of visceral fat, if it is there, you’ll definitely want to know about it. That’s because visceral fat is not just extra pounds – it’s an active organ that secretes harmful hormones in your body that triggers perpetual inflammation. The more visceral fat you have, the greater risk of inflammation. Inflammation over time can put undue stress on the heart, leading to cardiovascular problems later on.

Get Tested and Know Your Numbers

Hopefully this has cleared up some of the more complicated body composition terms. This has been a basic overview designed to give you the essential information about your body composition and how it applies to you, but there is a lot more to know.

To learn more, you can check out the following articles that examine these topics in closer detail:

Knowing your numbers and having them checked from time to time will help you understand your health in ways you never have before. Greater understanding of body composition can help you also make healthy lifestyle choices, such as deciding to lose weight or changing your diet.

Get tested, know your numbers, and live a better life!

Body Composition 101: The Beginner’s Guide

By Body Composition, InBody Blog
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on August 14, 2018for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on June 16, 2015.
  • Detailed body composition analysis uses the 4C Model that breaks the body into body water, protein, minerals, fat. 
  • Fat and muscle may weigh the same, but muscle is significantly denser than body fat.
  • The four common methods of measuring your body composition are calipers, hydrostatic weighing, DEXA, and BIA.

At your recent physical, your doctor mentions that you should get body composition tested. You’ve overheard trainers tell their clients how much their body composition has improved. You keep seeing the term pop up on fitness or health blogs (like yours truly). You may smile and nod knowingly when it comes up in conversation, but secretly, deep down, you’ve always been thinking:

“What exactly is body composition?”

If this sounds like you, fear not, you’re in the right place.

Body composition analysis is a trending topic in health, medicine, and fitness because it is a whole body assessment that gives you the blueprint for improving your health.

body composition definition inbody

Think about when you take your car into the shop for an inspection. In order to examine the condition of the car, the mechanic opens the hood, checks the fluids, and inspects the working components.

Body composition analysis is the same idea, except instead of examining your engine oil level or testing the battery life, you are getting a measurement of your fat, muscle mass, and body water levels.

By “looking under the hood” and understanding what areas you need to improve on in order to achieve a healthy body composition, you will look and feel so much better!   

This Is What You Are Made Of

what is body composition inbody

Let’s start with the basics. The first thing to know is that there are several different models of body composition. Below we will explore the two most common models.

2C Model

1. Fat Mass

The substance everyone seems to always have too much of and is always doing their best to get rid of. However, body fat is necessary for the body to function: Body Fat allows the body to store energy, protects internal organs, acts as an insulator and regulates body temperature, among other things. Nobody can have 0% body fat, and maintaining body fat percentages lower than 4% is generally regarded as inadvisable for long-term health.

2. Fat-Free Mass (FFM)

Fat-Free Mass is what it sounds like – all the mass in your body that is not attributed to fat. Your FFM contains a variety of different components, all your internal organs, skeletal muscle mass, water, etc.  Everything that is not fat can be lumped into the category of Fat-Free Mass.

From these two values, your body fat percentage can be deduced by dividing your fat mass by your total body weight. If your goal is to determine only your body fat (not lean body mass, muscle mass, etc), procedures that utilize the 2C method can be used to determine your body composition.

4C Model

For a more detailed body composition analysis, you have to use methods that break the body into more components, such as the 4 component (4C) model.  

This breaks your body into the following four components:

1. Body Water

Adults are more than 50% water. Your body fat, muscles, blood, and other bodily fluids all contain water.  These components can be further broken down into the water contained inside your body’s cells (intracellular water) and the water outside your cells (extracellular water).

2. Protein

This is a reflection of the protein contained in your body’s muscles.

3. Minerals

Your body contains minerals which are primarily contained in two places: in the bloodstream and inside the bone tissue.

4. Fat

Here are some less common (but important) body composition terms:

  • Dry Lean Mass (DLM): Your Dry Lean Mass is the combination of the weight attributed to the protein and the bone mineral in your body.
  • Lean Body Mass (LBM): Your Lean Body Mass is the combination of your DLM and body water.
  • Skeletal Muscle Mass (SMM): Not to be confused with DLM or LBM, Skeletal Muscle Mass are the muscles that are connected to your bones and allow you to move. These are all the muscles that can be grown and developed through exercise (your pectorals, biceps, quadriceps, and so on).

These terms together give you a more sophisticated way to think about and approach both your body weight and your health. Put simply, you’ve got to know your body composition if you are serious about reaching your health goals and improving your quality of life.  Without knowing what you’re actually made of, you can only guess at how much muscle and body fat you actually have. Guessing leads to frustration, frustration leads to indifference, and indifference leads to quitting.

What’s So Important About Body Composition, Anyway?

At this point, you might be a little overwhelmed with these new terms, and think, “Thanks, but no thanks. I will just stick with something traditional and easy like Body Mass Index.”

But the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that while BMI can be used to categorize people into weight categories that have a higher chance of developing health complications, it is not an accurate tool to measure body fatness or assess health because it does not differentiate what your body weight is made up of.

The reason why that is important is that although fat and muscle may weigh the same, muscle is significantly denser than body fat. That means that 15 pounds of muscle takes up much less space than 15 pounds of fat.

Body Composition 101 The Beginner’s Guide 15 pounds of muscle and 15 pounds of fat

So what does this mean for the average person who is looking to stay healthy?  Well, if you’re simply just that: average (neither athletic nor overweight), then BMI can be a fairly good indicator to measure if you are at a healthy weight.  But if you are even a little bit athletic, or if you lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle, BMI can be misleading.

Take a star NFL tight end. At 6’6”, 262 pounds he would have a BMI of 28.8 – and according to the World Health Organization, an individual with a BMI score of 30 is classified as “obese.” But you wouldn’t consider him almost obese when you see him sprint away from NFL defensive backs.

Body Composition 101The Beginner’s Guide mfa obesity body composition star nfl

And when we look at this muscle and body fat levels, his body composition results agree.

