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With 26 years of experience, InBody provides a wide range of body composition analyzers. One of the most frequently asked questions from our customers is: What is the best InBody that fits my business?
When it comes to medical fields, monitoring the body water balance is important as edema is a common symptom that is closely related to the condition of the patients. For this reason, many doctors around the globe choose the InBody models which show this body water balance; ECW ratio.
Then what are the body composition analyzers which provide this body water result?
But.. How are they really different? To help your understanding, I would like to compare InBody570, InBody770, and InBody970.
InBody 570 is where the medical-grade lineup of products begins. In addition to muscle and fat mass, InBody570 provides a Whole Body ECW ratio.
ECW ratio refers to the ratio of extracellular water to total body water. As you may know, up to 70% of our body is made of water and it can be categorized into Intracellular water (the water that is inside the cell) and Extracellular water (the water that is outside the cell).
Healthy people usually maintain a certain ratio between Intracellular Water and Extracellular Water, while people with certain medical conditions often don’t. In a healthy state, ECW/TBW ratio should fall within the range of 0.360 to 0.390. If the ECW ratio is over 0.390, an additional medical check-up will be needed as we can doubt edema or malnutrition.
InBody770 takes an even deeper look into body water. With a result sheet dedicated to body water analysis, InBody770 not only provides the Whole Body ECW ratio but also measures the Segmental ECW ratio.
The Segmental ECW ratio refers to the ECW ratio of each body part. It allows seeing which part of the body is swelling or whether there are any imbalances between each body part. This data is particularly important for medical professionals as edema tends to start from each end of the limbs. Doctors can detect edema before it gets serious with a body water result sheet.
In addition to the segmental ECW ratio, InBody 770 can give a clearer view of visceral fat, providing their relative position among their peers using InBody’s accumulated data.
Furthermore, InBody770 shows the cellular health of the patients with Phase Angle.
InBody970 is the latest InBody and the most advanced model that we have ever introduced. This high-end device gives you a new experience in body composition analysis with its optional device and its result sheets.
InBody 970 goes with a specially conceived device named “Y scope”.
Yscope is the world’s first portable BIA abdominal fat analyzer to get an even more comprehensive measurement of the patients’ abdominal fat. As a result, you can have more in-depth consultations with your patients using the data that we provide.
The Visceral Fat Result Sheet shows the V/S ratio, visceral fat/ subcutaneous fat ratio which allows you to determine whether a person has visceral fat obesity or subcutaneous fat obesity. Along with the Visceral Fat Result Sheet, InBody970 provides you with 7 different types of result sheets, you can choose the right result sheet that fits your needs.
The Evaluation Result Sheet provides a comprehensive analysis so that the patients can know how their status is compared to the young age group(T-score) and the same age group (Z-score) utilizing over 13 million data that we have accumulated around the globe. In addition, you can customize the result sheet by choosing between 20 options.
COVID‐19 patients are prone to develop significant weight loss, malnutrition, and deterioration of body composition which are caused by many different factors. According to research, 81% of patients on the rehab wards post COVID-19 required dietetic input.
The main factors are as follows.
COVID-19 infection can cause major inflammation, particularly pronounced in patients with severe and critical diseases.
Malnutrition is frequently seen in COVID‐19 patients. Disease‐associated reductions in food intake and malnutrition can contribute to tissue wasting.
Immobilization can also significantly contribute to muscle wasting and sarcopenia in COVID‐19. Ultimately, the negative ‘synergy’ of all these factors together can cause significant body wasting in COVID‐19 patients as clinically often observed.
Then how does the body composition change after COVID-19 infection and during the recovery?
Body Composition Change After Infection
Through the actual case of a patient who recovered from COVID-19, we will see how body composition changed after being infected with COVID-19 and in the recovery, and how the InBody results can help COVID-19 patients.
On December 19th of 2020, this person was infected with COVID-19 and hospitalized from the 4th to the 9th of January. This 50-year-old male used to maintain good body composition status (with an InBody score over 80).
Below is his InBody result before & after COVID-19.
If you see the change of his body composition before and after the COVID-19 infection, you can see :
4) Phase Angle decreased, especially the trunk Phase Angle from 9.5 to 5.7.
After the infection, not only the patients’ body composition changes but also their lungs might become inflamed, making it tough for them to breathe. For some people, the infection becomes more serious and the lung tissue itself becomes swollen and filled with fluid and debris from dead cells.
This man had similar symptoms as above. COVID-19 made him difficult to have proper breathing. After the treatment, the function of the lung, immunity system, and breathing ability got slowly well with the effort of doctors and nurses, but he also tried some exercises to accelerate the recovery process and get back to the condition before the infection.
His Efforts for the Recovery
In the beginning, he started doing exercise as usual. He tried running, swimming, and other exercises. However, his heart rate dramatically went up as soon as he tried those exercises. Even when he tried to climb the stairs in his home, his heart rate increased up to 130bpm with SvO2 dropping to 88%. Then it took more than 5 mins to get his breath back. This is because hard/strong exercise for someone who has respiratory diseases makes the condition worse. It is proved by several research studies conducted about how hard exercise negatively affects lung function.
Then how did he manage it? He started to exercise in a controlled condition. Starting with slowly walking between the kitchen and room. Then he tried several exercises with monitoring his SvO2 and HR rate to find the best exercise which does not affect his body condition. He found that indoor cycling at zero effort can maintain his SvO2 between 88-92% and HR between 78-90. He exercised his lung systematically to breathe deeper and deeper. He also monitored blood glucose levels as COVID-19 gave the pancreas beating.
Body Composition Change during the Recovery
As shown above, after the exercise,
His weight increased from 85.5kg to 89.4kg,
His muscle mass, which had been reduced to 37.2kg, increased to 39kg.
Most of the COVID patients suffer from weight loss/muscle loss (about 61% decreases by more than 5% of the total body weight), and it is difficult for them to increase their muscle and weight, but it is very important.
Use of Body Composition for COVID-19 Patient
In order to return to a healthy status same as before the COVID-19, close body composition monitoring is necessary. During the recovery process, if you only focus on the weight gain, important nutritional indicators (ECW ratio, Phase Angle) and fat/muscle management are not able to be achieved. Without management of key factors, the nutritional status may not return to normal.
If we take a look at the results of the 50-year-old man, some of the parameters were recovered, but the ECW Ratio or Phase angle did not return to the previous status, and at the same time he thought that the body condition is not the same as before.
In many cases of COVID-19 patients, they tend to focus on the weight only to monitor the recovery, but in fact, the perfect recovery can be achieved when we monitor and manage the body composition.
• Muscle Loss (Sarcopenia)
1) While the patients are suffering from disease, physical activity decreases. 2) One of the most common post-COVID symptoms is fatigue, which refrains post-COVID patients from physical exercises.
The above two can lead to muscle loss. To prevent sarcopenia, it is important to monitor the muscle mass and have some proper treatments not to lose muscle.
• ECW ratio (Inflammation)
ECW ratio, the ratio of Extracellular Water to Total Body Water is an important indicator to check the balance of body water. Acute systematic inflammation that can occur during the disease can raise the ECW ratio. Moreover, since the ECW ratio sensitively reflects your body condition, it can be used to track the recovery of the patient.
