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Category

Body Composition

Combating Diabetes Through Enhanced Body Composition

By Body Composition, Medical

The more you look at the statistics, the more it seems that type 2 diabetes might be one of the quietest epidemics in recent medical history. What used to be seen as a disease that affects primarily adults now appears in children and teens with frightening frequency.

Currently, more than 29 million Americans have diabetes. What’s worse, 25% of those people aren’t aware that they have it. Adding on to that is that a third of American adults – over 80 million people – currently have prediabetes, unbeknownst to them (you can check your risk level with the link above). That’s right: it’s not just about how many people have diabetes–it’s about how many people don’t know they have it, or are at risk for it

And the future isn’t looking much brighter. Study after study predicts that the situation could continue to worsen over time, with the number of people diagnosed with diabetes increasing dramatically.

What’s going on, and what role does body composition have in developing or preventing diabetes?

Quite a lot, actually. And, as is usually the case, the starting point is taking deeper look into body weight to understand how it misleads so many people.

Diabetes – Not Just a Heavy Person’s Disease

For many years, type 2 diabetes was thought to be a lifestyle-caused disease linked primarily to obesity. While it’s true that obesity rates have risen together with diabetes cases, there’s a major outlier that’s changing the way how one develops diabetes is understood. People with so-called “skinny-fat” bodies are (and have been) developing diabetes to such a degree that they’re now identified as an entirely “new” population that’s at risk for developing diabetes.

Skinny-fat people are characterized as having a normal weight, overdeveloped body fat mass, and underdeveloped muscle mass. An example body composition breakdown for a skinny fat person would look something similar to this:

Notice the low levels of muscle and high levels of body fat? Both of these can contribute to the onset of diabetes, but they do so in different ways. But how, and why? In order to understand these questions and to find solutions to them, first you must understand what happens in a diabetic’s body.

Characteristics of Diabetes

The first step to understanding diabetes is understanding glucose.

The simple sugar that cells rely on, glucose is the result of digestible carbohydrates being broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.  Rises in blood sugar levels are the catalyst for you to make and release insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows your body to use the glucose derived from your food.

Unlike in type 1 diabetes, where your body doesn’t actually produce sufficient insulin, type 2 diabetes occurs when your body can’t properly use the insulin it makes. This is called insulin resistance, which over time typically requires that diabetics take supplemental insulin.

So where does muscle fit into this conversation? Turns out your muscle mass – or your lack of it – can play a major role in developing insulin resistance. Sarcopenia, the medical term for underdeveloped muscle and a characteristic of skinny fatness, has been linked with increased insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes – independent of obesity itself.

This greatly helps explain the rise in cases of prediabetes and diabetes – it’s not something only developed by overweight or obese people. People with little muscle mass, but a normal body weight created by the compensating overdeveloped body fat, share the same risk. What’s worse, once type 2 diabetes does set in, diabetes itself has a very damaging effect on skeletal muscle mass which compounds the problem further.

But of course, muscle mass is just one part of a poor body composition that can put someone at risk of developing diabetes. Increased body fat still does play a major role in the development of diabetes, and it’s a characteristic shared by both skinny fat people and those who have both high body weights and high body fat percentages.

Visceral Fat: The Lurking Threat

When looking at the relationship between type 2 diabetes and body composition, one of the most important factors to keep in mind is the role of increased body fat levels. This relationship has been established time and again, and hardly bears worth mentioning.

What does bear mentioning is that recent research has been able to determine which type of body fat most contributes to diabetes: a type of fat called visceral fat. Defining visceral fat is actually pretty straightforward: it’s excess intra-abdominal fat. This fat wraps itself around major organs and can have some serious effects on a person’s health.

Recently, a study was released that focused on the role that visceral fat mass plays in type 2 diabetes. Part of their findings showed correlations between various body measurements and risk for diabetes/prediabetes:

That orange line designates visceral fat, and it proved to be the single best predictor of both conditions.

It’s easy to say that body fat and diabetes have an established link. What really matters is the specifics – visceral fat is the real culprit here.

Lessening Diabetes Risk With Improved Body Composition

Diabetes is a serious disease, and depending on the severity of it, can require different combinations of medications, lifestyle interventions, or both.

While no one is suggesting that you can simply diet and exercise your way out of diabetes (although it at least one case, that did appear to happen), it is true that with lifestyle changes and a modest body weight reduction of 5-10%, type 2 diabetes is largely preventable.

This is definitely good news; however, statistics like these lend themselves to an often counterproductive focus on body weight as the only measuring stick of progress.

Remember the earlier example of skinny fat and low muscle mass? That’s a prime example of where an over-reliance or dependence on body weight alone can lead you. So instead, let’s have a look at how improvement to your body composition (your fat mass, your muscle mass, etc.) can have an impact on diabetes.

For starters, Let’s start with glycemic control and body fat.

  • Body Fat

Poor glycemic control, which refers to the typical levels of blood sugar (glucose) in a person with diabetes, has been identified as one of the principal clinical parameters of insulin resistance.

To better understand the importance of glycemic control and its relation to improved body composition, take a look at a recent study that focused on the changes in fasting plasma glucose.

Patients with type 2 diabetes were kept track of for 6 months, with body composition (visceral fat area, body fat mass, and percent body fat) being assessed. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationship between these two components (body fat and glycemic control), and the study had a pretty interesting result: decreased body fat mass and visceral fat area had an improved effect on glycemic control.

Sounds good, but what about muscle?

  • Muscle Mass

study conducted with Japanese type 2 diabetic patients (already with insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk factors) aimed to better evaluate the characteristics of body composition in patients with type 2 diabetes.

After comparing healthy subjects and subjects with type 2 diabetes, it became abundantly clear to the researchers that those with diabetes are more vulnerable to a reduction in skeletal muscle. That being said, there was an interesting form of intervention. Apparently, instruction in exercise (which includes resistance training) was seen as a worthwhile treatment to prevent the continued degeneration of muscle.

A second study offers even better news, going beyond simply the prevention of degeneration of muscle (and the spiral of increased insulin resistance that comes with it). Diabetics who trained for 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week were shown to have increased glucose clearance as a result of their increased muscle mass. That’s because this increased muscle mass signaled to the body to release more insulin – lowering blood sugar.

Here’s something even more bottom line: in diabetics, for each 10% increase in skeletal muscle index (ratio of skeletal muscle to body weight), there was an associated 11% increase in glucose sensitivity.

Combine these positive results with those derived from reduced visceral fat, and the evidence is pretty compelling that you can do a lot more for your diabetes than take medicine and modify your diet – although these can be important as well, depending on your case. But regardless of your situation, it seems clear that you can benefit from improved body composition, and the best part about that is that’s directly under your control.

Your Takeaways

There are two major lessons here, and they both revolve around body composition.

