The body composition of a person is one of the most important things that must be measured in order to get a solid picture of its health. The two most common ways to measure body composition are by DEXA scan and Skin Calipers. In this article, we will be discussing what the body composition is, and how it can be measured.
Why Is Body Composition Important To Measure?
Most diet and exercise goals are focused on weight reduction or increase, ignoring the fact that two people of the same sex and body weight can look radically different from each other due to differences in body composition. Measuring your body composition can reveal your body’s unique composition and assist you in identifying areas for improvement in your general health and wellness.
Going beyond the number on the scale to gain a better understanding of your overall wellness begins with measuring your body composition. You will be able to determine whether you need to develop more lean mass or reduce your body fat percentage in order to obtain a healthy body composition and a higher level of health.
How Can BMI Be Inaccurate and Misleading?
You may not have heard of body composition, but you are most likely familiar with BMI. What’s the distinction? Body Mass Index (BMI) is a popular metric for assessing an individual’s health by comparing their weight to their height: BMI – kg/m2
Despite its extensive usage in clinical practice, Body Mass Index has significant drawbacks and is a poor tracking tool for weight change because there is no way to tell whether changes in weight are due to fat or muscle. Using a single statistic to predict health or mortality, such as BMI, oversimplifies health and ignores crucial elements that contribute to optimal health.
When you set out to get healthier, you probably want to lose weight and develop muscle. Body composition can tell you how much of your weight loss is fat, muscle, or water. The weight scale and BMI cannot.
Why Do You Need To Understand Your Weight in Terms of Muscle and Fat Mass?
You may know what healthy weight ranges are, but how can you get there? If you simply focus on decreasing weight, you risk losing muscle mass and sabotaging your efforts.
Body composition eliminates the difficulty of identifying what your weight swings signify, whether they are due to muscle increase, body fat loss, or anything in between.
Whatever your goals are, one thing to remember during your health journey is that there is more to being healthy than appearing slim.
Does Skinny Always Equal Healthy?
Many people believe that eating as little fat as possible is healthy. Being slim, however, does not automatically lessen your health risk—”skinny fat” people can face the same health hazards as obese people.
People who are “skinny fat” may appear slender and healthy because they have an adequate quantity of subcutaneous fat (fat stored just beneath the skin), but they have elevated health risks due to poor body composition: too much body fat, a high degree of visceral fat, and too little muscle mass.
Furthermore, because visceral fat cannot be quantified with BMI or scales, persons labeled as thin fat are often ignorant of their potential health hazards. Understanding your muscle-fat balance is a wonderful place to start if you fall into one of the above categories or want to start making healthy changes.
Long-term health requires a healthy balance of fat and muscle. Having enough muscular mass serves to strengthen the immune system, promote good posture, improve mobility, and prevent weakness in old age.
What Are Examples of Body Composition?
Many people will fall into one of the four body composition categories listed below. Knowing your body composition allows you to create a customized training and diet plan.
1) Healthy Body Composition: This person’s weight, body fat percentage, and muscle mass all fall within the same range. Depending on your body fat percentage, a balanced body composition might be healthy or harmful.
2) High Body Fat, Low Muscle Mass: Although this person’s weight is regarded healthy for their height, they have a high body fat percentage and low muscle mass.
3) Excessive Muscle Mass, Low Body Fat: Using BMI, this individual’s weight may be regarded high for their height, however this is due to their high muscle mass level. They may have a lower body fat percentage than the average.
What Are the Benefits of Body Composition?
A healthy body composition promotes a stronger immune system and lowers the risk of common chronic diseases and conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Here’s how you can use body composition to boost your happiness.
Determine your starting point so you know what you need to lose, gain, or maintain.
Determine your Percent Body Fat so that you can concentrate on fat loss rather than weight loss.
Optimize your workout regimen to meet your specific health and fitness objectives.
Calculate your caloric requirements and develop a tailored nutrition plan.
Set realistic goals, track progress correctly, and stay motivated.
Improve your body composition by making more informed selections.
How Do You Track Your Progress With Body Composition Outputs?
Body composition allows you to quickly track your development and assess the effectiveness of your diet and exercise plan. You can use the following body composition outputs to track your improvement over time:
Percent Body Fat (PBF)
Because it shows you exactly how much fat mass makes up your entire body weight, Percent Body Fat or Body Fat Percentage is a more accurate measure of your health than body weight or BMI.
Aim for a PBF of 10 – 20% (for men) or 18 – 28% (for women) for a healthy body fat level (for females).
Skeletal Muscle Mass (SMM)
Skeletal Muscle Mass is essential for long-term health and mobility, posture, and immunity. Body composition analysis determines how much Skeletal Muscle Mass you have in each body segment, allowing you to focus on gaining more muscle or correcting imbalances to maintain a healthy muscle mass balance.