The muscle mass and percentage muscle mass measurements show an individual with high Skeletal Muscle Mass and low Percent Body Fat (12.7%).

The reason his body weight is so high is that more than half of his body weight is made up of muscle. Although BMI may not be an accurate measurement tool for rich professional athletes, you might be wondering what does this have to do with me.

Well if you are like 150 million American office workers who aren’t getting enough exercise, BMI may be giving you a false sense of security.

For example, picture your average office worker as 5’4” and 140 pounds for a BMI score of 23.1: solidly in the “normal” BMI range. This person may want to improve their fitness level, but it’s not a high priority because her BMI is still pretty good.

Sedentary adults working in offices who do not exercise are known to lose Skeletal Muscle mass, especially in their legs. Coupled with a similar increase in body fat   This can lead to high body fat percentages, even in individuals with “normal” body weight and BMI. This condition is called skinny fat, and because of our reliance on body weight measurement and BMI, it often goes undetected.

Body Composition 101 The Beginner’s Guide female mfa obesity skinny fat woman result sheet

The muscle mass and percentage muscle mass measurements show an individual with low Skeletal Muscle Mass and High Percent Body Fat (31.1%).

These individuals are at risk for some of the same health complications as people who are visibly overweight, with BMI values above 25.  These health complications can include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more.

It then makes sense that in a Canadian study of 50,000 people, it was found that a low BMI did not necessarily correspond with a lower mortality rate.

How Can You Check Your Body Composition?

Hopefully, by now we have convinced you the importance of using something more advanced than a weight scale or BMI. Luckily, there are many methods to determine your body composition.  Some are quick and easy but provide basic information only. Some are lengthy and expensive and require the assistance of a trained technician to administer a test.

Here are four common methods:

Skinfold Calipers

Image Credit: Flickr

This is a method that many people have encountered in their local gym.  Calipers are widely used because they are portable, easy to use, and can be administered by almost anyone as long as they have had proper training and sufficient experience.

Calipers work by pinching external body fat in several places around your body and measuring how much skinfold can be grasped by the caliper’s arms.  These results are taken and used in mathematical calculations, which determine the fat mass in your entire body.

If this sounds simple, that’s because it is.  Calipers are an example of 2C body composition analysis.  Calipers will tell you how much fat you have, but that’s about it.

The other thing to be aware of when you are using calipers to test your body composition is that the accuracy of your results may vary across tests, and the reproducibility (having consistent test results when back-to-back testing) won’t be as high as tests performed on medical-grade machines, which are designed to reduce variance across tests and increase accuracy.

Hydrostatic Weighing

Image Credit: Chemistry Land

Hydrostatic weighing (also known as underwater weighing) calculates your body fat percentage using you underwater body weight. To get your underwater weight, you first need to expel all of the air in your lungs and then submerge yourself in a pool while sitting on a special scale. Your underwater weight is compared with what you weigh on land, and these numbers, together with the value of the density of the water in the pool, are put through a series of calculations.  These calculations produce your body fat percentage.

When done properly, hydrostatic weighing is a very precise method for measuring your body fat percentage, and it is often regarded as “Gold Standard” for body composition analysis.  However, just like calipers, hydrostatic weighing cannot report anything beyond body fat, like skeletal muscle mass, body water, and dry lean mass.

To get a hydrostatic weighing test performed, you will need to make an appointment at a facility such as a university or high-end sports complex that has built a hydrostatic weighing pool and a trained staff.

Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)

Image Credit: Nick Smith photography

DEXA (sometimes abbreviated as DXA), is a medical test that involves lying on a table while a machine sends X-rays through your body and measures the difference in the amount of energy initially sent through the body and the amount detected after it exits the body.  Although DEXA was originally designed to measure bone density, it is now used to measure body fat and muscle mass.

Along with hydrostatic weighing, DEXA scans are regarded as a “Gold Standard” for measuring body fat percentage.  Unlike calipers and underwater weighing, DEXA scans have the ability to measure the body segmentally, scanning each arm and the trunk separately in order to accurately measure fat mass, soft lean mass, and bone density in each segment.

In order to get a DEXA scan performed, you will typically need to make an appointment with a hospital or clinic that has a DEXA device. You may need to do some research; because of the cost, not all hospitals and clinics will have a DEXA machine.

Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA)

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) works by sending a small electrical current into a person and measuring the opposition of that current (impedance) as it travels throughout the body’s water. Once impedance is measured, body composition is calculated.  Unlike other methods, a technician does not always need to be present at a BIA test, and you can use BIA devices with just by following the directions on the device.

BIA devices range widely in quality and accuracy, and you should be aware that not all BIA devices test the entire body.  Consumer body composition scales, use BIA to directly measure leg impedance only and use estimations to determine results for the upper body.  Handheld devices only directly measure arm impedance and estimate results for the lower body.

By contrast, modern, medical-grade BIA devices are able to measure the entire body directly and can be extremely accurate –  with measurements that are closely aligned with “Gold Standard” procedures – without the complications that those procedures sometimes entail.  The most advanced BIA devices are even able to perform segmental analysis.

Because BIA measures work by measuring body water, a lot of useful information can be reported.  Although nearly all BIA devices will tell you your body fat percentage, some devices can go much further and report the body water weight, skeletal muscle mass, lean body mass, and much more.

Hopefully, this helps you a general understanding of body composition.  Knowing your body composition is the first step towards improving it, so if you’re able, schedule a body composition test soon. Your body composition test results can aid you immensely in understanding your weight, improving your overall health, and helping you achieve your fitness goals.

For a recap, check out this video:

 

Saying Goodbye to BMI

By Body Composition, InBody Blog

BMI, or Body Mass Index, has long been held as the standard for measuring obesity . But for many years now, BMI has been coming under increased pressure – scrutinized and criticized for its failure to tell the whole story. Critics say BMI is too broad, its results are inaccurate, and it doesn’t really tell you anything about your body composition.