Lesson #1: Understand that poor body composition has consequences

No one is saying that if you’re skinny fat or overweight, you’re for sure going to develop diabetes later in life. Your diabetes risk is set by a number of factors, including your age, family history, genetic background, and more.

But you might. While that might seem like a bleak statement at first, it’s really not because unlike age, genetics, etc., your body composition is something you have a huge degree of control over, and something you can take responsibility for.

Lesson #2: Improved body composition can help diabetics improve their lives

If you’re looking to offset the negative effects of diabetes (or prediabetes), avoiding muscle loss is key. There are a few ways to do this, although the simplest are just ensuring you have a healthy diet and exercise regularly.

Winning your fight against diabetes is completely possible, especially if you’re taking your body composition into account. Working with a professional who can help you determine your body composition and has the training to help you set goals to improve can give you a massive advantage over diabetes.

Remember: it’s not about weight. It’s about understanding your body, setting reachable goals, and meeting them. If you can do that, you can regain control over your condition and live a happier life overall.

***

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

Ryan Walters is a digital marketing specialist at InBody USA

Understanding Water Weight: What It Is and How It Affects Your Body

By Body Composition, Health, Medical

When you think about your weight, you probably see it as a semi-static measurement that, for the most part, accurately represents your overall fat and muscle mass. And while this is somewhat true, weight is actually a deeply complex metric!

Body weight is dynamic and ever-changing. It can be affected by a seemingly endless list of lifestyle and environmental factors. Stress, food and beverages you consume, and changes in your hormonal levels all play a role in creating the number you see on the scale, which fluctuates multiple times throughout the day.

In accordance with that, the number reported as your weight will increase or decrease as your body attempts to maintain a state of homeostasis (balance) as you move through daily routines.

One example of how your body maintains its balance lies in its ability to retain water during periods of metabolic need or stress. Commonly referred to as water weight or fluid retention, this phenomenon is incredibly common — and, in most cases, not something to be concerned about.

Throughout this article, we will dive into the science behind water weight — exploring what it is, why it occurs, and what you can do to prevent and treat any symptoms of water weight that may arise. This article also covers the difference between mild edema (which is another term for water weight) and its more insidious form, chronic edema — because the treatment needed for each of these conditions varies greatly.

Ready to learn more about your body and its fluctuating weight? Let’s get started!

Important note  water weight is different than chronic edema

Before we get too far into this article, we need to make an important distinction between water weight and mild water retention vs. chronic edema.

While both conditions involve excess fluids being held within the body, each condition’s severity and treatment options are vastly different. So, just for clarity’s sake, here are the definitions of each condition that will be utilized throughout the remainder of this article:

  • Water weight or mild edema — This is a low-grade condition that results in the retention of small amounts of additional fluid in the body. It is usually not a serious medical condition but rather a passing experience caused by certain lifestyle factors.
  • Chronic edema — Alternately, chronic edema is a much more serious condition, often seen as a complication of another medical comorbidity, such as heart or kidney failure. Symptoms of chronic edema are more apparent than symptoms of mild edema and can be debilitating. This form of edema requires medical attention to resolve.

What is water weight?

Water retention and water weight gain both refer to an increase in your overall body weight that results from an accumulation of fluids in your body tissues. On average, the human body is made up of about 60% water, divided between your organs, blood, and cells. Throughout the day, water moves through the membranes of your cells, on a mission to maintain your body’s balance and homeostasis.

Due to a variety of factors, there are times when it is advantageous for the body to hold on to, or retain, excess water. This is an example of water weight or mild edema — a short-lived period of time when the amount of fluid in your body is greater than usual. When this occurs, you may notice that you feel slightly bloated or that your hands, feet, and ankles feel a bit puffier than normal. In most cases, this mild form of fluid retention resolves itself without treatment, often in a matter of hours.

How does my body gain water weight?

To better understand fluid retention, you first need to understand that there are two primary locations where water can be stored in the body — the intracellular and extracellular spaces.

  • Intracellular space — The intracellular compartment refers to all fluid stored within the membranous walls of an organism’s cells. Under healthy and balanced conditions, about ⅔ of your body water (or 28 liters of fluid) is stored within your cells at any given time. This fluid can flow into and out of the cells as needed to maintain balance during periods of dehydration or overhydration.
  • Extracellular space — The extracellular compartment is composed of two smaller components: your blood plasma (which is the fluid part of your blood) and interstitial fluids (which can be found between individual cells). Making up the other ⅓ of your body’s water, neural and hormonal sensors throughout the body are very sensitive to changes in the volumes of these fluid compartments.

Body Water Balance

When it comes to maintaining this delicate fluid balance between the compartments, the renal system (primarily the kidneys) is heavily involved. Acting as a filter for your blood, your kidneys are made up of small filtering units called nephrons. As your blood passes through the nephron, essential nutrients and water are reabsorbed into the bloodstream, based on the body’s metabolic needs.

As a result of dietary changes, activity levels, or hormonal imbalances, the amount of water retained during this process can increase, resulting in a higher level of extracellular fluid and the development of water weight symptoms.

The most common symptoms of water weight

Because fluid retention is a systemic condition that impacts multiple tissues and organs, it is common to experience water weight symptoms throughout your entire body. Examples of some of the most common water weight symptoms include:

  • Bloating of the abdominal area
  • Joint stiffness and pain
  • A swelling feeling in the feet, ankles, and calves
  • Puffiness in the face, hips, and feet
  • Fluctuations in your baseline weight

Usually, the symptoms you experience due to water weight gain will disappear within a few hours or days as your body returns to a state of homeostasis.

But, if you notice that your symptoms persist for multiple weeks or feel that your symptoms are worsening, it may be a sign that they are being caused by more serious health issues that should be addressed by a healthcare provider. Examples of symptoms to look out for include:

  • Profound swelling and puffiness of the feet, ankles, and legs
  • Stretched and shiny skin
  • Difficulty moving joints
  • A heavy or full feeling in the affected limbs
  • Areas of skin that temporarily hold the shape of a thumbprint when pressure is applied (also known as pitting edema)
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing as the condition progresses

Why you gain water weight

As mentioned above, most cases of water weight gain are not the result of a serious medical condition. Instead, when you notice that your body is holding onto more water than normal, it may be a result of some of the following environmental and lifestyle factors:

  • You ate more sodium than normal — While sodium is an essential nutrient that you need to get from your foods, eating a meal with a large amount of sodium can cause the body to retain excess water for a short period of time afterward.
  • You changed your exercise level — Prolonged periods of sitting or standing in one place can cause fluid to pool in the extracellular spaces of your feet and ankles. Regular movement can help to reduce these symptoms.
  • You are taking a new medication — When starting a new medication, it is very important to speak to your primary care provider about the possible side effects you may experience. In some cases, mild fluid retention and water weight gain may be something you should look out for during the early stages of treatment.
  • Your hormones are fluctuating — Your hormones play an essential role in regulating your body during periods of change and stress. At times of high anxiety, you may experience water weight gain as your body produces higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Diagnosing water weight gain

In most cases, water weight is often not an officially diagnosed health condition, due to its short-lived and mild symptoms. This being said, that doesn’t mean you should completely brush off any symptoms you are experiencing. If you notice symptoms of water weight that are persistent or recurring over longer periods of time, be sure to speak to your primary care provider.