• Phase Angle (Nutrition)
Phase Angle is a clinically important bioimpedance parameter used for nutritional assessment and evaluating the severity of various diseases. Low Phase Angle tends to be consistent in individuals with malnutrition, infection, cancer, and old age.
Phase Angle can be also used to monitor the recovery of the post- COVID patients.
If you want to know more about the body composition analyzer which shows ECW ratio, Phase Angle, please contact us.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on July 31, 2018, for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on November 13, 2015.
“I used to be fit, but then I stopped exercising and it all turned to fat.”
It doesn’t seem like it should make sense – that muscle can turn into fat – but everyone’s seen the retired professional athlete who got really fat.
Well, here it is in black and white (and in bold): No. Muscle does not “turn into fat.” Period.
There is no process in the human body by which muscle – which is made up of mainly protein, amino acids, and water – transforms itself into adipose (fat). The human body, no matter how amazing it can be at times, cannot magically turn one tissue into another.
So then, what’s going on?
It’s Not Magic – It’s Body Composition
The illusion of “muscle turning into fat” becomes believable for many people when they don’t see their weight change over time, yet see themselves get fatter. While muscle turning into fat is a myth, the possibility of your body fat percentage rising over time definitely isn’t, and that’s what’s actually happening.
So what’s actually happening? It is simply a negative change in body composition.
Specifically, it’s a loss of Skeletal Muscle Mass combined with a gain of Fat Mass occurring at about the same rate, at about the same time. How does this happen, and how can you avoid this? Let’s take a closer look.
Here’s what a 7-pound decrease in muscle and a 7-pound increase in fat would look like in someone who weighed 261.9 pounds with a body fat percentage of 13.0%:
Notice how as Lean Body Mass drops, Skeletal Muscle Mass drops with it. Because the Lean Body Mass decrease matches the Fat Mass increase, this person’s weight doesn’t change.
However, this person’s body fat percentage increased from 13.0 to 15.7. The increased body fat percentage combined with the lack of body weight change creates the illusion that muscle is transforming into fat, when in reality it’s just an increase in body fat disguised by no change in scale weight due to muscle loss.
How do things like this happen, and why does it seem to happen to people who are or used to be very fit? It starts with muscle loss.
Although you may not realize it, you “lose muscle” every minute you are alive. That’s because your muscles, like any other tissue in your body, depends on cell turnover and protein synthesis. This means that your body is continually breaking down the protein in your muscles and rebuilding them. You want your body to do this – it’s part of what’s keeping you alive!
Skeletal muscle can be grown and developed through proper nutrition – which includes consuming sufficient protein to provide the necessary amino acids – and through physical activity. The converse is also true: if you become less physically active and/or your diet can no longer support the development of increased muscle tissue, you will enter a catabolic (tissue-reducing) state known as muscle atrophy.
Muscles that are partially used – using less than 20% of their maximum force – will start to atrophy over the long term. Complete disuse is even worse: muscles that are completely unused, such as when someone is bedridden and performs very little movement, can degrade by about 1/8 of their strength per week.
Of course, if you don’t have any major health complications, your muscles are not going to degrade at such a significant rate as someone who is bedridden. However, if your body was used to operating at a high, athletic level and you suddenly stop exercising, your body won’t see any reason to maintain your muscles at that level and will begin to atrophy.
And what takes its place instead? Fat!
Same Diet, Different Lifestyle
But where does the fat come from?
The same place it always comes from: an energy surplus – caused by eating more than you’re burning. Although for many people this isn’t exactly news, it can catch people by surprise, especially people who are used to being athletic and fit.
Athletes require massive amounts of energy in order to perform at a high level. And this energy demand requires large amounts of all major macronutrients. In order to get that energy, they need to eat – and eat a lot. According to an interview given by Susan M. Kliner, a nutritional consultant for the Seattle Seahawks, NFL quarterbacks required somewhere between 4,000 to 6000 calories, spread out over about 6 meals per day in order to be in ideal playing shape.
A major reason why high-performance athletes like NFL quarterbacks require so many calories is that they typically have higher-than-average amounts of Lean Body Mass as compared to average people at the same height. That’s significant because as Lean Body Mass increases, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) increases. BMR is the number of calories a body needs at rest, not including what is needed for movement and digesting food.
Here’s an example of someone whose body composition falls into the athletic profile:
The Lean Body Mass, SMM, and Basal Metabolic Rate was measured using the InBody 570.
Notice the high values for Lean Body Mass and Skeletal Muscle Mass. This contributes towards the BMR value of 2,602.
However, BMR is not the total calories you need a day. A more appropriate number is the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), of which BMR is one part. In order to calculate TDEE, you’ll first need to determine BMR and then multiply it by a factor determined by how active you are.
Professional football players would fall under “extremely active” as their full-time job involves very high amounts of physical activity. Taking the BMR in our example and multiplying it by 1.9 would result in a TDEE of 4,943.8, consistent with the statements made by Dr. Kliner.
What’s important to remember is that this number is the amount of calories that this individual needs to consume maintain his weight due to his Lean Body Mass, and critically, at his current activity level.
What would happen if this person stopped being so active and took an office job – jobs that are typically sedentary? TDEE would plummet quickly because the activity level would drop significantly.
Let’s say that this individual decided to continue being active while working at this office job and worked out enough to be classified as “moderately active.” Assuming that BMR remains consistent, this person’s TDEE would be 4,033.1. That’s a difference of 910.7 calories, or eating approximately 22 strips of pan-fried thick cut bacon on top of what you usually eat.
Extremely Active: 2,602 (BMR) x 1.9 = 4,943.8 (TDEE)
In the example above, if this person continued to eat at the same level they did when they were extremely active, they would be in a caloric surplus of 910.7 a day, or an extra 6,374.9 calories a week.
What happens when the body remains in a caloric surplus for an extended period of time? Fat gain!
So tying it all together, it isn’t that your “muscle turns into fat.” From a body composition standpoint, here is what is happening:
Your Lean Body Mass is decreasing due to a skeletal muscle mass loss
Your Skeletal Muscle Mass is decreasing because of disuse. Your BMR decreases accordingly.
Because activity level has dropped, your TDEE has also dropped.
Energy intake remains consistent, not accounting for TDEE drop. Caloric surplus created.
Caloric surplus leads to Fat Mass gain.
Now that we know what is happening, how do we make sure it doesn’t happen to us?
Who’s At Risk and What They Can Do
People who are at risk for gaining large amounts of fat are, somewhat ironically, people who are at their fittest right now. That’s because when you’re at your fittest, the amount of nutrients you are consuming is necessary fuel to help the body recover after a tough workout. You’re in balance.
The problem is, people become accustomed to eating a certain amount of food, especially when they have lived a certain way for many years. They develop a mental understanding of how much they can eat, and they often order and/or cook portion sizes that match this mental understanding of how much food they need.
Although it is a challenge, here are three steps you can get back on track.
1. Test your Body Composition
Testing your body composition regularly is the best way to ensure that you’re staying at the level you want to be.
