What is body composition?
In this short blog post, I wanted to give a brief overview about body composition, what it means and its relevance to you. Now, you’re reading this blog so you’re clearly interested in your health and physique. You may already be aware of what body composition is but if you’re not, don’t worry, I am going to simplify it for you.
But first, it’s important to understand…
Why Scales do not tell the whole picture.
Traditionally, one of the first measures of our overall health and wellness sees us hopping on the scale to see our weight. To see if we’ve gained weight since we last checked or measure it against what someone thinks is a standard. We then make an assumption based on the numbers staring back at us whether or not we need to do something about it and in most cases, we usually feel as though we need some work.
The problem with weighing yourself is that it does not tell you the whole picture. Firstly, your body comprises of different elements that make up the whole. This is known as body composition. Your body is composed of Muscle, fat, skeleton and water. Your bathroom scale tell you the sum of all parts but what you really want to focus on are the two most important elements of body composition. Body fat and lean body mass (i.e. muscle)
There’s very little you can change about bone density save for hacking off limbs from the bone, which I don’t think sounds like fun and whilst water can be manipulated, it’s very temporary and minor in the grand scheme of things.
Doctors tend to look at body mass index instead of body weight alone but that too doesn’t tell the whole story.
The problem with the Body Mass Index
The body mass index takes into account your height as well as your weight and your age. By using a simple (too simple) formula, you can determine whether you’re underweight, overweight, obese or in a healthy range. Clearly it is better than just weighing yourself alone but again, it doesn’t look at the person individually and tell the whole story.
Let’s take a look at two fictional characters, Bill and Bob for example. Bill and Bob both weigh the same and are the same age and height. Yet they clearly look different but because they weigh the same, are of the same age and height, their BMI is identical. They’re both clinically obese according to the BMI chart but let’s face it, Bob is clearly not obese! So what went wrong?
Again, the problem lies with just focussing on the sum of all parts. Bob has more lean mass than Bill who has more body fat. Now, Muscle weighs more than fat which is why they look completely different. The better alternative would be to measure lean body mass and body fat to get a better picture of what’s going on with your body.
How to measure it
There are various ways to measure your body composition ranging from simple at home procedures which have a larger margin for error right down to complicated Dexa scans or hydrostatic weighing which require complicated kit and in the latter, a swimming pool.
To keep things a little more simple, two of the easier and better ways to measure body fat are bioelectrical impedance analysis and skinfold caliper testing. The former can be done at home with the right type of scales or at fitness centres. They work by sending an electrical signal through your body and measuring the rate of resistance. The more resistance, the greater your body fat percentage. Whilst these gadgets have become more and more sophisticated over time, they still have a higher margin of error and are useful as a guide to see what you’re losing if you use them consistently.
The other method is to have your body fat analysed by a professional using skin fold calipers. The calipers measure the amount of fat at various points in the body and are put through a formula to get a good idea of your body composition. The benefit of this method is that the professional can see what’s going on with your body and if they’re schooled on the topic, can even give you an idea of what’s happening inside your body on a hormonal level. We’ve been able to look at our clients body fat storage sights and give them a good idea of why they’re storing fat the way they are. Once you understand that, we can create a nutritional and supplementation plan to help get results quicker.
This leads us onto…
How to manage body composition
As coach Martin Rooney’s battle cry is in his Training For Warrior’s program (which is awesome by the way and I am now a certified level 2 Training for warrior’s coach!) a Training for warrior’s coach’s job is to help a client build muscle, burn fat and feel good and let’s be honest. When you feel stronger, lighter and your clothes fit tighter (in a good way) you feel more confident and happy, right? So, it boils down to body composition i.e. burn fat and build muscle. Burning fat and building muscle is the key to increasing your metabolic rate too so managing your body comp is centred around this premise.
So your mantra is, Burn fat, build muscle and your activities such as exercise and nutrition should prompt you to ask the question, does this burn fat and build muscle?
Let’s look at what works for bulding muscle and burning fat:
- High intensity interval training for cardio
- resistance training and strength training (Lifting heavy sh*t)
- Eating adequate amounts of protein
- Getting quality fats in the diet
- Good quality sleep
- Sex (for guys, this is great for testosterone increases which aid in burning fat and building muscle)
And what doesn’t help?
- Little to no exercise
- Copious amounts of endurance training such as long distance running with no strength training
- Eating processed foods and junk foods
- Drinking alcohol
- Poor sleep
- Chronic stress
- Celibacy (does no end of problems for your testosterone levels)
The rise of the skinny fat person
Finally, I’d like to close this blog post off with what I have seen an increase of at our facility. It’s the rise of people who are known as “Skinny fat”
Their friends are the first to tell them they don’t need to go on a diet or workout and they look good in clothes by social standards but under the clothes, they’re not happy because of their high levels of body fat. What causes a person to be “skinny fat”? In a nutshell, it boils down to high levels of body fat with very low levels of lean body mass.
Again, the key here if you’d consider yourself a “skinny fat” person is to work on building lean muscle mass through strength and resistance training.
If you’re interested in developing a better body or would like a full fat test, get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to arrange something for you!