Additionally, if you want to learn more about the amount of water your body carries at a baseline level, body composition testing may be helpful. By recording your average body water percentage to get a better understanding of your baseline values, you will be able to track changes in these measurements over time that may be signs of early-stage fluid retention.

Most cases of water weight do not require treatment

Treating your water weight gain may be as simple as letting some time pass — yes, really! Because mild fluid retention is often a short-term response to a lifestyle or environmental situation, your body will likely be able to resolve this issue on its own over time. Additionally, paying closer attention to your diet, participating in regular exercise, and getting a good night’s sleep can also help to treat any mild forms of fluid retention.

However, treating chronic edema is a much more advanced and involved process. Because chronic edema most commonly presents as a complication of another poorly managed medical condition, treating the underlying disease is often the first-line therapy for edema symptoms. Other treatment options for chronic edema that may be explored include:

  • Elevating the affected tissue above heart level for 30 minutes at a time
  • Reducing sodium intake from dietary sources
  • Taking diuretic (water pill) medications

How to prevent water weight gain

As a result of living in a modern world full of stress, it is impossible to completely remove any risk that your body will experience periods of mild fluid retention from time to time.

But there are lifestyle changes you can make to better manage fluid retention and reduce your susceptibility to frequent bouts of water weight gain. Some of our top tips for preventing water weight gain include:

  • Reducing the amount of sodium you consume
  • Ensuring that your body is adequately hydrated throughout the day
  • Elevating your legs after long periods of standing
  • Participating in regular physical activity
  • Wearing supportive compression stockings on the feet and calves

Putting it all together

So, what have we learned?

While it is completely normal for your body weight to fluctuate, sudden increases in your weight and the development of mild puffiness and swelling may signify that you are carrying some extra water weight. And this isn’t always a bad thing!

As a mild and non-life-threatening condition that will likely resolve within a day, water weight symptoms can be a helpful sign that you may want to adjust your current lifestyle habits.

Just because your scale shows a weight increase, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have gained muscle or fat mass — it can mean that your body is merely holding on to a little extra water for a while. However, if you notice your water weight symptoms persisting, it’s advised that you consider contacting your healthcare provider.

We hope this article has been a helpful resource for dispelling some of the most common misconceptions about weight gain and fluid retention. Maybe it will also act as a reminder to show your body some extra compassion and TLC the next time water weight gain happens to you!

Reducing Chronic Disease Risk: 5 Ways Improving Body Composition Helps

By Body Composition, Health, Medical

Chronic conditions are extremely prevalent in the United States. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the CDC, more than half of American adults ages 18 to 34 years old are dealing with at least one chronic condition!

Unfortunately, some of the most common chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer, can have a huge negative impact on your quality of life.

Conversations about preventing chronic conditions tend to focus on maintaining a certain weight or BMI. But another proactive way that you can potentially reduce your vulnerability to these diseases is by managing your body composition!

Your body composition can be a factor in whether or not you develop some chronic conditions.

In this article, you’ll learn how improving your body composition can lessen your risk of developing several common chronic diseases.

5 Ways That Improving Your Body Composition Can Decrease Your Risk For Chronic Conditions

1. Improves insulin sensitivity

The first way that improving your body composition can decrease your risk for chronic conditions is through its positive effects on your insulin sensitivity.

Glucose is a broken-down carbohydrate molecule that your cells use for energy, and insulin is an important hormone because it is responsible for shuttling glucose to your cells.

Unfortunately, high levels of body fat have been linked to insulin resistance, which means that your cells allow less glucose into your cells.

As a result, glucose remains in your bloodstream, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. If this goes on for too long, you may acquire Type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

As you can see, your body fat percentage definitely plays a role here. But perhaps even more interestingly, there is evidence that the place where you accumulate your fat tissue may be more important than your total fat levels!

Abdominal obesity, or the fat tissue that accumulates around your midsection, is especially pertinent when it comes to your risk of insulin resistance.

Researchers have found that high levels of abdominal fat may increase the release of free fatty acids and signal molecules called adipokines, which can increase your risk for chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

The good news is, there’s plenty of evidence that improving your body composition can help you manage your blood sugar levels. A more balanced body composition can even contribute to a healthier metabolism!  

Some of the most obvious body composition-related improvements to your health come from losing fat. Take this study that evaluated how body composition improvements (from exercise or a reduced-calorie diet) could impact participants’ insulin resistance.

The researchers found that either exercise or reduced calorie intake could be comparably effective for improving insulin resistance. These improvements were linked to changes in body weight, total fat mass, and visceral fat volume.

Your muscle mass can play an important role in your health as well, which is why looking at your body composition instead of your weight or BMI alone can be beneficial.

A study that evaluated the insulin resistance of 132 healthy adults found that, in male subjects, having more lean muscle mass was associated with greater insulin sensitivity, independent of the subjects’ fat tissue.

Another study on Korean adults found that participants with higher muscle and lower fat body compositions had significantly lower insulin resistance than those with low muscle and low fat levels.

So in order to manage your insulin resistance, you may need to focus on both your body fat and your muscle mass — or in other words, focus on body recomposition.

2. Decreases chronic inflammation

Another important way that your body composition can affect your risk of chronic conditions is through inflammation.

Inflammation is a normal response that your immune system conducts to keep you healthy. When it detects an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous invader like a bacteria or virus, your immune system increases blood flow to the infection site.

Your white blood cells then release chemicals that “attack” the invader, ultimately keeping you healthy and safe from harm.

Unfortunately, under certain conditions, inflammation can also become chronic. In these cases, your body may have inappropriate inflammatory reactions even in the absence of an actual threat, which means that your immune system can begin attacking your body’s own tissues.

Chronic inflammation is linked to a wide array of serious health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory arthritis cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, and metabolic syndrome.

A high body weight tends to be one of the most prevalent risk factors talked about when it comes to inflammatory diseases, but another promising method for lowering inflammation is through managing your body composition.

Consider the “BMI paradox.” It’s been observed that overweight people are more likely to develop cancer but also have lower mortality rates. Researchers have found that this phenomenon may have more to do with their body composition than their weight alone.

Having more muscle mass seems to offer more protection than fat tissue, which is linked to higher inflammation (as well as other chronic disease risk factors, such as insulin resistance and higher cholesterol levels).

Why? There is some evidence that fat tissue, especially the visceral fat tissue found deep in your abdomen, can be inflammatory.