By tracking your body composition, you will be able to track Lean Mass and Fat Mass gain or loss. With that kind of information, you’ll be able to make the changes you need to ensure that you stay as fit and healthy.
2. Change your Diet
You must adjust your diet to match your current activity level, or you will risk running a caloric surplus. That change might be more than you’d expect, too.
A great way to optimize your diet is to use BMR which will make sure you are getting enough nutrients to fuel muscle growth, but also lose that stubborn belly fat.
3. Find an activity that fits your new lifestyle
Find new ways to increase your activity level that works with your current lifestyle. Although you may no longer be performing at high levels every day, you can find new ways to be active on a schedule that works for you.
Remember the key is to maintain the balance between food consumption and exercise intensity that fits your current lifestyle. Once you achieve that balance, you lose the extra fat start getting your old athletic body back.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on August 24, 2018, for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on September 24, 2015
Consider the following three statements:
“I’m not working out to get huge; I just want to build strength and put on five pounds of lean muscle.”
“My goal is to workout more and put on a healthy five pounds of muscle mass before next season.”
“I’m going to add more protein to my diet and hopefully gain 5 pounds of lean body mass by the end of the month.”
In each one, someone wants to gain five pounds of something but is using three different terms. Are these three ways of saying the same thing? Can they be used interchangeably? Or are they different?
Let’s get one thing out of the way: “lean muscle” is a bit of a misnomer. Although there are indeed different types of muscle, from a biological point of view, there is no such thing as “lean muscle”. The word “lean” is usually meant to suggest the absence of body fat. But here’s the truth: all muscle is “lean muscle”.
What about Lean Body Mass and Muscle Mass? Both of these exist. However, they are two very different parts of your body composition, and in order to understand your weight, health, and fitness goals properly, you’ll need to understand the differences between them. Let’s take a look below.
Lean Body Mass vs. Muscle Mass
Lean Body Mass (also sometimes known as simply “lean mass,” likely the source of the word “lean muscle”) is the total weight of your body minus all the weight due to your fat mass.
Lean Body Mass (LBM) = Total Weight – Fat Mass
LBM includes the weight of:
Unlike lean muscle, Lean Body Mass correctly uses the word “lean” as it describes the entire weight of your body minus fat. This is why it is also known as “Fat-Free Mass.”
Because your Lean Body Mass comprises so many parts, any change in the weight of these areas can be recorded as changes in LBM. Keep in mind, the weight of your organs will not change much. Bone density will decrease over time, but it won’t significantly affect the weight of your LBM.
Two major areas to focus on with Lean Body Mass is body water and muscle mass.
When people talk about gaining muscle by eating more protein or muscle building workouts, what they’re really talking about is gaining or building their Skeletal Muscle Mass. This is because of the three major muscle types – cardiac, smooth, and skeletal – skeletal muscle mass is the only type of muscle that you can actively grow and develop through proper exercise and nutrition.
But Skeletal Muscle Mass is one part of your Lean Body Mass. Another major influencer is water and this can be a problem when people use muscle gain and “lean gains” interchangeably.
The Problem with “Lean Gains”
Because an increase of Skeletal Muscle Mass is an increase of Lean Body Mass, people will lump them together as “gaining lean mass” or “lean gains.”
However, it doesn’t work the other way: an increase of Lean Body Mass is not always an increase in muscle. That’s because body water makes up a significant portion of your Lean Body Mass. To illustrate this point, here’s a body composition analysis of a 174.1-pound male.
98.1 (Total Body Water) + 35.5 (Dry Lean Mass) = 133.6 Lean Body Mass
Water made up more than 55% of total body weight, which is normal for healthy adult males.
Notice how from a body composition standpoint, Lean Body Mass is made up of three components, two of which are water. Everything else is grouped together in what’s called your “Dry Lean Mass,” which includes your bone minerals, protein content, etc.
Muscle gains definitely contribute to LBM gains, but so does water, which can fluctuate throughout the day depending on hydration status, diet, and physical activity.
There is only one way to calculate what is happening to your Lean Body Mass: getting your body composition analyzed. Without testing your body composition, there will be no way to know what any gain or loss in your body weight is due to.
Most methods of body composition analysis will at the minimum divide your body into Lean Body Mass (this may be referred to as Fat-Free Mass) and Fat Mass. These methods include:
Air displacement plethysmography
Each of these has their pros and cons, and accuracy may vary depending on a number of factors unique to each testing method.
So, Lean Body Mass, Muscle Mass, Lean Mass, Which Is it?
Back to our originally three statements: which is correct to say? Let’s review:
Lean Muscle: You should stop using this term because it is misleading. All muscle is “lean muscle,” and it is a confusing mix of two real terms: Skeletal Muscle Mass and Lean Body Mass.
Muscle Mass (or Skeletal Muscle Mass): Yes, it is likely true that if you’re performing resistance training/weight lifting workouts and adding enough protein to your diet, a percentage of the change is likely due to muscle mass development. But remember that skeletal muscle mass is part of LBM. Things get tricky when you start putting numbers on your muscle mass gains. Everyone’s body composition is different, and the proportion of your skeletal muscle mass to Lean Body Mass will not be the same as someone else’s. This makes accurate estimations even harder unless you have access to sophisticated tools that can differentiate between LBM and SMM.
Lean Mass (lean body mass): This is probably the best and safest term to use to describe your gains. When you use this term, you’re telling people that you have gained weight from muscle and water, not body fat.
However, that’s all you can really say. Because of the nature of Lean Body Mass, it is very hard to say how much of the gain is due to water and how much is due to muscle (which is largely water to begin with). A gain of 5 pounds of LBM is not 5 pounds of pure muscle,
When it comes to tracking your muscle gain (or fat loss), it all comes down to what tools you’re using to measure your progress. If all you are working with is a weight scale, then all you will ever know for sure is your weight is increasing or decreasing. It would be hard to differentiate the weight gain from water, muscle, or body fat. If you are serious about accurately measuring your muscle gain and assessing your health, go get a body composition analysis. Then – and only then – can you tell people that you gained five pounds of muscle with confidence.
It’s no secret that the benefits of improving your body composition go beyond looking good.
Anti-aging, more sustainable weight loss, better overall health — when you start improving your body composition, you start living an overall healthier life.
For this reason, we are dead set on helping you figure out how to reach your target body composition and bringing you closer to your goals through nutrition and fitness.
But we’ve noticed one thing.
Despite the countless memes on the perils that lie ahead if you skip leg day, the legs still don’t get enough attention.
We’re talking about things like this:
Notice how for this person, the upper body (arms and trunk) are all sufficiently developed (percentages over 100%) whereas both legs are in the low 90s.
Now, this is pretty common. People want to look like total beasts and others want to look like magazine models with long, lean bodies. #fitstagram anyone?
This is why you focus on your mirror muscles. You know the ones, these:
For the gentlemen, it’s the chest, abs, back, arms, and shoulders. The ladies, on the other hand, often prioritize their abs and hips. For both, the legs sometimes an afterthought.
While improved physique is an excellent motivation to crush your body composition goals, you’ve got to look past the aesthetic benefit and think big picture by thinking beyond your upper body.
Think of your body as a machine. You’ve got to make sure that every bolt, screw, and working component of your body is in top shape.