Body Water (TBW)
Total Body Water (TBW) is separated into two categories: extracellular water (ECW) and intracellular water (ICW). A healthy body water balance is essential for optimal health. Body composition analysis allows you to discover any changes and correct them in order to maintain a healthy equilibrium.
Methods of Body Composition Analysis
There are numerous methods for determining your body composition. Some are quick and simple, yet only offer basic information. Some tests are time-consuming and costly, requiring the assistance of a qualified technician to administer. Here are a few popular ways for measuring body composition:
The skinfold test is an anthropometric method for evaluating body fat. It is also referred to as the pinch test. This approach includes pinching the subcutaneous fat layer with your fingers and measuring the thickness with a caliper. Calipers are lightweight and portable, and measurement is straightforward and inexpensive. This method, on the other hand, involves measuring total Percent Body Fat (PBF) based on subcutaneous fat.
Although subcutaneous fat accounts for a considerable amount of body fat, the measurement may be inaccurate for those whose body fat distribution varies. Furthermore, if the subcutaneous fat layer thickness is 5 cm or above, measurement becomes difficult, and reproducibility of the result varies substantially depending on the measurer’s skills.
Underwater Weighing The total body fat is calculated using the density of the body. It is based on Archimedes’ principle: when an item is immersed in water, the difference in mass between the object’s mass in air and mass in water equals the object’s volume.
- Body density = mass of air divided by (Mass of air – Mass of water)
Because it is one of the only body composition technologies that has been directly compared to cadaver analysis, underwater weighing is recognized as the gold standard for body composition measurement.
Air Displacement Plethysmography
This approach determines the volume of a human body by measuring the volume of air in a chamber based on pressure fluctuations.
First, the person’s weight and volume are used to compute body density, followed by Percent Body Fat and the fat-free ratio.
- Mass / Volume = Density
- Body Fat Percentage = (495 / Density) – 450
- Fat-free percentage = 100 – BF%
The measurement time is quite brief (3-5 minutes), and unlike underwater weighing, the examinee can continue breathing in the chamber. This approach is known as the gold standard since it allows for body composition study and generates exact volume measurements, similar to underwater weighing.
Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)
DEXA is an imaging technique that evaluates body weight in terms of BMC, lean, and fat using the X-ray decrement on pictures produced by exposing to two distinct X-rays. Photons from different energy levels of X-ray beams scan the patient while he or she is lying down. It takes between 5 and 30 minutes.
DEXA, like hydrodensitometry, has great accuracy as a standard method for body composition analysis. Its advantage is that it can evaluate bone density, body fat, and muscle mass for different regions of the body. DEXA technology advancements allow it to discern between lean and fat, allowing it to progress from a two compartment model to a three compartment model.
To have a DEXA scan, you will usually need to schedule an appointment with a hospital or clinic that has a DEXA device. You may need to conduct some research because DEXA machines are not available in all hospitals and clinics.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
Magnetic resonance imaging is a type of imaging technology that can map the body’s water (but not quantified). Segmental (slice) scans of the body are used to predict whole-body results. MRI is often regarded as the most accurate technology for measuring body composition in real time. It is an excellent instrument for assessing skeletal muscle mass and adipose tissue (and can divide adipose into visceral and subcutaneous depots).
Because MRIs use a powerful magnet, everything metal must be removed. People who have metallic chips, materials, surgical clips, artificial joints/prosthetics, pacemakers, metal implants, artificial heart valves, metallic cochlear implants, bullet fragments, or insulin pumps should not take the test. However, because there is no ionizing radiation, many people prefer this choice (elderly, children, etc.)
A whole-body scan takes about 25-30 minutes to scan and 3 hours to analyze using computer software.
Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA)
Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) is a method of measuring impedance that uses alternating electrical currents to measure a user’s volume of water using impedance values.
Electrodes are placed on a person’s feet, hands, or both for this non-invasive approach. The flow of a low-level electrical current through the body is affected by the amount of water in the body.
BIA devices measure how this signal is obstructed by various types of tissue (muscle has high conductivity but fat slow the signal down). Because BIA measures the resistance to flow of current as it flows through the body, it provides estimations of body water from which body fat is computed using specific formulae.
How to Improve Your Body Composition
Most people want to lose body fat while increasing muscle mass. Most people understand the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. The problem is deciding where to start. Here are your initial steps:
Assess: Begin by measuring your body composition and establishing a body composition objective.
Nutrition: Know how many calories you need to consume in order to reach your specific objective. More calories are required for muscle building, while less calories are required for fat removal. Check to see if you’re receiving adequate macronutrients from a range of foods. Protein is essential for muscular development and fat removal.
Exercise: Physical activity is essential for everyone. Resistance training can help your muscles become stronger by challenging them.