In fact, the state of obesity itself is considered chronic low-grade inflammation, since it is associated with several inflammatory markers, likely due to excess fat tissue.

In addition to metabolic and cancer-related chronic illnesses, your body composition can also play a role in other chronic conditions.

For example, inflammation is associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a chronic inflammatory lung disease that can block your airways and make it hard to breathe.

Researchers have found that low muscle mass is linked with systemic inflammation.

Ultimately, having a lower body fat mass and a higher muscle mass may protect you from chronic inflammation, which can give you better protection from a huge array of chronic conditions.

3. Improves cholesterol levels and blood pressure

Did you know that your body composition can heavily influence your heart health, through its effects on your cholesterol levels and blood pressure?

Cholesterols are fatty substances that are produced in your liver and travel through your bloodstream. They perform various roles in your body, like helping you to digest fat-soluble vitamins and building important hormones.

There are several kinds of cholesterol. Two of the most important are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

LDL is sometimes considered the “bad” kind of cholesterol, because it sticks to the sides of your arteries as it travels through your bloodstream. HDL, on the other hand, can carry excess cholesterol away from your organs, which is why it’s known as the “good” kind of cholesterol.

When someone has high cholesterol levels (especially high levels of LDL and lower levels of HDL), cholesterol may adhere to the sides of your arteries and develop into plaque. This plaque can then harden, making it more difficult for your heart to pump blood to all the places it needs to be delivered to. Eventually, this can contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension), which increases your risk of cardiac events like heart attacks and strokes, ultimately affecting your heart health for the worse.

Your body composition may play a major role in how cholesterol impacts you.

Research has found that obesity can actually change the way that your body metabolizes fats, which is linked to its promotion of insulin resistance. This can cause your body to produce more LDL and less HDL, contributing to issues with your heart health.

However, you can lower your risk or reduce the severity of your current heart issues by improving your body composition.

For example, a study on older adults found that reductions in fat mass of approximately 1 kg predicted a reduction in triglyceride levels, which are another type of fat that can be found in your bloodstream and fat tissue.

Similarly, the study also found that gaining lean muscle mass led to improved triglyceride levels.

4. Strengthens bones

Because your muscle tissue and bone mass are so closely interlinked, increasing your muscle mass can protect your bones, which is great for reducing your risk of chronic bone conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

This link between your bone health and muscle mass seems to start in childhood, with studies finding that the body composition of children and adolescents significantly influences their development of bone mineral density early in life, and that higher body fat percentages seem to negatively affect bone acquisition.

This finding may be especially relevant to older adults, as your bone density tends to decrease as you get older.

Because bone mass and muscle mass are so closely linked, there’s evidence that older populations that are prone to bone diseases like osteoporosis may benefit from resistance training programs that improve these body composition metrics.

5. Better mental health

Finally, improving your body composition may also do a world of good for your mental health! In addition to physical health issues, mental illnesses like depression are among some of the most prevalent chronic conditions.

This may in part be due to an association between higher-risk body composition metrics and lower physical activity levels. For example, a 2020 study found that less physical activity, higher body fat mass, and lower muscle mass all were associated with stronger depression severity

There may also be a link between behavior and the gut microbiome, or the microbes that live in your gut, since they play a variety of roles in your body, including regulating your moods and behavior via the microbiota-gut-brain axis.

In the same vein, some researchers believe that improving your gut microbiome diversity can influence factors that play a role in your body composition, such as insulin sensitivity!

However, more research needs to be done to determine the exact links between body composition, the gut microbiome, and mental health. 

The bottom line: it’s important to note that body composition hasn’t been proven to be a cause of chronic mood and mental disorders like depression.

Instead, there’s some evidence that points to the idea that the actions you take to improve your body composition, such as exercising more frequently, can help reduce your mental illness risks and/or severity.

Conclusion

Chronic conditions are serious health concerns that can alter one’s quality of life and even shorten your lifespan.

While there are several factors that can contribute to your risk for chronic conditions, such as genetics and age, one proactive way that you can manage your risk is to improve your body composition, by focusing on gaining lean muscle mass and reducing your body fat.

Steer Clear of These 7 Common Mistakes on Your Body Composition Journey

By Body Composition, Fitness

Let’s face it: the journey to achieving health and fitness goals can be long and difficult.

While many people want to be the fittest, strongest, and healthiest versions of themselves, dramatic body composition changes rarely happen immediately, which can be discouraging. It can also be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you’re used to focusing on weight-only goals.

In this article, we’ll outline seven of the most common mistakes that can get in the way of your quest to improve your body composition, plus how to avoid them!

Why body composition goals are so important

Body weight is one of the most basic metrics we use to judge our fitness. It’s also the most popular metric, perhaps because it’s so easy to track — and, unfortunately, obsess over!

However, if you’re looking for a way to improve your total health and wellness, you should consider making body composition goals in addition (or even instead of) weight management goals. This is sometimes referred to as body recomposition.

Your body composition takes into account several factors that contribute to your total body weight, such as your muscle mass, body fat mass, and percent body fat.

Making body composition goals, rather than losing weight alone, means building or maintaining lean muscle mass, which has been linked to protection from diseases like cancer — and even a longer lifespan!

Furthermore, paying attention to your body composition can also help you to better understand your overall health and health risks.

For example, making body composition goals instead of weight goals can prevent the “metabolically obese” scenario, when you’re technically a healthy weight but still have more body fat than is optimal for your health.

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid While Improving Your Body Composition

1. Underestimating the importance of your diet

Many people think that the best way to accomplish a fitness goal is to exercise and hit the gym. This is especially true when it comes to body recomposition, since your objective is usually to increase your muscle mass, which requires working out.

However, it’s just as important to pay attention to your diet as it is to refine your exercise routine if you want to attain your body composition targets.

While exercise can certainly help you build lean muscle mass, your body needs adequate nutrition so that your muscles can recover, repair and, ultimately, grow. Another point: exercise can burn calories, which is important for burning fat, but that calorie deficit can easily be canceled out if your diet isn’t portion-controlled.

So, to ensure that you’re making body recomposition progress in a timely manner, it’s a good idea to pair your workout routine with a diet that is tailored to your goals. This has been proven to lead to better and more consistent results.

A 2012 study focused on post-menopausal women found that introducing the participants to a weight intervention involving exercise alone led to an average 2.4% weight loss, while an intervention that focused on diet alone led to an average 8.5% weight loss.

However, a two-pronged intervention that included both diet and exercise led to an average 10.8% weight loss over twelve months!

Similar results were seen in the participants’ body composition measurements, including their waist circumference and body fat percentage.

2. Focusing solely on calories

On a related note, if you’re trying to change your body composition, it’s important to take a holistic look at your diet and consider factors beyond just the number of calories you eat every day.