Now, more and more industries and organizations are moving away from BMI toward a more accurate, comprehensive, and realistic measurement: body fat percentage.

BMI: A Brief History

Your BMI is determined by dividing your weight by the square of your height. A BMI in the “normal” range falls between 18.5 and 25. So if you’re 5’10” you’ll want to weigh about 130-175 pounds. Simple, right? But the problem with BMI lies within that simplicity. The formula fails to account for a number of important factors. One of the reasons BMI fails to account for anything more than just height and weight is because it was never really designed to do more than that.

BMI was developed in the early- to mid-1800s by a Belgian scientist named Adolphe Quetelet. He envisioned a simple way to determine whether or not a person was overweight. For almost 200 years, it has remained the standard that medical professionals often turn to when researching obesity.

In fact, The World Health Organization currently uses it as the standard for recording obesity statistics and has done so since the early 1980s. That’s because on a macro level, BMI is still good for examining trends. It works for when you want to get the general feel for the overall health and well-being of a city or a nation. However, BMI should never be used to assess health on an individual level. There are simply too many flaws in the system.

One of the most famous examples of the flaws in the Body Mass Index system is Arnold Schwarzenegger. When the former California Governor was in the prime of his bodybuilding career, he was 6’0” and weighed 235 pounds. This gave him a BMI of 31, putting him in the obese range.

Anyone who has ever seen a photo of a young Arnold knows that, while there are many words that can be used to describe his physique, “obese” is definitely not one of them.

Enter Body Composition

So if BMI provides an incomplete health and wellness picture, how do you get the full picture? Body composition. Body Composition is the amount of fat, Lean Body Mass, etc., in your body. When you’re measuring leanness, you must account for these factors; it can’t be as simple as height and weight.

Body composition is essentially how much of your body is made up of fat vs. lean mass. If you’re interested in living a longer, healthier life, body fat percentage matters more than your weight, and much more than your BMI.

And remember, body fat percentage isn’t just about looking good, it’s about living longer. High fat percentage increases the risk of high cholesterol, which increases the chances of a heart attack.

How is body composition determined? There are many ways to assess body composition, and they vary widely in cost and accuracy. Let’s start with one of the most basic assessments.

The Tape Test. A Thing of the Past?

In recent weeks, the U.S. Army has come out in favor of a more comprehensive way to examine the health and well-being of its soldiers. This summer, the Army division charged with height and weight standards is undergoing a complete overhaul. One of the things that will receive a lot of attention in the review is the controversial tape test.

The Army Body Fat Calculator determines your fat percentage by taking two measurements, usually done with measuring tape. It asks for your gender, age, height. And then you measure your neck just below the larynx, and your waist at the level of the belly button. Combine those five factors and you come up with the Army’s definition of body fat percentage.

But there are problems with the test. Soldiers have long-contested whether the tape test is the best way to measure body fat. Specifically, women, bodybuilders, and “people with naturally thin necks or wide hips” say the test isn’t fair. The tape test has been reviewed in the past, and all the reviews usually say something along the lines of: “it’s not perfect, but it’s the best we can do for now.”

Sound like anything familiar?  Like the tape test, BMI may not be perfect, but it is quick and easy. However, the tape test isn’t the only way to determine body composition, and for that, we turn to the world of professional sports.

A New Way of Thinking

Body composition is a new term that’s being thrown around at Green Bay Packer press conferences as of late. The Packers’ star running back Eddie Lacy has had his weight in the spotlight for years now. At a recent press conference, Packer Coach Mike McCarthy was asked about Lacy’s weight. He told reporters that he is no longer concerned with Lacy’s weight. “It’s based on his body composition,” McCarthy said.

The Packers use what’s called a DXA scan, or dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, to determine their percentage of muscle and fat. The technology was originally used to measure bone density, but the same process can be applied to the rest of the body to provide an accurate picture of fat versus muscle. Of course, not everyone has the kind of budget the Packers are working with, so a DXA scan might not be in your future. So what are some other options for measuring your body composition?

Body fat calipers are a common option, and are often used by personal trainers. Also referred to as skinfold calipers, these hand-held machines pinch an area of your body and measure how thick the fold of fat under the skin is. The measurements are taken at anywhere from 3 to up to 11  different places on your body and can provide a quick and dirty body fat percentage measurement (especially when only 3 sites are used).

However, a second, far less intrusive method is bioelectrical impedance analysis, or BIA. BIA sends an electrical signal through your body. Based on how that signal interacts with the fat, muscle, and other elements of your body, the device is able to separate your weight into – at a minimum – Fat Mass and Lean Body Mass. More advanced devices can go further and provide outputs for Skeletal Muscle Mass, Visceral Fat, and Body Water.

Regardless of how you measure it, it is becoming clear that body fat percentage is a much more accurate measurement of your overall health than BMI.

So What Do I Do Now?

Once you start thinking of your weight in terms of what it is made of up (i.e. body composition), you will begin to get a sense of where you fall on the spectrum. You will also be presented with one of two options to begin your journey to a healthier you: in short, you will either want to increase your lean body mass or decrease your fat mass. Essentially, you’re looking to change your body composition, something also known as “body recomposition.”

If you have a high body fat percentage, you will want to focus on decreasing your fat mass. This can be accomplished by burning more calories a day than you take in. When you take in fewer calories than your body uses in a day, you encourage it to draw the needed energy from where energy reserves are stored – your fat cells.

Conversely, if you’d prefer to work on building strength and size before targeting your fat, focusing on developing your Lean Body Mass. The best way to accomplish this is by participating in a resistance training program and focusing on proper nutrition to encourage muscle growth and development.

Although BMI has been used for a long time to assess your weight (maybe even your doctor still records your BMI at checkups), if you’re really serious about improving your health and wellness, it’s time that forgot about your BMI and find a way to track and trend your body fat percentage.