While the ill effects of ignoring your glorious glutes, thighs, hamstrings, and calves may not be felt immediately, failing to keep them in shape will eventually catch up with you. It’s a classic, use-it-or-lose-it scenario.
Skeptical? Five days of complete muscle disuse can lead to substantial loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength, and although that’s an extreme case, it points to a greater argument: the risks of leading a sedentary lifestyle and neglecting your muscles. In fact, muscle neglect has become so common and so prevalent that it’s even given birth to an entirely new field of fitness science research.
Read on to learn why ignoring your legs’ pleas (if only your legs could talk!) to keep them in shape is tantamount to eating Twinkies for breakfast.
Seriously, we’re not pulling your leg (swear, this is the only leg pun we have in this post).
The Perils of Poor Leg Skeletal Muscle Mass.
The fitness science world is absolutely awash with research pointing to the paramount importance of leg health. Are you ready?
Higher Risk of Injury and Bone Density
Did you know that you can start losing bone density by the time you hit your 30s?
What’s more: you can further accelerate this natural process of bone density loss if you have under-developed skeletal muscle mass. It turns out that the health of your muscles and bones are tightly linked.
We could even declare them twin flames as reflected in a study of nearly 800 men between 50 to 80 years of age. The researchers found out when studying people with less muscle mass than is average for their height, these people tended to have narrower and thinner bones, resulting in lower bending strength. As a result, low decreased muscle mass was shown to be linked to impaired balance and increased risk of falls among elderly males.
Another Japanese study on outclinic patients further supports the synergistic relationship between muscles and bone. The researchers concluded that in patients with hip fractures, there is indeed a higher prevalence of sarcopenia (muscle wasting) and significant reduction of leg muscle mass.
This is serious business, and the combination of low muscle mass, low bone density, and hip fractures can have lifelong consequences – a 2006 study has even noted that for women over 65 with low muscle mass, more than 50% who break a hip in a fall never walk again.
Come to think of it, your gluteal muscles (buttock muscles) are the largest muscle group in the body. When you have poor skeletal muscle mass in your legs, a huge and very important chunk of your body becomes at risk of lessening bone density.
Poor physical mobility
Let’s say that you manage to avoid injuries due to brittle bones and lack of skeletal muscle mass. There’s one risk that you can’t escape from if you have underdeveloped skeletal muscle mass: poor physical mobility.
But before you give up and say to yourself that you’re not elderly and don’t need to worry about these issues until later – consider this:
As reflected in this Sports Medicine article, the increase in lean mass is the most important predictor for bone mineral mass formation during prepubertal growth. This means motivating children to move can help stimulate both bone and skeletal muscle hypertrophy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends strength training for kids above 8 years old.
Increased insulin resistance
Besides being a harbinger of diabetes, insulin resistance is also a precursor for several health issues — from obesity to thyroid issues to breast cancer.
So what does your leg muscle mass have to do with insulin resistance? A lot.
First, a Japanese study uncovered the association between reduced leg muscle mass and Type 2 diabetes patients. The results further affirmed that reduced leg muscle mass was significantly correlated with an increasing number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Second, a Korean study on their elderly population examined the relationship between lower skeletal muscle mass and increased insulin resistance in a healthy elderly Korean population.
What’s behind this link between leg muscle and insulin resistance? For part of the answer, we have to look to testosterone.
The problem with testosterone is that for both men and women, testosterone levels decline as they age. This decline starts around age 30 (about the same time muscle strength starts to decline). The less testosterone you have in your body, the more likely that your body will lose its ability to regulate insulin, glucose, and fat metabolism. As a result, adipose tissue (fat) tends to accumulate.
Fortunately, there’s something you can do about this decline. People naturally produce hormones, including testosterone, and exercise protocols that are high in volume, moderate to high in intensity, using short rest intervals and stressing large muscle groups (your glorious glutes and hammies!) have been shown to be the best for hormone production.
That’s because by and large, the amount of muscle mass stimulated during a workout is directly related to the amount of testosterone that’s released. Another reason not to skip leg day.
Additional Benefits of Improving Leg Muscle Mass Through Exercise
If we have not convinced you to pay more attention to your leg muscle mass after listing down the perils, the following benefits will likely nudge you to see squats, lunges, hamstring curls, and even brisk walking in a whole new light:
Skeletal muscle is a secretory organ. Instead of the usual fears that physical activity can aggravate inflammation, it turns out that regular exercise such as strength training can potentially disrupt the vicious cycle of inflammation. This typically happens in chronic diseases such as rheumatic disease.
Improved range of motion (which translates to more efficiency in performing daily tasks).
Boost in self-confidence
Don’t Wait For The Problems To Start: Prevent Them!
While it’s too easy to neglect lower body mass and strength because they aren’t a part of the mirror muscle gang, it is worth noting that they’re the largest in your body. That makes them hugely important for your overall body composition, bone health, insulin sensitivity, and hormone production.
So what are you to do if you’re to avoid these consequences of low leg muscle mass? As the saying goes: an ounce of preventative is worth a pound of cure, and in this case this means one thing: get your body composition measured.
You may have noticed that a lot of these studies focused on the elderly. That’s because for many elderly, a lifestyle in which they neglected their lower body composition has come back to haunt them, and so researchers study them to better learn how they got to that state. This doesn’t mean, however, that if you’re not elderly, you can ignore the findings of these studies.
You aren’t likely to see many 30- or 40-year-olds suffering hip injuries from falls and brittle bones, but by the same token, you’re not likely to see many 70- or 80-year-olds doing something about preventing it in the squat cage. For them, some of the best exercises to build and maintain leg muscle may now be practically beyond them.
If you start early and monitor your changes in body composition throughout your whole body, including your legs, you can lessen the chances of having problems later in life by being proactive about it now.
And for more immediate benefits, paying more attention to your legs means you’ll equally look good and be more powerful — whether it’s at the gym, outdoors, or simply when you’re hauling those big bags of groceries!
Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher. After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on September 14, 2018, for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on June 14, 2017.
A few days ago, you stepped on the bathroom scale, and you’re stoked to see your weight is going down. People have even started complimenting you on how strong and lean you look!.
The effort you have put in the past six months, weekly meal plan and thrice-a-week HIIT sessions, have finally paid off!
But this week, you step on the scale again and the numbers are higher than the last time. You check your body mass index, and it’s gone up! Plus, you have a bloated belly to boot! You freak out and wonder what’s going on.
Whether you’re a professional athlete training for next season or a self-proclaimed newbie who simply wants to get fit and healthy, an in-depth body analysis of your body composition is crucial in helping you track progress and maintain your goals.
Sure, nothing beats working with health and fitness pros regularly to help reach yourbody composition goals. Yet taking a body analysis and understanding the different variables that make up your body composition has its advantages too.
First, it can help you become more objective (no need to freak out when your weight fluctuates!) in maintaining body composition success because you know exactly where you are from a broader perspective. In a nutshell, you get to see the bigger picture through intimate knowledge of the parts that make up body composition. Second, you’ll gain a more detailed, accurate view and be able to compare what’s working to what’s not. As a result, you’ll know exactly what specific steps or adjustments you can take towards your goal, whether that is to gain more muscle mass, lose fat mass or both.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at one of the most valuable outputs in the InBody result sheet — Segmental Analysis.