If you’re coming from a mindset where you’ve only ever focused on weight loss, you might be familiar with the old mantra: calories in versus calories out. This idea comes from the fact that your body uses calories for energy. If you consume more calories than you use, your body then stores the excess in your fat tissue to be used later on.

On the other hand, a deficit of calories means that you have to burn through the stored calories in your fat tissue for energy, ultimately leading to weight loss.

So calories are important, especially when it comes to managing your body fat.

However, when it comes to body recomposition, it’s also essential to focus on your diet quality so that your body has all of the building blocks it needs. It’s especially important to look at your protein intake, as an adequate protein intake is necessary for building muscle.

Eating a high-protein diet while in a calorie deficit can lead to better diet quality and reduced loss of lean body mass, helping you to tackle multiple body recomposition goals at once.

3. Not having a workout plan for building muscle 

Body composition goals generally involve building muscle in addition to losing fat, which means that you need to have a workout plan that adequately addresses both targets. In many cases, this means implementing a combination of various workouts into your day.

Cardio-centric aerobic workouts may be good for losing weight since they often require massive amounts of energy and thus can increase your calorie deficit. But cardio alone usually isn’t enough to build significant muscle mass.

Instead, the best way to build muscle is to incorporate heavier resistance-training exercises into your routine, alongside your cardio. Muscle growth, which is also known as “hypertrophy,” requires repeated stress to your muscle fibers via heavy resistance.

When you do challenging resistance workouts like weightlifting, your muscle fibers become damaged. However, with the right nutrition (in other words, enough protein), your muscle fibers can rebuild themselves, becoming thicker and stronger, which ultimately leads to bigger muscles.

This phenomenon was highlighted in a randomized trial called STRRIDE AT/RT, which was designed to compare the effects of aerobic training alone, resistance training alone, and a combination of the two.

The researchers found that aerobic training was the best for losing weight, but that resistance training was necessary to increase lean mass in its participants.

4. Not keeping track of your body composition in multiple ways 

Traditional body weight scales are the most common tool that people use to keep track of their fitness. However, when it comes to body composition, a traditional scale can’t tell you much about the progress you’re making.

Muscle tissue weighs more than fat tissue but is much more compact in size. So, if you’re gaining muscle and losing weight, your weight may not change (or it may even go up), even if you’re actually getting closer to your body composition goals.

Instead of tracking your health journey using your weight, it’s recommended that you use other means of determining your progress, in order to get a fuller picture of how your body is changing. Here are a few ideas:

  • Measure your hip, waist, thigh, chest, and arm circumferences. These metrics can give you a better idea of how effective your training is than your weight alone.
  • Discover your body fat and muscle mass percentages by getting your body composition tested regularly, via a BIA scale or DEXA scan.
  • Track your daily steps and approximate calories burned with a wearable fitness tracker. Knowing how much you’re moving around may inspire you to get more active!

5. Not setting specific goals 

Most people attempting to improve their body composition have long-term goals that they are working toward. However, focusing solely on those big-picture goals can make you feel like you’ll never reach your target.

Instead of setting major goals that might take months or years to complete, some researchers have found that it can be more helpful to set smaller goals more frequently.

For example, if you’re struggling with your motivation, try setting incremental milestones (i.e., losing one percent of your body fat over a month versus trying to lose five percent of your body fat total).

Smaller goals may help you to stay on target more easily and establish a realistic fitness roadmap. Plus, hitting those smaller goals can provide you with bursts of inspiration that ultimately cause you to meet your major goals over time!

6. Ignoring the importance of sleep and rest

Because your diet and exercise are two of the biggest factors that determine your body composition, it probably comes as no surprise that people with body composition goals tend to focus on what they eat and how often they work out.

However, it’s also important to keep other aspects of your lifestyle in mind, like the amount of rest and sleep that you allow yourself.

Sleep is an extremely important component of your health, and it can play a big role in your body composition. For example, your sleep habits influence the hormones that control your metabolism and appetite.

In fact, sleep is such an important factor for your body composition that researchers have found that sleep disruption can negatively influence your body composition progress, even if you’re losing weight at the same time.

In a similar vein, it’s crucial to know when it’s time to let yourself rest. Allowing yourself a couple of days off per week from your workout routine is crucial to avoiding overtraining, which can actually set your progress back.

7. Not staying consistent

Finally, there is nothing more important for reaching your goals (and maintaining your progress) than staying consistent!

We’re often sold the idea that we can make huge amounts of progress within weeks of starting a new exercise routine or diet plan. However, the truth is that accomplishing a fitness goal usually takes months or even years to accomplish in a healthy manner.

Rapid progress can actually be really bad for your body composition, because it can indicate that you’re losing muscle mass in addition to body fat, which is contradictory to most body composition goals.

So, when it comes to improving your body composition, it’s key to understand that fitness is not a short-term goal. You’ll need to stay consistent for long periods of time if you want to make any meaningful progress.

Even when you don’t see huge changes right away, staying on track will eventually get you to where you need to be — without compromising your health in the process.

Conclusion 

When you set a body recomposition goal, what it really means is that you’re making a commitment to eating well, exercising right, and tracking your progress for long-term success.

Accomplishing your goal starts with understanding the main tenets of gaining muscle and losing fat, as well as avoiding these common mistakes along the way. Over time, your efforts will pay off!

Distinguishing Between Weight Loss and Fat Loss

By Body Composition

It is easy to think that weight loss and fat loss are interchangeable—either way, the end result we are reaching for is a healthy change and an improvement in our wellbeing. The truth is, while fat loss can be a part of losing weight, you usually lose more than just fat.

What does that mean for you and your health goals? For most individuals, fat loss is the goal, so you need to take a deliberate, focused approach for the best results. Read on as we cover the key differences between weight loss and fat loss and how you can optimize for fat loss.

What’s the difference between weight loss and fat loss?

Weight loss is an overall reduction in body weight, while fat loss is a reduction in body fat.  When you lose weight, you’re not just losing body fat: you’re making changes to each component of your body composition – body fat, Lean Body Mass, and Body Water.  This is true for weight gain as well. You don’t control how much of each you lose, but you can influence what’s lost.

Weight Loss

How does weight loss happen? While there are hundreds of diet and exercise programs out there that will help you achieve fat loss—some better than others—the good ones boil down to essentially the same thing: reducing energy in from food while increasing energy out via exercise/activity (a caloric deficit). This combination forces your body to make up for the missing energy by breaking down your body tissues, including body fat and muscle.

It would be awesome if you could just tell your body to derive all the needed energy from body fat, but that is not what happens. As you lose weight, you will lose some muscle in the form of Lean Body Mass in addition to body fat.

Fat Loss

Body fat, in general terms, is a combination of your essential fat, which plays a vital functional role, and storage fat. Storage fat is adipose tissue that has accumulated as energy reserves. This type of fat will visibly change as you modify your diet and exercise routine. Too much storage fat can negatively impact both our physical and mental wellbeing, so this is what you should focus on for better overall health.

