Understanding Body Fat Composition
The struggle to lose weight and get slim has become an obsession that has fed an entire industry with over 30 billion dollars per year since 1989. We know and understand that an overabundance of body fat can lead to metabolic syndrome and put us at risk for heart disease, diabetes, joint diseases and respiratory dysfunction.
Yet it is not getting skinny that should be the goal, but to lose weight to achieve the right body composition or the correct balance between lean body mass and fat body mass. Many Americans use diet books, medical weight loss plans and diet products to become skinny.
The ideal body weight can often differ from the ideal leanness a person should strive to achieve and should not be confused with thinness which is defined as weighing less than the standard height, weight and age tables state. The obsession to become thin instead of achieving leanness can result in eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.
Body Fat: What You Should Know
There are two components of body fat to keep in mind for body composition. Body fat is defined as the essential fat the body needs such as fat in the major organs of the body and the fat stored in bone marrow. Stored fat is fat that surrounds the organs or is stored below the skin.
Essential fat gives the body energy and helps the body function correctly. The recommended percentage of essential fat for women is eighteen to thirty percent while men should have between ten to twenty five percent.
When setting a target for weight loss, acquiring an accurate measurement of your body composition can help ensure setting a realistic and healthy goal. Several commonly used methods include skin fold measurements, hydrostatic weighing and bioelectric impedance.
Skin fold measurements is a measure of the thickness of skin folds at predetermined parts of the body including the triceps and thighs for women and abdomen, chest and thighs for men.
Hydrostatic weighing is achieved by submerging the body in water and measuring the displacement of the water to determine the percentage of fat.
Bioelectric impedance measure the electrical conduction of the body and takes into consideration that lean tissue will be a better conductor than fatty tissue.
All three methods have a level of error and should be performed by a professional for accurate results. As we begin to lose weight, we lose lean muscle mass as well as fat mass. Having an accurate measurement and tracking these factors throughout the weight loss journey can ensure that diet and exercise plans are adjusted accordingly to achieve the healthiest results.