What is Segmental Analysis?
Body composition analysis is a method of describing what your body is made of, including fat, muscle, protein, minerals, and body water. In conventional BIA body composition analyzers, the entire body is analyzed as just one section or cylinder. This single-cylinder method results in only one impedance value, which is used to determine the body composition data for a user.
However, because each body part has different volumes, the single-cylinder method results in very skewed data. Segmental Analysis provides body composition data in segments in addition to the usual full body analysis.
For example, the InBody technology divides the body into five segments or “cylinders”: the two arms, two legs, and the trunk (the area between the neck and legs.)
Anyone can theoretically be underdeveloped/overdeveloped (depending on your body goals) for certain body segments. The good news is that segmental analysis allows you to identify and compare these segments.
In the InBody result sheet, the top bar shows Lean Body Mass (in pounds) is in a given segment. The top bar of the Segmental Lean Analysis compares the pounds of Lean Body Mass in proportion to your height and gender. This top bar can also be used for comparison between segments. An uneven weight distribution between the right and left legs may be a sign of overtraining or injury. Later on, you will see how strength and conditioning coaches use segmental analysis to train their athletes.
The number shown at the bottom bar is the percentage relating the lean mass in the segment that is analyzed to the overall body weight. This shows whether the amount of Lean Body Mass you have in a segment in proportion to your total body weight is sufficient. The 100% = sufficient.
It’s worth noting that the Lean Body Mass being referred to in the results sheet doesn’t refer to how much “muscle” (also known as Skeletal Muscle Mass) you have in each segment. So it would be wrong to call Segmental Lean Analysis a muscle analysis chart. While it’s a given that skeletal gains in a body segment will be reflected as gains in the Segmental Lean Analysis chart, not every gain in Lean Body Mass can be explained by muscle gain. How come? Because Lean Body Mass also accounts for body water. This makes Segmental Analysis useful not just for tracking muscle, but also for certain injury and disease states (which will be discussed in detail below).
In hindsight, your segmental distribution could indicate that you have maintained, developed, or lost muscle/fat mass proportionately. While it’s true that you can’t spot-reduce fat, you can develop or maintain certain muscles in the body by using them more, whether through exercise or your day-to-day activities.
How Segmental Analysis Works: Understanding the Technology
In order to understand how segmental analysis is measured, let’s go back to the basics of body composition testing first.
There are several ways to track and monitor body composition. Some are quick to perform, others require a lot of effort. Results can vary too, ranging from the most basic to the most complex. Currently, the following methods are most frequently used in body composition testing:
Segmental analysis falls under the DEXA and BIA method.
BIA devices range widely in quality, technique, and accuracy. Keep in mind that not all BIA devices will measure impedance in the entire body. For instance, there are handheld devices that only measure arm impedance and estimate results for the lower body. Meanwhile, there are home bathroom scales that use BIA to directly measure impedance in the lower body but can only make estimates for the upperbody.
Modern, medical-grade BIA devices that perform segmental analysis view the human body as five “cylinders” or segments. Accurate and independent measurements of each cylinder are essential for providing analysis not just for each cylinder, but for the entire body.
Direct Segmental Multi-frequency Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (DSM-BIA)
InBody’s signature technology is Direct Segmental Multi-frequency Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (DSM-BIA) which separately measures the impedance of the arms, legs, and trunk.
Although accurate impedance measurement of each cylinder is critical for reliable results, the most important measurement is trunk impedance. Why the trunk?
The trunk contains essential internal organs, and their metabolic characteristics are different from the other parts of the body. In terms of impedance, it is important to precisely and directly measure the trunk because resistance values in the trunk are much lower than those in the arms and legs. This means that the margin of error for trunk measurements must be controlled as much as possible. DSM-BIA helps reduce this margin of error, giving users accurate and not estimated rest results.
How Accurate Is It?
If you’re curious about the accuracy of DSM-BIA in contrast to DEXA (considered as the gold standard in body composition analysis), a Dutch study on middle-aged adults found out the answer for you.
The researchers examined the accuracy of (DSM-BIA) in assessing different body composition parameters among their subjects while using DEXA as a reference standard. And their conclusion?
DSM-BIA is a valid tool for the assessments of total body and segmental body composition in the general middle-aged population, particularly for the quantification of body lean mass.
Another study on obese children revealed that segmental analysis can help determine the right exercise patterns for weight loss and prevention of associated diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Finally, a 2014 review of literature on the role of BIA in clinical status monitoring and diagnosis of diseases stated that segmental BIA is more precise than the ankle-foot method in detecting fluctuation of ECF (extracellular fluids) due to differences in posture. Plus, it provides a better estimation of TBW (total body water) than total body measurements when compared to reference methods.
Who Will Benefit the Most from Segmental Body Analysis?
Segmental body analysis is particularly useful for anyone who wants to measure and track their body composition progress. However, it can prove extremely beneficial for the following groups:
1. Anyone who is trying to build or rehabilitate a particular body part such as athletes and patients with certain disease conditions.
Did you know that the University of Northern Colorado Cancer Rehabilitation Institute (UNNCRI) experienced a massive boost in their patients’ rehabilitation session and retention rates after using DSM-BIA?
By using InBody’s Segmental Lean Analysis and other body composition outputs, the specialists at UNCCRI were able to prescribe more detailed therapies and more precise exercise interventions for patients. As of last month (May 2016), UNCCRI posted an 87% attendance rate – the highest rate in the institute’s 20-year history.
Another noteworthy case study on the benefit of segmental analysis in terms of rehabilitation is Restoration Healthcare’s data-driven approach in helping athletes recover from repetitive trauma issues. The functional medicine practice in Southern California relies on segmental analysis to uncover certain clues, trace the “why” behind the readings, and implement a customized program for their patients.
2. Athletes who want to assess the specific impact of their training regimens.
For instance, the Cirque du Soleil team depends on Segmental Analysis in identifying asymmetries among members, and designing programs to help address these imbalances. DSM-BIA has also helped injured performers quickly recover and get their body back by monitoring specific changes during the reintegration cycle.
3. Sedentary adults who want to monitor and track their diet/exercise efforts.
Upper or lower body imbalances are fairly common in today’s increasingly sedentary workforce, and you’ll likely encounter cases where the upper body is developed, but the lower body is severely neglected.
This unbalanced weight distribution can increase the risk of injury and affect mobility in the future.
4. “Skinny Fat” individuals who want to improve their body composition.
Also known as sarcopenic obese, skinny fat folks have more fat mass than is healthy for their bodies and have low amounts of Lean Muscle Mass. Their relatively overdeveloped fat or underdeveloped muscle mass contributes to their body weight.
Below is an example of a segmental analysis reading of a skinny fat individual:
For this person, who is a 5’4” female, 135 pounds is just above her ideal weight, but within what is considered normal (BMI 22.5). However, it’s clear to see that this person does not have enough Skeletal Muscle Mass and has excessive body fat. If you do the math, this person has a body fat percentage of35.0%. This surpasses all upper limits of percent body fat ranges, which are usually around 28%.