Why you should focus on fat loss and not weight loss?

There is an unfortunate stigma when it comes to weight. While there is a clear link between obesity and chronic diseases, weight loss goals can lead to unintended consequences like disordered eating. That is why a focus on fat loss—and a healthy body composition—is a much better approach because it encourages the individual to move more and eat well.

What are the health benefits of losing fat?

Body fat percentage is a much better gauge of health than weight. Remember that weight is composed of lean body mass, body fat, and water, so any changes in these components can lead to weight gain, not just fat loss.

Excess body fat, especially that storage fat, has a much closer link to chronic diseases like:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Heart Disease
  • Various Cancer

Maintaining a healthy body fat percentage can help reduce your risk of these diseases and improve your mental health and overall wellbeing.

What are different ways to measure if you’re losing fat?

To track body fat loss, you’ll need to have your body composition tracked regularly. There are several devices and methods for determining body composition, including calipers, hydrostatic weighing, DEXA, and BIA. If you want truly accurate results, always be tested by a highly skilled professional who uses a medical-grade tool to assess you. $10 plastic calipers and at-home bathroom scales aren’t the best options.

How does your metabolism change with weight loss?

Remember when we said that when you lose weight, you lose more than fat? One of the losses can be from Lean Body Mass, which is critical because the amount of Lean Body Mass that you have directly influences your Basal Metabolic Rate (or what you may refer to as your metabolism). Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body naturally burns at rest. When you focus on weight loss and do not make changes to minimize lean body mass loss, you are decreasing the size of your metabolism.

If you maintain the same eating habits, you may be setting yourself up for weight regain.

How weight loss can slow down your metabolism 

Here are a typical set of body composition results for someone who would be clinically diagnosed as obese.

Along with high weight and body fat mass measurements, this individual naturally developed muscles by carrying their body weight.  What this means is that generally, obese people also have relatively large metabolisms.

An example would be contestants from the reality show, The Biggest Loser. Participants were focused on achieving extreme weight loss over a short period of time. In a study on past Biggest Loser contestants, individuals lost an average of 128.5 pounds in 30 weeks, at a rate of about 4.3 pounds per week.

When the contestants lost all the weight, while they did lose a lot of fat, they also lost a lot of Lean Body Mass—24.5 pounds of it on average—equaling 19% of their total weight loss.  This muscle loss contributed to a drop in BMR from 2,607 calories to 1,996 calories. That’s a loss of 600 calories a day—almost an entire meal’s worth of calories, gone!

Dramatic changes to Lean Body Mass and metabolism aren’t ideal, especially when the goal is to maintain healthy body weight.  Six years after the end of the competition, the Biggest Loser contestants had regained 83.6% of their fat loss. This was in large part due to the fact that their metabolisms never fully recovered to anything near their original levels. That’s why it is important to come up with a focused approach of gaining muscle and losing fat, or body recomposition, rather than just weight loss.

While the weight and body fat bars are significantly over average, notice that the Skeletal Muscle Mass bar is as well. This is common for an obese person. However, unlike an athlete, an obese person has developed this muscle by virtue of carrying a large amount of weight. Large amounts of muscle develop just to move such a heavy body around. What this means is that generally, obese people also have relatively large metabolisms.

How can I stop my weight regain?

With any weight loss, there will be some Lean Body Mass loss. A low metabolism, coupled with unregulated eating habits, is a surefire way to regain weight back.

Without further development of Lean Body Mass and skeletal muscle to help grow the metabolism, weight regain remains a strong possibility if you aren’t extremely careful with the number of calories you consume. It is crucial to focus on body composition, developing muscle and Lean Body Mass, and changing your eating habits even after you reach your target weight.

How to build muscle, lose fat for a healthy body composition 

Here are three main areas to focus on to change your body composition and improve your overall health and wellbeing.

1. Focus on body composition instead of weight loss

Stop tracking weight loss. Instead, track changes in your body composition, which means optimizing your program for fat loss while minimizing Lean Body Mass loss. It’s not like this is impossible, either. Studies have shown that weight loss, when coupled with proper nutrition and strength training, can minimize Lean Body Mass loss.

Body Composition analyzers are a quick, easy way to test regularly and track your progress.

2. Count your calories and develop new eating habits  

An important step is to improve your eating habits by choosing an eating plan that you will actually enjoy following and counting your calories.

One thing to keep in mind that optimizing for fat loss will take longer than weight loss. Quick weight-loss plans, like those featured in the Biggest Loser contest, help you lose a lot of weight—almost 4 pounds a week. But you saw what happened: nearly 1/5 of their weight loss was Lean Body Mass, and their metabolisms plummeted.

Effective dietary plans will have you shooting for a ½ – 1 pound of fat loss per week, which is a manageable and sustainable goal that won’t cause such negative effects on metabolism. The slow and steady approach is the better option, and it will lead to long-lasting changes.

3. Start strength training to increase your metabolism  

Many people still believe that strength training/weight lifting is only for athletes and bodybuilders.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Increased muscle has a whole host of benefits ranging from increased ability to recover from disease, reducing insulin resistance, helping you remain mobile as you age, and, of course, helping to combat obesity by increasing your BMR and metabolism.

Shift to body composition and long-term thinking 

As we covered, fat loss is much more important than weight loss and will lead to long-term changes.   By working out smarter and finding out what your body composition numbers are, you’ll be on the path to getting fitter while keeping the fat off for good.

Yes, it might take longer than expected, but would you rather drop 30 pounds in less than a year just to regain it all back, or spend the time to make small, impactful changes that lead to a lifetime of good health?

The Relationship Between Body Composition and Liver Function

By Body Composition, Health, Medical

Your liver is a true powerhouse of an organ. It has a hand in some of your body’s most crucial regulatory processes, from the digestion and metabolizing of various nutrients to the detoxification of your blood. So, when there’s something wrong with your liver, the consequences can be serious. And unfortunately, a damaged liver may not always emit any overt or obvious signals that something is wrong. That means that major liver issues may go undetected for a long time.

But, as it turns out, one of the most telling indicators of your liver function is actually your body composition, which makes it much easier to keep tabs on your own health! Read on to find out how your body composition impacts your liver function, and how you can use this information to proactively protect your wellbeing.

The liver: what it is and why it matters

Your liver is a large organ that sits in your abdominal cavity, near your stomach, intestines, and kidneys. As a part of the digestive system, your liver plays a huge variety of roles in your body, including:

  • Producing bile for digestion
  • Metabolizing fat-soluble vitamins
  • Processing drugs
  • Producing cholesterol
  • Regulating carbohydrates and proteins
  • Detoxifying blood by removing drugs and other potential toxins

Liver issues

Because it’s an integral factor in so many different bodily processes, your liver’s health directly impacts your overall health. Unfortunately, under certain circumstances, your liver can become prone to conditions and diseases that lessen its ability to function normally, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

As you might be able to guess from the name, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (or NAFLD for short) is a set of conditions in which excess fat accumulates in your liver. This type of fat accumulation can also occur from excess alcohol consumption, in a disease aptly named “alcohol-related liver disease” (ARLD). But, unlike ARLD, NAFLD can occur in the absence of excessive alcohol consumption, influenced instead by factors like your lifestyle and genetics.