Body composition is not a fadnor is it a trend in the health and wellness industry. Despite being somewhat of a “new kid on the block” in terms of awareness among the general public, body fat percentage and Lean Body Mass have been well-studied and discussed in the scientific literature for decades.

But the winds of change are here: whether it’s the NY Times running a series of pieces on BMI’s failings last year, or the Mayo Clinic publishing exciting new research on the impact of body composition on your health just a few months ago.

Figure out your body fat percentage, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier, happier you.

***

Randy Miller is a freelance writer who lives and works in Sacramento, CA. To get in touch with Randy about this article, you can find him on his website, www.randymiller.net.

The Top 3 Reasons Diets Fail (and how to stay on course)

By Diet

If you recently decided to focus on losing excess weight, you probably noticed a small burst of motivation after choosing what your diet and training plans would look like. That sense of finally moving in the right direction…it can be pretty exciting.

And it should be! Make no mistake: making healthy choices about the quality and quantity of the food that you eat is a huge part of becoming a healthier version of yourself.

But the reality is the actual long-term success rate of diets is dismal. Sometimes people dive into their diets only to give up on them within weeks. What’s worse, studies have shown that only 1 in 5 people are successful at keeping the weight off in the long run. That means 80% of people fail to achieve their health goals. Is it simply a case of a lack of discipline? No!

A lot of people are making mistakes, and without proper guidance and education, chances are you too may end your fitness journey frustrated.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the most common reasons that diets fail and explore strategies to help you push through those barriers and get closer to becoming a happier, healthier you.

1. Poorly Defined Goals

Having a dietary plan in place is a great place to start–as long as you have realistic expectations and clear goals. Now, before we dive into this, let’s get one thing out of the way: ideally, health and wellness is a journey, not a destination. The pursuit of a healthier mind and body is something that never truly ends and should simply become a way of life.

But…embracing that way of life isn’t easy. And expecting someone who’s never had to worry about nutrition or training regimen to become a health nut overnight is unrealistic. That very mentality is the foundation for why so many diets fail (but more on that later).

The average first-time dieter is going to be looking at an uphill battle. Yes, they’ll have to combat all of their old habits and temptations. And sure, making a health-oriented lifestyle second nature is a tall order. But if we really want to know what really ruins people’s efforts, we need to take a look at the glaring flaw in most nutrition plans: the lack of clearly defined goals.

It may sound obvious, but many people begin fitness journeys with only the vaguest of goals, which sets them up for potential failure, especially in the long-term.

  • Clearly Define Success

If you ask the first-time dieter, they might say that they want to lose 20-30 pounds or ‘look good in a swimsuit’ in 30 days. Setting these types of goals is a common mistake. Most people typically don’t have reasonable expectations on how long it will take to make substantial changes. By setting unrealistic, vague goals you are setting yourself up to fail. If you want to ensure your success, you need to understand not only where you stand right now in terms of body composition, but where you want your body composition to be in the future.

To put things simply: how can you expect to hit a target when you don’t know exactly what you’re aiming for?

That’s where an understanding of your body composition comes in handy.

Once you understand how much Lean Body Mass and Fat Mass you have, you’ll be in a better position to tackle the next important question: which do you want to address first?

Your body will have a unique response to different programs. Whether you decide to focus on fat loss first or developing Lean Body Mass, the key is that you create a goal-oriented plan that can keep you on track.

Additionally, dieting is more than just figuring out what you should be eating. The ideal diet has to be paired with a series of realistic, achievable goals that you can measure.  What gets measured gets managed, and vague goals are the bane of any successful training plan. The more well-defined your goal is, the easier this journey will be for you.

Instead of saying you want to ‘get stronger’, focus on gaining 5 pounds of muscle. Instead of wanting to ‘look good in a bikini’, focus on losing 10 pounds of fat. Not only does this help as a way to keep you motivated and consistent throughout the process, but this subtle change in mentality can also actually have a massive impact on the overall effectiveness of your training.

You’ll be able to avoid increasing your Fat Mass while adding those extra 5 pounds to your Lean Body Mass. On the flip side, you can avoid losing muscle (which can have some pretty disastrous consequences, even more so as you age). The real power of keeping track of your progress is that you’ll constantly be aware of what’s working, what isn’t, and how you can improve.

  • Track Key Milestones

So now that you’re tracking your body composition, you’ve clearly defined a goal and you’ve chosen an approach. These are all powerful concepts, but the glue that will hold them together is the use of milestones en route to that goal.

Milestones matter because they help you celebrate small successes on your fitness journey. They’re the answer to the question of ‘how do I keep myself on track for the next 3 months?’ Losing 10 pounds of Fat Mass is going to take quite a bit of work and time, so it helps to track smaller accomplishments along the way.

When you create a list of milestones, you’ll have built a roadmap for your fitness journey. Once you understand what your goal looks like, each milestone can be used to keep you charging in the right direction. Beyond that, they give you the opportunity to make health and wellness second nature over time.

What do realistic milestones look like, from a body compositional standpoint? These will vary for everyone, but generally speaking, someone who creates a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day (a 3,500 calorie weekly deficit) stands to lose 1 pound of body fat per week, or 4 pounds a month if the diet is “perfect” all month.

It gets trickier to set muscle milestones because there are so many factors that contribute to effective muscle gain. However, assuming you’re new to muscle-building, one realistic estimate is that you can add about two pounds of muscle per month, with this number decreasing over time as you continue to lift.

If you really want to make being healthy a habit, create a series of milestones and you’ll have more than the undeniable proof that what you’re doing just isn’t working–you’ll be on your way to making health a priority in your life.

2. The Expectation of Perfection

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big when it comes to diet and exercise. We should all strive to want to be the strongest, healthiest versions of ourselves. However, envisioning something for your future and expecting it virtually overnight is not a recipe for success.

Many times people aspire to some idealized expectation of perfection, and so they set unrealistic goals, like dropping 30 pounds in 2 months. This is a mistake.