5. Assess Risk for Elderly Individuals
The elderly are at particular risk for not having sufficiently developed Lean Body Mass due to their tendency to lose muscle as a result of reduced physical activity. This affects their ability to complete daily tasks and increases their risk for falls and injuries.
6. Patients with chronic issues.
Segmental analysis also provides invaluable information that healthcare professionals can use to help patients with chronic medical conditions. In fact, segmental body composition evaluation has been shown to be valuable in the early detection of muscular impairment in patients with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
When done properly, Segmental Lean Analysis is one of the most powerful outputs in body composition results. Think of it as a magnifying glass to see if each corresponding segment is in proportion. The analysis makes it easy to uncover problem areas and identify imbalances accurately.
Now that you know how advanced body composition technology can help you stay healthy and feel your best, go get your body composition analysis tested to see what you find out. Just make sure it’s one with Segmental Lean Analysis, so you can see your lean body mass.
Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher. After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.
Fall is already here and the holidays are just around the corner!
With an ever-growing list of things to wrap up as the year’s last quarter hurrah begins, it’s tempting to hold off on your body composition goals until the New Year.
But why wait for January when you can start making small changes towards a better body composition and reducing your body fat percentage – the real marker of positive change in your health and fitness?
The earlier you tackle your body composition goals, the sooner you can look forward to fitting in that little black dress you’ve been saving. Or transitioning from running a 10K to signing up for a marathon as a way to end the year.
As always, the first step to setting goals is to have a clear picture of where you are right now and where you want to be. Once you’ve taken a step back and considered the bigger picture, you can nail down what needs to be done (and what habits need letting go).
But in order to decide what to do and what to let go of, you need to set an achievable goal. How do you set the goal that’s right for you?
Why Focus on Setting Body Composition Goals Instead of Losing Body Weight
Why make it more complicated with all this talk about body composition goals when you can just focus on shedding the unwanted pounds, right?
Wrong. The truth is that body composition analysis is going to help you get the look you want or the results you crave because it takes into account changes in both muscle and fat. By knowing where you are right now in terms of body composition, you are most likely to achieve the results you’re aiming for.
For instance, when say you want to lose 50 pounds, you’re not really being specific enough about this goal. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat. What if a quarter of the 50 pounds you end up losing is muscle mass? Anyone who wants to lose weight is most likely referring to losingbody fatand not muscle mass.
Aiming for weight loss alone may make you look slimmer, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re healthier. Also, you are less likely to have sufficient strength and stamina to push yourself further physically and mentally.
Instead of setting vague weight loss goals, you can be healthier and more physically (and mentally) fit by focusing on long-term fat loss. Building or maintaining lean muscle mass while losing fat mass means lowering your maintaining your body fat percentage within a range you set for yourself.
Let’s take a look at the following five body fat percentage ranges below, including their benefits and potential drawbacks (if any), to better help you understand your current body composition state so you can determine for yourself the goal that’s right for you.
Obese: >25% (Men); >32% (Women)
Men and women who fall in this body fat percentage category are obese and more likely to have rounder body shapes. Excess fat will be present in the entire body— often concentrated in the abdominal area, thighs, and hips.
In many men, most of the fat is obvious in the abdominal area, often leading to the appearance of an increasingly protruding belly. Meanwhile, body fat tends to accumulate in the hips and thighs in women. Muffin tops, love handles, and moderate to severe appearance of cellulite is more common in women.
Possible health benefits/advantages:
Possible health issues and struggles:
Individuals within this range of body fat percentage have an increased risk of metabolic or cardiovascular disease. Obesity is also linked to poor self-esteem as well as low energy levels.
Body composition goals to focus on:
If you fall within this body fat percentage category, an effective strategy is to begin losing fat first, while preserving existing Lean Body Mass. People with high body fat percentages tend to have a lot of existing muscle – developed naturally to allow body movement – and preserving this should be a priority. More muscle means a larger metabolism and more strength, which you’ll want to preserve as you lose body fat.
To start losing body fat, consume less processed foods and reduce your caloric intake. You can experiment with different types of diets and begin planning for regular physical activity. One study revealed that obese adults can quickly improve their body composition through the following:
Reduce daily calorie intake by 500-1000 calories
Consume a low-fat (20-25% of calories) and moderately high protein (20-25% of calories) diet
Aerobic training 3 to 5 times a week, plus resistance exercise 2 days a week
2. “Overfat” 20-25% (Men); 28-32% (Women)
You can’t always tell if you’re overfat by appearance alone, or even by using a scale. That’s why we refer to this body fat percentage as “overfat” instead of “overweight.” Why?
Men and women who fall within this body fat percentage range may not have as much excess body weight as those in the obese category, but still have excess body fat. While it is true that some overfat people will appear so if they are also overweight, it’s also possible to have a normal or average body weight but still have too much body fat. That’s a condition called sarcopenic obesity, what you may know as “skinny fat.”
For men who are overweight as well as overfat, most of the fat is obvious in the abdominal area (beer gut/spare tire/pot belly). There is little to zero muscle definition.
For women, body fat tends to accumulate in the hips, buttocks, and thighs. Muffin tops, love handles, and slight to moderate appearance of cellulite may be visible as well.
Possible health benefits/advantages:
Possible health issues and struggles:
Overfat individuals are more likely to suffer from certain health conditions. Like their obese counterparts, possible issues include low energy levels, higher risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, poor self-esteem due to physical appearance, and a shortened life expectancy.
People who are skinny fat are also particularly vulnerable to health problems because they have similar body compositions as people who are overweight, but may have very few visual indicators that can warn them of their health risks.
Body composition goals to focus on:
This depends on whether you’re skinny fat or not.
If you’re overweight and overfat, the recommendations for you are similar to that for someone who is obese – work on reducing Fat Mass while preserving Lean Body Mass while you do it.
The first step is to reduce your caloric intake by changing your diet. You can experiment with different types of diets and begin a consistent exercise regimen. Building the habit of getting enough sleep should also be a priority.
However, if you’re skinny fat, depending on your existing muscle mass, you may opt to work on gaining Lean Body Mass first. You may be able to accomplish losing fat AND gaining muscle because:
If you increase your muscle mass, you will increase your Basal Metabolic Rate (i.e. your metabolism) and if you don’t add any extra calories to your diet, you may lose body fat while you build muscle.
The effort you put into lifting weights can increase your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, causing you to burn more calories.
Studies have shown that for people in the “overfat” category range, circuit training is one effective option for improving changes in body composition while not making significant changes in overall body weight. That means muscle gains and fat losses are happening at the same time.
3. Average Fitness: 15-20% (Men); 23-28% (Women)
Men in this body fat percentage category are often described as moderately lean and fit. While muscle definition may not be obvious, outlines and striations may slightly appear. A bit of vascularity may be present in the arms.
For women, this category is neither slim nor overweight. With more body fat around the thighs and buttocks, curves will begin to form in the hips.
Both men and women may have some muscular definition but it may take on a softer appearance. Off-seasoned athletes typically fall in this category.