While NAFLD does not always cause symptoms on its own, having it can increase your risk for other serious health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

There are two different kinds of NAFLD: 

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL): People with NAFL have an enlarged liver with excess fat accumulation, but this type of NAFLD comes with minimal inflammation or damage to the liver itself.
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH): People who have this kind of NAFLD can experience inflamed livers. Twenty percent of these patients will progress to cirrhosis (scarring), which can damage the liver itself. These devastating impacts mean that NASH has even been linked to liver cancer and liver failure, and it is highly associated with the necessity for liver transplants.

Generally, people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease will develop either NAFL or NASH. However, some people with one form of NAFLD may later be diagnosed with the other form.

So, how does fatty liver disease develop in the first place? As it turns out, your body composition plays a big part in it.

How your body composition affects your liver function

Your body is primarily composed of four components: body water, minerals, skeletal muscle mass, and body fat. While all of these factors can have a major impact on your overall metabolic health Two of these factors, your skeletal muscle mass, and your body fat mass, can have a huge impact on your overall metabolic health. In this case, they can also influence how much fat is accumulating in your liver.

Some specific body composition risk factors that can affect your liver function include excess body fat, uneven body fat distribution, and low skeletal muscle mass.

Excess body fat mass

Obesity is one of the biggest body composition risk factors for developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and other liver issues.

Under typical circumstances, the dietary fat that you consume breaks down into fatty acids which are then stored primarily in your fat tissue, although small amounts are also stored in your liver. But it’s thought that the high amounts of fat tissue present in obese patients increase the rate at which fatty acids are released into circulation, which then goes on to increase the rate at which the liver accumulates fat. More specifically, researchers have found that increased risk for NAFLD occurs if the total percent body fat exceeds 32.23% in women and 26.73% in men.

Body fat distribution

You don’t necessarily even need to be obese for your body fat to impact your liver health either, because the location in your body that your fat tends to accumulate also matters.

High levels of visceral fat, aka “central adiposity” (or, even more simply, belly fat), seem to play a key role in how your liver is affected by your body composition when compared to other kinds of fat accumulation. For example, one study discovered that, after averaging the weight of its subjects, higher levels of central adiposity were associated with increased instances of fatty liver. Meanwhile, subjects who had more fat stored in lower extremities, such as their legs, were found to have fewer instances of fatty liver.

Low skeletal muscle mass

Your body composition can contribute to liver complications beyond a NAFLD diagnosis. In conjunction with high levels of body fat mass and central adiposity, low levels of skeletal muscle mass can also cause further complications like fibrosis, or scarring of your liver, which can lead to more serious issues like cirrhosis. A cross-sectional 2021 study found that, among 149 participants being treated for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, instances of liver fibrosis were significantly and inversely associated with skeletal muscle mass, and significantly and positively associated with fat mass, waist-hip ratio, and visceral fat.

Other considerations

There are also some other common risk factors that you could use to predict the health of your liver and its subsequent functioning. While these factors might not necessarily be body composition measurements, they tend to be positively correlated with both metabolic conditions and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease — and both of these can be influenced by body composition.

Take metabolic syndrome, for example. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic conditions like high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and abdominal obesity that can increase your risk for developing serious chronic conditions, including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Because metabolic syndrome and nonalcoholic fatty liver are both heavily influenced by obesity and other body composition factors, scientists often find an association between the two. For example, one global epidemiological review found that there was a 42.54% association between NAFLD and metabolic syndrome. Interestingly, a fatty liver overproduces both blood sugar and triglycerides, two of the key components found in metabolic syndrome. So, while having metabolic syndrome might not cause fatty liver, or vice versa, having high triglyceride levels and/or blood sugar levels might indicate that it’s time to have your liver checked by a doctor.

Triglyceride levels

In addition to the amount of stored fat tissue in your body, there’s also the fat in your blood to consider, otherwise known as your “triglyceride levels.”

One of your liver’s jobs is to create triglycerides, a form of fat that it releases when your body needs energy. These triglycerides are then delivered to your cells via your bloodstream, where they can provide energy. But, under certain conditions, such as obesity, your body’s ability to process its fats can change, contributing to the accumulation of fat on your liver. In fact, a 2014 study found that, among 168 NAFLD patients, elevated triglyceride levels were the strongest predictor of NAFLD compared to other metabolic issues, including cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

Insulin resistance

Another risk factor for the fatty liver disease has to do with insulin resistance, which is also associated with obesity and high body fat percentages.

Under typical circumstances, the hormone insulin helps your body store glucose, which is what carbohydrates are broken down into upon digestion in your body. Insulin also suppresses lipolysis, which is the process by which your body breaks down its stored fat for energy. But your cells can become insulin-resistant for a variety of metabolic-related reasons, including regular overconsumption of calories. Unfortunately, some scientists believe that insulin resistance can impact your ability to suppress lipolysis, leading to increased fat storage in your liver instead. Insulin resistance can also promote inflammation, which may further contribute to liver damage.

Assessing your risk

Regular visits with your primary care provider are critical for diagnosing diseases like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. But, short of ultrasounds, CT scans, and invasive liver biopsies, you can also keep an eye on your risk factors for fatty liver diseases simply by keeping track of your body composition and taking regular blood tests.

 

  • Body composition testing is an easy, non-invasive way to keep an eye on those body composition factors that have been linked to liver function, such as your body fat percentage, skeletal muscle mass, and visceral fat. While body composition testing can’t help you diagnose diseases or conditions, it can certainly help you keep track of your risk for fatty liver and other metabolic conditions — and help you be proactive about monitoring your liver function without involving more expensive or invasive testing methods. The great news here is that if you do experience NAFLD or other liver issues, dietary changes and weight management may be able to help. Researchers have found that high-calorie diets and excessive fructose consumption are often associated with instances of NAFLD, but losing just 5-10% of your total body weight can lead to improvements.

 

  • Blood tests are an invaluable tool for taking a closer look at other risk factors that could be affecting your liver function. For example, triglyceride tests/cholesterol panels and blood sugar tests can provide key insights into your metabolic health and indicate if something more serious is going on that needs to be addressed.

 

If you do find that either your body composition tests or your blood tests indicate that you may be at a higher risk for developing NAFLD or other liver complications, you can check in with your doctor to ensure that any potential issues are detected in a timely manner.

Conclusion

A healthy liver is critical for an overall healthy body, but you may not always be able to tell that there’s something wrong with this important organ until it is too late. But by monitoring key body composition measurements, you can take a proactive role in managing your risk factors.