By nature, diets tend to be restrictive. In fact, most diets are designed with the intent of planning out each of your meals for you. The idea is that by erasing the need to think about what your next meal will look like, you’re more likely to make the right choice and stick to your diet.

Of course, that works perfectly well on paper. But in the real world, it’s hard to be perfectly consistent. The reality is mistakes will be made, and that’s OK. Your birthday/anniversary is coming up. Grandma will be offended if you don’t eat her famous chocolate cake. Or you are stuck at an event that lacks healthy food choices. These are just a few situations that diets aren’t really designed to account for.

Here’s what’ll usually happen. More often than not, you’ll have a person who wants to stick to their diet but can’t for some unavoidable reason. The issue here is that they then tend to fall into the trap of saying “well, I already messed up lunch. I’ll just make today a cheat day and start again tomorrow.”

Unfortunately, a cheat day can quickly turn into a cheat week and slowly but surely, people are completely off track. Think of this as the ‘New Year’s Resolution Effect’. Trying to take on too much, too soon is tough enough, but expecting everything to go perfectly according to plan can be a recipe for disaster.

This expectation of perfection is more than just unrealistic. It has the potential to undermine the average person’s health journey and, worse, make them think that they’re incapable of dieting properly.

So, how do you avoid this dieting trap? Simple: stop expecting perfection.

To clarify, if you want to have a successful diet, stick to the script as best you can. But the occasional cheat day won’t undo weeks or months of training and dieting. You need to be willing to forgive yourself for any mistakes that you make along the way.

Just remember that moderation is key here. A cheat day once a month is one thing, but a cheat weekend can get out of control quickly. Once that cheat day is over, you need to be ready to tackle tomorrow with the same intensity as before.

3. An Imbalanced Approach

This is arguably the easiest mistake to make when it comes to your health and wellness journey. And the worst part? This issue might seem minor, but it can have a massive impact on your results. So, what is this mysterious issue we keep alluding to? Imbalance.

One of the most common issues that you’ll notice with a person just getting started on their fitness journey (and even seasoned veterans) is a lack of balance between diet and exercise when it comes to their approach.

Some people are guilty of making their diet a priority and neglecting their physical training. Others are guilty of putting all the focus on their physical training without paying too much attention to the quality of their diet. No matter which side of the imbalance an individual is on, that person’s results and progress will suffer.

Without proper training, expecting your body to increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass by itself is wishful thinking, at best. Study after study has shown that the most effective way to help your body build lean mass and lose fat mass is through a regularly implemented strength training regimen AND an optimized diet.

For those of you who think they can just start some type of exercise plan and see results, think again. If you want to hit those milestones that you’ve planned out and actually improve your body composition, you’ll need to have a diet that allows you to improve it. Specifically, you need to be following a diet that falls in line with your current body composition and body composition goals. How can you do that?

We’ve covered the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) hacking approach in-depth before, but here’s the abridged version: By determining your BMR using your Lean Body Mass, you’ll be able to calculate how calories your body needs on a daily basis to keep you alive. This is critical.

Once you have that information, you can start thinking about your caloric needs in terms of planning a diet by converting your BMR into your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). Your TDEE is a general estimate of how many calories you body uses during the day, and you can use it to plan out your diet.

Are you trying to optimize your diet for weight loss? Then you’ll need a caloric deficit. Trying to gain Lean Body Mass? You’ll need to go beyond your typical caloric needs. Knowing your body composition and having a clearly defined goal means that you can use tools like BMR diet-hacking to get results sooner and more consistently than ever before.

Staying Consistent

Keep in mind that building new habits and improving your health is not going to be simple. Even if you’re able to take these lessons to heart and overcome these three common obstacles, you’ll still face unexpected difficulties. Dieting, training and the overall journey towards becoming a healthier you will almost certainly be a challenging experience. But if you’re ever in a tough spot, keep in mind the overall theme of these solutions.

The tangible solutions of creating milestones, discarding the expectation of perfection, and having a balanced approach to your diet and training all have one thing in common: They’re built on the understanding that, at the end of the day, you’re a human being

People make mistakes and poor choices. And change is anything but easy. Accepting how hard this journey is going to be is the first step to actually completing it. The second step? Realizing that you CAN do this if you set yourself up for success and arm yourself with the knowledge to reach your goals.

***

Brian Leguizamon is a content marketing specialist. Brian has worked with Shopify, Gigster and a bunch of startups you’ve never heard of. When he’s not working, you’ll find him at his local gym, waiting for the squat rack to open up

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/the-top-3-reasons-diets-fail-and-how-to-stay-on-course/

How to Make a Fitness New Years Resolution You’ll Actually Do

By Blog, Health

Raise your hand if you said something like:

“In 2016, I’m finally going to lose weight!”

If you did, you’re not alone.  According to Statistics Brain Institute, a company that compiles statistics on a variety of topics and industries, losing weight was (unsurprisingly) the #1 New Year’s resolution made in 2015.

However, according to the same research, only 8% of people reported achieving their resolution by the end of 2015.  Also not terribly surprising.

But forget 2015.  It’s now into the third week of 2016, and this year is the year that you can actually achieve your fitness/weight loss goal.  It’s completely possible; you just need to go about it the right way.

Yes, it will take hard work and dedication. No, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up everything you enjoy doing (unless what you enjoy doing is surviving on exclusively burgers and soda).  Follow the below steps and by this time next year, you’ll be celebrating the beginning of 2017 with a new, fitter you.

Step 1: Throw Your Scale out the Window

This is key. In 2016, you’re going to part with your bathroom scale. Why? Because it’s been serving you a steady stream of lies every time you’ve stepped on it in the past.

How?

You say that you want to lose weight.  But what is weight, really? It’s really just a number, and seeing a number rise or fall on the scale doesn’t tell even close to the whole story. What you’re actually trying to say when you say you want to lose weight – whether you realize it or not – is you want to lose fat. Pounds of fat.