Possible health benefits/advantages:
People in this category typically enjoy high energy levels, better sleep, and good overall health. They may also look good in tight fitting clothes which in turn leads to better self-esteem. Health issues due to excess body fat are less likely to occur.
Possible health issues and struggles:
Despite general good health, it is easy for individuals with an average body fat percentage to fall into bad fitness and health habits due to the lack of adherence to a strict regimen.
Body composition goals to focus on:
Since this considered a healthy range to be in, slight tweaks to your existing fitness and eating habits may prove to be helpful. As a whole, build habits that are geared towards gaining Lean Body Mass.
Focus more on eating less processed carbs and aim for a slightly higher protein intake after resistance training sessions.
Men and women who fall in this body fat percentage category have the classic beach body look. They are lean, muscular, and clearly fit. There is little fat to pinch and muscle definition is particularly obvious in the shoulders, arms, and abs. Professional athletes may fall in this category, especially those who move a lot in their sport, like basketball and soccer players.
Vascularity may appear in the arms but it may not as pronounced in the legs among men. Women with this body fat percentage may have fat in the arms and legs but it’s not as obvious than those with higher body fat percentages.
Besides looking really fit, folks with this body fat percentage tend to enjoy excellent overall health and well-being. There are less cravings due to regular physical activity and strict adherence to a diet that works for them.
Possible health issues and struggles:
Reaching and maintaining a body fat percentage around this range will take work and will require thorough meal planning, lots of attention to diet, nutrition, and an exercise regimen that takes precedence over other activities.
You may have to give up certain sweets, alcohol, and frequent attendance to social gatherings so you can catch up on sleep and eat less junk.
Body composition goals to focus on:
If your body fat percentage already falls in this category and you still want to improve your body composition, consider hiring a nutrition and fitness coach to be within this range consistently.
This body fat percentage category often includes bodybuilding competitors and fitness models. Muscle definition is high in both men and women because there is very little fat at this stage. Bodybuilders, for instance, may aim for the extreme low end of this range on days when they are competing because in order to have a competitive look, they require next to no body fat.
In men, veins may start appearing all over the body, including in the abdominal area. Women in this category may not look as lean as their male counterparts due to the higher percentages of body fat, but will still look incredibly lean, but not necessarily bulky: a common fear many women have when they consider improving their body compositions.
One’s appearance may be a great source of confidence for both men and women. Overall health may be good if diet is mainly composed of whole foods and less junk food, especially towards the upper end of this range. Increased energy levels due to regular exercise are also an added advantage.
Possible health issues and struggles:
This is an incredibly difficult body composition to maintain consistently over time, especially at the lower end of this range. However, this is the look you see often see in fitness magazines and on posters.
Individuals within this body fat percentage range must completely commit to way they eat and exercise. In fact, competitive female bodybuilders have been shown to share the same eating-related habits as those with bulimia. They may shun social events that involve dining out and may not have the time for other activities. Also, women in this category might notice some reproductive and fertility issues.
It’s for these reasons that bodybuilders typically work to get into this range onlyduring competition season. Because of the extreme effort required to maintain this body composition, very few people maintain it year-round.
Body composition goals to work on:
If you’re at this level of body composition, the goal is is maintenance. Strict adherence to your diet and workout regimen is required, and there may be many tradeoffs required, such as virtually never compromising on your diet and dedicating much of your free time to your personal fitness. Although this is the look you see in fitness posters, on the whole, this body fat range may not be sustainable in the long run.
Men who have less 6 percent body fat and women with less than 16 percent body fat are typically bodybuilders on contest day or fitness models on the day of their photoshoot. Often, they have gone to great lengths such as going on a strict diet and exercise regimen for days.
Unless you’re an athlete or someone with health issues, aiming for the following healthy range is recommended:
Men: 10 to 20 percent
Women: 18 to 28 percent
Also, consider the following when setting a body composition goal:
Your ideal body composition depends on your current health status as well as the sport or activity that you’re training for. A female marathoner’s idea of what’s appropriate for her is way different from a stay-at-home-mom.
Humans are hardwired to have differing degrees of perception. What looks perfectly okay to someone else may appear unacceptable to you. In a study among college males, it was found that men have varying definitions of the ideal body composition. The same goes for women, whose ideal body shape has evolved over decades.
The amount of time you’re willing to dedicate to get into a specific body fat percentage category can also influence the way you set your body composition goal. This can take a lot longer than may think, especially if your goal is to have a really low PBF. For example, in a 12-month case study, it took a bodybuilder in his mid-20s 6 months to go from 14.8 percent to 4.5 percent body fat.
Sticking to body composition goals involves oodles of persistence and self-discipline. Know what you’re getting yourself into. Want to look like a bodybuilder all the time? You’ll have to center your life around that. For some, that’s ok. For others, the sacrifices required to maintain this body composition are too much.
Don’t forget to get some rest. The the quality and length of your sleep is critical for helping you make changes in your body composition. Not getting enough sleep can mess with your hunger levels, lessen the release of Growth Hormone, and promote cortisol – a hormone that discourages muscle growth
What Truly Matters
Everything we’ve discussed in this article are useful guidelines to help you set body composition goals. You can also benefit from working with a fitness and nutrition coach, but you are the best person to set goals for yourself. After all, no one knows yourself better than you.
Eventually, it all boils down to what you’re willing to do (and let go of), the specific improvements you want to see, and how far your body and mind can go.
But before you do anything, you need to know where you’re currently at. That means getting your body composition tested. With your body composition results in hand, you’ll be able to set smart goals and create habits that will help you achieve lasting success and enjoy the process along the way.
Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher. After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.
Do you keep a log of your maximum lifts and try to set personal records every day at the gym?
Every time you go out to run, do you try to run further than the run before? Do you try to run longer?
Do you weigh yourself every week, or every day? Or is your appearance in the mirror the final judge as to how much progress you’re making?
People work out for many reasons, and so there are many ways to track progress. Tracking your progress is a very good idea. It helps you stay motivated and keeps you focused on achieving your goals. However, not all methods of tracking are created equal, and some of them are just plain bad (weighing yourself every day is a terrible idea).
No matter what your goals are in the gym or with your fitness – whether it’s gaining muscle and becoming stronger, getting toned, or simply losing fat – tracking your progress by using your body composition data is one of the best ways to get results. This means tracking your changes in:
Body Fat Percentage
Lean Body Mass
Body Fat Mass
Skeletal Muscle Mass
While almost any type of tracking can help you reach fitness goals faster, tracking the changes in your body composition allows you to do some unique things in your training that you can only do with a breakdown of your body composition.
Tracking Changes in Body Composition Lets You Turn Your “I Wants” Into Actual Goals
It’s so much easier to get results when you set goals, and it’s even easier if you set defined, numerical goals based on your body composition.
What’s meant by defined, numerical goals? Something clear, not something vague like:
“I want to get bigger”
“I want to lose weight.”
These aren’t goals: these are desires. They express an interest in a general, overall change in body size or shape that doesn’t allow you to measure your progress in any defined, objective way.
How are you going to assess if you get “bigger”? You can eat 4,000 calories a day and get “bigger.” You want to lose weight? You can certainly do that by cutting calories, but did you know you can also lose weight due to muscle loss? You don’t want that.