Why My Weight Fluctuates Every Day: Explained

By Body Composition, Fitness

Weight fluctuations are normal. However, they can be very discouraging and emotionally taxing to dieters who step on the scale and notice they’ve gained a few pounds overnight.  

However, the average adult’s weight can fluctuate between 1-and 2 kilograms (2.2 – 4.4 pounds) over the course of a day or a few days. So, for individuals who weigh themselves frequently, once a day or once a week, this may be cause for frustration – so much so – that they turn to food for comfort or end their weight loss journey altogether. 

Though these feelings are valid, it’s important to remember that our weight doesn’t provide us with the full picture of what is going on inside our bodies.


What causes weight fluctuation?

Fluctuations in weight are normal, and in many cases, can be caused by changes in water retention. More body water translates to an increase in weight and less body water translates to a decrease in weight. This leaves body fat and muscle mass unaffected. 

Water retention and body composition test

Not only does water retention change the number we see on the scale, but it can also affect body composition testing via bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). BIA testing is a widely used method of assessing body composition including total body water, muscle mass (fat-free mass), fat mass, and body fat percentage.

Unfortunately, despite BIA testing being considered a great way to determine body composition, water retention can alter the results of a BIA test. Consuming water immediately before BIA testing can skew your results because it can cause an overestimation of body fat mass. On the other hand, retaining water will overestimate fat-free mass (muscle mass) and increase your outputs for extracellular water.

Much like seeing an increase in body weight, seeing an increase in body fat and body fat percentage on a BIA device can be discouraging for individuals who have been dieting and/or exercising with the goal of losing body fat.   

Frequently monitoring changes in weight, muscle mass, and body fat are useful for tracking progress and maintaining motivation. However, it is important to remember that there can be small, undesirable fluctuations throughout your journey, and that’s okay. Don’t let them cause you to abandon your health and wellness goals.  

What causes water retention? 

There are many reasons why an individual’s body weight can fluctuate and the biggest contributor is water retention. 

The human body is approximately 45-75% water. Because of this, changes in how much water our bodies are retaining can affect the number we see on the scale.   

There are many factors that influence how much water our bodies retain, including: 

  • Sodium: Sodium, also referred to as salt, is essential for normal body processes and is a compound that regulates water content. Consuming excess sodium leads to water retention, and therefore, weight gain.  
  • Exercise: Exercise can cause water loss through perspiration, which leads to immediate weight loss, especially if you are not hydrating sufficiently. On the other hand, if you consume more water than you lose, you may see a slight increase in weight.  
  • Glycogen levels: Glycogen is the body’s stored form of carbohydrates. In order to store glycogen, the body also retains water. This means that the more glycogen you have, the more water you retain, which can lead to an increase in weight. On the contrary, if you lose a significant amount of your glycogen stores, which is often the result of a low-carbohydrate diet, you will lose a lot of water, and therefore, see a lower number on the scale.
  • Menstrual cycle: It’s normal for women to see a slight weight increase due to increased water retention right before they start their period. This is because of fluctuations in certain hormones.  
  • Medications: Some medications cause your body to retain more water.
  • Dehydration.: This might seem counter-intuitive, but being dehydrated causes the body to retain more water.  
  • Meal and drink consumption.: Food and liquids are heavier than most people realize. If you eat a meal that also consists of a couple of glasses of fluids and then go weigh yourself, you are going to see an increase in weight. To avoid this, try to weigh yourself first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything.  
  • Bathroom visits.: Normal bodily excretions (urine and feces) can weigh a couple of pounds and can cause weight to fluctuate. 

How to monitor body composition while keeping water weight in mind  


If you notice undesirable results on a specific day, don’t let this discourage you. If you’ve been exercising more and being consistent with your diet, it is likely that these test results are due to water retention. Keep being consistent with your diet and exercise routine and wait until the following week to test yourself again. You will likely see favorable results at this time. 
 

In order to minimize weight fluctuations due to changes in water retention, here are some tips for obtaining the most accurate body composition test results: 

  • Test in the morning: Test in the morning after you’ve gone to the bathroom and before you’ve consumed any liquids and before you’ve engaged in any exercise. 
  • Test once a week: Test yourself once a week on the same day. For example, test yourself every Sunday or Monday morning. 
  • Meal timing: The night before you weigh yourself, try to eat your last meal around the same time. This will help minimize any digestive changes that could alter your results.
  • Exercise: Be consistent with your exercise the day before. This can mean that you always exercise the day before your test or that this will always be a rest day for you. Sticking to a specific pre-test workout routine will ensure that there are no changes in water retention due to exercise.  
  • Clothes.: Be consistent with what you wear. While this will not affect the BIA test results, it can affect your weight. 

Overall, it’s important to try and keep your testing condition the same as your first body composition test.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why your body retains extra water. This can cause fluctuations in body weight and skewed BIA test results. While this may be disappointing, it’s important to remember that weight fluctuations are normal and small setbacks will not derail your progress. Consistency will keep you on the path toward achieving your fitness and weight loss goals.   

What are the differences between InBody570, InBody770, and InBody970?

By Body Composition, Uncategorized

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? 

InBody570, InBody770, InBody970, InBody S10, and BWA 2.0 are InBody’s advanced lineup of products that provide in-depth results for the patients, including the water balance. 

But.. How are they really different? To help your understanding, I would like to compare InBody570, InBody770, and InBody970. 

InBody570

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

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

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. 

 

 

If you want to know more about each device(InBody570, InBody770, InBody970) please click the link in the parenthesis or please contact us!

 

Body Composition Change after Recovery from COVID-19

By Body Composition, Health, Nutrition

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.

  1. COVID-19 infection can cause major inflammation, particularly pronounced in patients with severe and critical diseases.
  2. Malnutrition is frequently seen in COVID‐19 patients. Disease‐associated reductions in food intake and malnutrition can contribute to tissue wasting.
  3. 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 :
1) The weight decreased from 90.3kg to 85.5kg
2) Muscle mass decreased from 40.2kg to 37.2kg
3) ECW Ratio increased from 0.369 to 0.374
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,

  1. His weight increased from 85.5kg to 89.4kg,
  2. 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.

 

Does Muscle Turn Into Fat?

By Body Composition, InBody Blog
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on July 31, 2018for 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.”

Sound familiar?

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%:

Results completed on the InBody 570.

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.

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.

Extremely Active: 2602 (BMR) x 1.9 (Activity level) = 4,943.8 (TDEE)

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)

Moderately Active: 2,602 (BMR) x 1.55 (Activity level) = 4,033.1 (TDEE)

Caloric Surplus: 4,943.8 (Old TDEE) – 4,033.1 (New TDEE) = 910.7 calories

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.

Two days of strength training a week has both great physical and mental benefits.

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.