The truth is: your body isn’t just a vessel that weighs a certain amount; it’s made up of a lot of different things, including fat, muscle, bone mineral, and body water.  This way of dividing your body into its parts is called your body composition.  When you lose (or gain weight), the actual changes in your body that your scale registers as weight changes are actually changes in one or more parts of your body composition – changes in muscle, changes in fat, etc.

Weighing yourself on the scale when you’re trying to lose weight – or worse: weighing yourself every day – can set you up for failure by not accurately reporting your progress, causing you to become discouraged.  Here’s how.

Here’s a profile of someone who is just beginning their fitness program, and is doing moderate to heavy weight lifting as part of their plan.  Here’s the same person, about three months later.

As a result of a proper diet and consistent exercise, this person has lost 5 pounds of fat. But because this person has been building muscle as well, their weight hasn’t changed at all.

If this person’s goal was simply “weight loss,” despite their positive gains in muscle and losses in fat, this person might think that no progress was made.  After months of kicking yourself into shape and being super careful about your diet, a lack of movement on the scale can be extremely discouraging.

This is why you need to focus on improving your body composition – not weight loss.  Weight loss doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know what you’re losing and gaining.

Step 2: Learn a bit about calories

“Counting calories.”

For some people, this phrase brings feelings of the purest dread.  Not only do people think it’s a lot of work, but that it also means the end of eating anything delicious.

Fortunately, keeping track of calories isn’t that hard, and depending on what your goals are, you may be able to eat more than you think.  But first, here are some basic truths on calories.

First: let’s get something straight right now – from an energy storing perspective, it doesn’t matter all that much how often/when you eat.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (bold text added):

The time of day isn’t what affects how your body uses calories. It’s the overall number of calories you eat and the calories you burn over the course of 24 hours that affects your weight.

It helps to think of your caloric needs like a daily budget.  If your needs are 2,400 calories and you “spend” a 1,000 calories on breakfast, that’s fine – it’s just that you only get 1,400 calories until breakfast the next day.

Second: everyone’s caloric needs are different; so that 2,000 daily recommended calorie intake on the nutrition label? Consider that to be the most general, vaguest set of guidelines that almost certainly will set you up for failure, especially since it was picked in no small part because it was just an easy number to remember, rounded off to the nearest thousand for convenience 1.

To find your individual caloric needs, you need to estimate something called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure – the amount of calories that you burn in a 24-hour period.  Generally speaking, your TDEE has two major components:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): the total number of calories your body requires to “stay on” and power bodily processes like brain activity, pumping blood, breathing, digesting, etc.
  • Activity Rate: an estimated index of how active you are over 24 hours

To get TDEE, multiply BMR with Activity Rate. For example, someone with a BMR of 1600 calories and is moderately active (exercises 3-5x a week) would have a total caloric need of around 2,480 calories, nearly 500 calories more than the traditional 2,000 calorie diet.

Use your TDEE as the baseline from how you create your diet.  “Cutting calories” doesn’t mean “starvation” – it means making a moderate reduction in your caloric intake as determined by your daily needs.

Based on what your goals are, designing a diet and knowing what’s an appropriate caloric intake does get a little more complicated, but there’s a complete guide to using BMR to creating a diet right here.

Step 3: Choose 1 Goal (from 2 options) and Plan Your Diet

source: Flickr

In 2016, you’re not going to think about “weight loss” any more.  Instead, you’re going to think about choosing from one of the two following goals: “fat loss” or “muscle gain.”  Both of these goals will have the effect of reducing your overall body fat percentage but achieve it in different ways.

But just one goal – not both at the same time? Can’t you lose fat and gain muscle at the same time? Maybe. But it will be extremely difficult to effectively do both over any extended period of time.  This is because the nutritional and caloric needs your body requires to gain muscle effectively are different from those when you want your body to lose fat.

  • Fat Loss

If you want to lose fat, you need to encourage your body to enter what’s called a catabolic state – a state when your body breaks down body tissue instead of building it.  This requires you to take in fewer calories than you bring in.

But remember: your TDEE is made of two parts, BMR and Activity Level, so taking in fewer calories doesn’t necessarily (and shouldn’t) mean you have to cut out breakfast completely or something equally drastic.  If you weren’t working out at all before, simply increasing your activity level by starting an exercise program while maintaining your caloric intake may be enough to trigger fat loss.  If this sounds like you, simply beginning an exercise program is a good way to get started.

However, most people will need a combination of caloric reduction and exercise to achieve consistent and healthy fat loss.  How many calories you need to reduce will vary based on your individual body composition and goals.

  • Muscle Gain

You can’t lose fat forever, and at some point you will need to work on developing muscle – or at the very least, work to preserve the muscle that you have already.  This will require a different diet and exercise plan than the one designed for fat loss.  Instead of getting your body into a catabolic state, you’ll want to enter into an anabolic state – a state where your body builds tissue instead of breaking it down.

To build muscle, your body needs resources.  This means proper nutrition – sufficient protein intake is critical when trying to increase muscle mass – but equally as important is eating enough calories.  There is a popular misconception that taking in excessive amounts of protein is the key to muscle gain, but in a Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition publication, high performance athletes who failed to meet their caloric needs were found to have limited lean body mass gains, despite increasing their protein beyond their daily recommended needs.

So what is a good estimate of your caloric needs for this goal?  Although nutrition plays a large role in determining diet, from a caloric standpoint, research suggests that maintaining an energy surplus of about 15% is appropriate for developing musculature.  This means, all else being equal, the moderately active person with a BMR of 1,600 calories would want to shoot for around 2,852 calories a day.

Step 4: Plan for a Marathon, not a 100-yard dash

source: Flickr

In a world where virtually every piece of information in all of human history can be searched for in seconds by anyone with a smartphone, people are used to getting the results they want when they want them.  Unfortunately, you can’t expect the same from your body.