So instead, let’s take these desires and turn them into goals.
“I want to gain 10 pounds of muscle”
Why this is better: It’s safe to assume that in most circumstances, when people want to get “bigger”, they want their muscles to get bigger, not their waistlines. By defining your goal as being Lean Body Mass gain (muscle is the biggest component of Lean Body Mass) and putting a number to it, you have a numerical goal to work towards.
It’s likely that some muscle loss will occur when you try to lose fat, so by monitoring the changes in your body composition, you’ll be able to keep an eye on this and minimize any losses that may occur by making the necessary corrections in your diet and exercise program.
Tracking Changes In Your Body Composition Lets You Set Reachable Time-Based Goals
Sometimes, you start a fitness journey because you have a special event coming up. Maybe you’re going on a vacation and you want to have a rockin’ body when you hit the beach. Maybe there’s a wedding coming up, and you want to make sure you fit into a new/favorite dress.
Point is: there’s a deadline you want results by, and you want a solution that will help you get there. This is a really common situation, so common that nearly every fad diet or gimmicky product makes time deadlines a critical part of their marketing. These diets and products all claim to solve an immediate problem, which makes people feel better, and which is why popular magazines just love promoting them (looking at you, Cosmopolitan).
There are no shortcuts to losing weight, gaining muscle in a very short amount of time. But instead, by tracking your progress by tracking your changes in body composition, you can actually set real goals with real results that you can actually achieve.
Let’s build on the goals we made before, this time adding a reasonable time frame.
“I want to build 10 pounds of muscle in 5-6 months”
When you try to build develop muscle and Lean Body Mass, there are a lot of factors that go into whether or not you achieve that goal. What type of exercises you do, the degree to which you properly perform your exercises, whether you lift heavy with few reps or light with many, how often you strength train, how often you rest…the list goes on, and that doesn’t even include proper nutrition.
However, assuming that you do everything perfect and you’re a beginner, experts posit that you can gain roughly 2 pounds of muscle a month with consistent, proper training. If you’re not a beginner, your rate of lean mass growth will be slower as you get closer to your genetic limit for natural muscle development.
Knowing this, if you’re just getting started, you can track your progress every month and expect to see around a 2-pound increase every month until you reach your goal of 10 pounds of muscle by following a challenging lifting program.
Here’s what this can look like over 5 months:
When you use your body composition to track your progress, it suddenly doesn’t matter as much how much you can lift, or how many reps you can do. Instead, what matters is that you’re working towards a physical goal – getting bigger and more muscular – and you’re doing it in a way that you can reliably track towards a realistic goal.
“I want to lose 10 pounds of fat in 10-12 weeks”
In some ways, losing Fat Mass is easier than building Lean Body Mass and muscle. There are many types of exercise that encourage Lean Body Mass development, many workout plans to organize them in, and it requires significant amounts of rest and recovery. Fat loss, on the other hand, requires less arguably less planning and actually occurs faster than muscle gain.
To lose Fat Mass, you need to be in a caloric deficit (taking in less calories than you use) and maintain it carefully over an extended period of time. This isn’t rocket science, and virtually every peer-reviewed study that includes groups that undergo a caloric deficit experience fat loss. Herearethree published in 2015 alone. Hypocaloric diets work.
How quickly can you lost fat? Many studies and health groups, including the Centers for Disease Control, report that by reducing your caloric intake by 3,500 calories a week typically results in a pound of fat loss.
Here’s what that can look like over 12 weeks:
Note: a pound of fat loss, not weight loss. If you’re just a scale to measure your rate of change, you may experience even more “weight loss,” but if you’re on a hypocaloric diet, especially one that focuses on cutting out carbohydrates, you might experience additional water weight loss.
That’s because water bonds to glycogen at rate of about 4 grams of water: 1 gram of carbs. If you’re much lower on carbs than you usually are, you’ll be retaining less water and weigh less accordingly.
When you use your body composition to track your progress with fat loss, you can account for what’s actually being lost when you see your weight decrease on the scale. This helps you avoid mistaking your weight loss for water weight loss or (hopefully not) muscle loss.
Why is this important to know? If you’re tracking your body composition changes instead of simple scale weight changes, you won’t be confused when you gain a few pounds back after reintroducing carbs into your diet. You’ll know that this weight is water, not fat.
Also, by being patient and tracking a pound or two of fat loss each month, you can stay motivated by knowing you’re making real changes that will last in your body. Gaining water weight is as easy as refueling on carbs, but gaining actual fat? That requires you to be in a caloric surplus over a period of time. Eat within your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, and you can expect your fat mass to remain stable.
Tracking Changes In Your Body Composition Helps You Reduce Negative Changes In Your Body
Unfortunately, the truth is that “positive” results– increases in muscle and decreases in fat – usually come paired with negative consequences.
Gaining Fat With Muscle
If the results you’re working for are muscle gain, you may end up experiencing some unwanted fat gain as a side effect. This is due to the nature of the diet you should go on to encourage muscle tissue growth: namely, a caloric surplus.
Getting sufficient nutrients/calories – particularly carbohydrates and protein – is essential for encouraging increased muscle and strength. However, just as eating fewer calories than you use causes a decrease in fat, eating more than your body “needs” will cause a gain in fat over time.
For some people, gaining a little extra fat is not a big concern, but for others it is – especially if clothes start to not fit properly. By tracking your body composition changes, you’ll be able to track both muscle and fat gain, allowing you to change your diet or exercise routine if you feel that you’re gaining too much fat.
Losing Muscle With Fat
The opposite is true when you try to lose fat. With large reductions in fat due to a hypocaloric diet, you can lose Lean Body Mass and Skeletal Muscle Mass. Muscle is healthy tissue that you should work hard to preserve.
Fortunately, you can minimize the loss of muscle while reducing fat mass by increasing your protein intake and by performing resistance training. In a study of overweight police officers, the group that ingested casein protein supplements and performed regular resistance training experienced less loss of muscle tissue and increased strength vs. the group that simply dieted.
By tracking your body composition changes, you’ll be able to keep an eye on any losses in muscle development. Just like for people who want to build muscle, if you see that your negative change – loss in muscle – is becoming too great when you track your body composition changes, you can made the necessary adjustments to your diet and workout plan to help mitigate that loss.
Tracking Progress and Setting Reachable Goals Leads to Success
Tracking your progress over time is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your reach your health and fitness goals. Whether that’s gaining muscle, losing fat, or both, by accurately tracking your progress with something measurable instead of something visual – like a mirror – or unreliable – like scale weight – you will be able to reach your goals faster.
That’s why tracking progress with your body composition delivers results: it offers objective, measurable values in your body that translate into physical results.
With more muscle and less fat, you’ll be stronger, look fitter, and will be healthier. You’ll be able to gauge this progress objectively instead of guessing, and you’ll be able to make smart adjustments in your training as needs be.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on October 1, 2018, for 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 called “skinny 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.
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
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.
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 compositionmeasured. Find a facility near you that offers body composition testing, get your body fat percentage, and start tracking it to start living better!
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on September 14,, 2018, for 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.
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
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 composition – a 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.
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.
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