That’s why if you hang around enough fitness people for long enough, you’ll eventually hear them talk about a “fitness journey.”  That’s because that’s exactly what fitness is – a journey. It’s not a sprint, and it will take time to make meaningful changes that last.

For example, in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, participants were divided into two groups that created a 25% energy gap between what they ate and what they burned. The first group did this by only dieting (25% caloric reduction) and the second achieving it by splitting the energy deficit by both diet and exercise (12.5% caloric reduction + 12.5% increase in energy use due to increased exercise).

The results were interesting: both groups were able to reduce their body weight by about 10% and their total fat mass by 24%, indicating that for fat/weight reduction, caloric reduction by any means is critical, regardless of how it is achieved.  For a 180 pound person, a 10% reduction comes out to 3 pounds of loss per month, which is less than a pound a week.

This can be challenging for some people – to not see any measurable changes on the scale after a week of diet/diet+exercise.  Even after two weeks, you may only see your weight decrease by a pound, maybe two.  If you’re measuring your weight by just using a scale, this can be especially frustrating (another reason why you should get rid of it).

Plan for the long term, and don’t expect to see dramatic changes right away.  And because you’re planning for the long term, that also means that you don’t need to be perfect every single day.  That’s going to put on too much pressure, cause frustration, and maybe cause you to fail.  That’s why this guide’s final step is important.

Step 5: Let Cheat Days Happen (and don’t feel bad about it)

source: Flickr

That’s right.  Break your diet every once in a while. Skip the odd gym day and go out for pizza and beer. It’s OK.

Didn’t expect that, did you?

But wait! Isn’t this how you “gain it all back”?  You hear stories about people breaking their diets and then gaining 5 pounds or more over a cheat weekend, erasing a month of hard work.

This is where your scale – if you’re still using one – really can screw you up with negative thinking and discouragement.  So you gained 5 pounds over the weekend; is your scale lying?  Not exactly. Yes you gained 5 pounds, but more than likely, it’s 5 pounds of water.

Your weight will fluctuate throughout the day based on what you eat and drink.  If you’re dieting, a pretty common/near universal strategy is to reduce your carbohydrate intake (aka “cutting carbs”).

By reducing your intake of foods rich in carbohydrates, you’re reducing your overall glycogen stores. Glycogen is a molecule your body converts into energy and is a source of short-term energy; as opposed to fat, which is typically used in cases where energy from glycogen or other short-term energy sources aren’t available.

What does glycogen have to do with scales, water, and cheat days? Everything, actually.

Water molecules love glycogen.  In fact, for every gram of glycogen in your body, there will be 3-4 grams of water bonded to it.  Your loading your body with glycogen when you’re eating your carbohydrate-dense food and drinks on your cheat day, and water is bonding to it.  So when you step on the scale the day after, it’s very possible to see yourself gain several pounds in a day.

This doesn’t mean you gained it all back.  Chances are, it’s just water and once you get back on your diet and exercise program, your weight will be back to where it was in a couple days. Watch.

5 Step Plan Review

Let’s review your 5 step plans for a weight loss plan that you’ll actually do in 2016.

  1. Throw out your scale and get your body composition tested.  If your gym doesn’t do it, join one that does. The longer you stick with a scale, the longer you’ll be frustrated.
  2. Learn the basics of calories and find your TDEE.
  3. Pick 1 goal. You can change it later.
  4. Prepare for your own “fitness journey.” Slow and steady wins the race.
  5. Have a cheat day. It will help you stay sane, and it will give you something to look forward to every week or two to keep you motivated.

Good luck!

 

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/84369153-how-to-make-a-fitness-new-years-resolution-you-ll-actually-do/

How Menopause Changes Your Body and What You Can Do About It

By Body Composition

Menopause, which literally means the “pause” (end) of your “menses” (period), comes with many natural changes. Some women are lucky enough to skate through this time with no discomfort, while many experience the classic symptoms: fatigue, insomnia, and hot flashes. Reproductive and mood changes. And of course, the metabolic changes that result in weight gain around the torso and buttocks.

This increase in waist size has even earned a special name: “menopot”.

What exactly is going on during menopause, how does it affect your body composition, and what can you do about it? Read on as we answer these questions and more.

The physiological and metabolic changes of menopause

What exactly is happening during menopause? A lot! The transition to menopause, known as perimenopause, takes place over a period of several years. As the ovaries gradually reduce estrogen production, there are many hormonal fluctuations as the body adjusts to the inevitable shut-down of the ovaries.

A woman is officially in menopause when she has not gotten her period for 12-months straight. At this point, the ovaries have significantly reduced production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, ending a woman’s child-bearing years.

There are significant physiological and metabolic changes occurring at this time that directly affect your body composition.  So, if you feel like the struggle to lose weight or change your body is more difficult than it was 10 or 15 years ago, it’s not your imagination.

Aging

Aging, in and of itself, has been associated with changes in body composition and weight.  In general, as women age, lean muscle mass decreases while fat mass accumulates.  Part of this change is due to the natural change of your metabolism as you age. Another significant factor is lifestyle.

Women tend to become less physically active as they pass from their 40’s into their 50’s.  A decrease in physical activity means less calories burned, which inevitably leads to increased weight and fat mass and muscle mass loss.  Another culprit is not adjusting caloric intake to compensate for the reduced metabolism.

Estrogen

Estrogens often referred to as the “female hormones,” are responsible for your sexual and reproductive development.  Produced primarily by the ovaries in women, estrogen levels plunge when your ovaries stops releasing eggs.

Reduction in estrogen has a few negative effects on the body’s propensity to store fat.  Animal studies have shown that lower estrogen not only increases appetite and food intake, it is also associated with changes in weight and fat distribution.  Coupled with estrogen’s negative effects on your metabolism, which may reduce the rate at which your body burns calories and the efficiency in how your body handles starches and blood sugar, the end result is increased fat storage.

Cortisol

Commonly known as the “stress hormone”, the primary function of cortisol is to help you respond to stress.  When cortisol prepares the body for a stressful situation, it often signals the breakdown of muscle tissue to release energy.

Chronic stress, which results in a continuous release of cortisol, has been associated with fat accumulation in the midsection of women.  This leads to a vicious cycle as abdominal fat leads to more cortisol production and cortisol continues to promote fat in the abdomen.

To compound the issue, a study found that women in perimenopause and early postmenopause experience elevated nighttime cortisol levels.  The study concluded that nighttime production of cortisol is associated with biological changes rather than actual environmental stress.   This means that proper sleep and stress management may be important tools to prevent fat storage around the belly.

Fat Distribution

This leads to one of the most common complaints women have about their bodies after menopause is the loss of their waistline.

While a decline in reproductive hormones (follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estrogen, and progesterone) has not yet been directly linked to weight gain, several studies shows that menopause does play a role in many midlife women’s transformation from a pear-shaped figure (wide hips and thighs with more weight below the waist) to an apple shaped figure (wide waist/belly with more weight above the hips).

The International Journal of Obesity published a study that investigated how menopause affects body composition and abdominal fat distribution.  The study concluded that this period of life is associated with increased total fat mass. Another key finding confirmed, “the menopause transition appears to promote the selective accumulation of fat in the intra-abdominal compartment.”

Leptin

Leptin is known as the “satiety” hormone.  Produced by your fat cells, the hormone leptin determines the amount you eat, calories you expend and even how much fat your body stores. Leptin levels are based on an individuals’ fat mass and its primary purpose is to protect you from starvation.

Low levels of leptin signal your brain to increase feelings of hunger which trigger you to eat more while your body burns less energy.

Overall, women have higher leptin levels than men, which makes sense due to women naturally carrying a higher percentage of fat than men.

It has been found that leptin levels decline significantly in post-menopausal women, regardless of the amount of fat mass. This explains why so many women report an increased appetite during menopause.

Combined with the other menopausal factors of aging, decreased estrogen, increased cortisol, and metabolic changes, the hormone leptin only adds to the struggle for women trying to control their weight gain and fat accumulation.

Is it a losing battle?

Absolutely not!  While the odds seem to be stacked against you, you can take action to positively change your body composition after menopause. Remember to always consult with your physician before beginning a new exercise or eating plan. Here are some lifestyle changes you can take:

Move more!

All levels of exercise intensity — light, moderate, and intense — are highly beneficial to post-menopausal women for impacting body composition.

One study concluded that intense physical activity resulted in significantly lower levels of total body fat in postmenopausal women.

Here’s one area in which postmenopausal women have an advantage (finally!):  light physical activity has a greater impact on body composition in women after menopause than before.  It is important to note this study also found that sedentary lifestyle is more strongly associated with an increase in waist circumference after menopause than before.

The bottom line? You don’t have to start intense daily endurance and strength training to see improvements. Small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.  You can benefit from a variety of physical activities from gardening to walking.

Don’t forget strength training

The same principles apply postmenopause as they do at any age. You can’t forget your about fitness level just because you are aging. Strength training increases muscle mass and quality and helps balance your hormones like your estrogen levels.  More muscle mass increases metabolism, which may contribute to diminished weight gain and decreased fat mass.

Now more than ever is the time to counteract that loss of muscle mass to prevent a slowdown of that metabolic rate. You should aim for strength training exercises at least two times per week to get the maximum benefit for your muscles. Consult with a fitness professional to help you get started.

Watch what you eat

To reach your target body composition may require permanent lifestyle changes rather than a stop-gap dieting approach. Keep in mind you may need about 200 calories less per day to maintain your weight in your 50’s than you did in your 30’s due to a decline/decrease in muscle mass.  It is important not to take in too few calories as this will lead to muscle loss, which will slow your metabolism.

Instead of taking a restrictive dieting approach, aim to pay attention to what you eat and drink. Choose nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins and fats. And make sure you get the extra nutrients you need, like extra protein, to help you build muscle. Avoid processed foods and limit sweets and alcohol.

Get enough sleep

Menopause is notoriously a time of challenged sleep, and lack of quality sleep directly affects hormones that alter your body composition, increasing cortisol levels the next day and may accelerate the development of metabolic consequences.  Practicing good sleep hygiene may help you get the 7-9 hours of nightly sleep you need. Sleep hygiene refers to habits that promote quality sleep, such as:

  • Regular exercise, but not too close to bedtime
  • Avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, close to bedtime
  • Adequate exposure to natural light during the day to maintain sleep-wake cycle
  • Avoiding long naps (more than 30 minutes) during the day
  • Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine with limited TV time
  • Creating a comfortable sleep environment

Manage stress

Remember that stress hormone called cortisol?  Effectively managing stress will reduce your body’s production of cortisol, which will help you avoid negative changes to your body composition, like fat gain and muscle loss.  You can’t eliminate stress, but you can do things to help you handle it better. Exercise, meditation, yoga, tai chi, spending time with friends, or just doing things you enjoy are all effective strategies to decrease your cortisol levels.

Conclusion

While some women dread the arrival of menopause, many embrace the freedom from years of menstrual cramps and bloating.  It is true you will likely experience changes during this midlife event — some not so welcome — but you can take control of your body composition with simple lifestyle changes.

Understanding the factors contributing to changes in your body composition — aging, estrogen, cortisol, fat redistribution, and leptin — is the first step to fighting the battle. At the same time, you will be warding off health conditions associated with an unhealthy body composition, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Regular physical activity, strength training, proper diet, adequate sleep, and stress management are all proactive things you can do to help during this natural aging process and help you enjoy your golden years.

***


Jennifer
 Boidy, RN is a freelance healthcare content writer who is always on the lookout for innovative technologies that improve health and the delivery of healthcare.  Jennifer resides in Manchester, MD with her husband, two teenagers, dog, cat, and plenty of wildlife.