In fitness terms, body composition refers to the percentage of fat, muscle and bones in your body. Two people with the same height and weight can look very different because they have different body compositions. So weight alone is not a true indicator of your fitness but being aware of your body composition is equally important.
The National Institute of Health recommends that a healthy adult male’s body should have between 6-24% fat and a female should have 14-31%, and levels higher than this indicate excess body fat. Since muscular tissue occupies less space in the body and burns more calories while the body is at rest, it is always more desirable to have a higher percentage of muscles in your body if you want to appear leaner and be more fit.
How to Measure Body Composition
Standard weighing scale tells you your total weight but not the lean to fat ratio of that weight. Since you have no way of knowing if your weight comes from fat or muscle, you may consider yourself to be overweight if you are more muscular than an average person or you may have the right body weight but carry a lot of metabolically inactive fat tissue in your body which makes you susceptible to a number of health conditions. It is important to ascertain your composition from time-to-time, which can be done in the following ways:
Body Mass Index (BMI) is the simplest measure of a person’s body fat although the accuracy of this method is questionable especially for athletes. For normal people it is a fairly reliable indirect indicator based on height and weight measurements. A healthy BMI range is 20-25 for men and 19-24 for women. This score is especially useful in identifying the levels of health risks associated with obesity.
Skinfold thickness measurement is a more accurate measure of body fat composition, which estimates the percentage of body fat by measuring skinfold thickness or fat under the skin at specific locations on the body. You can do it at home with measurement calipers but for more accurate results get measured by a physiologist.
How To Improve Body Composition
It is not advisable to reduce body fat by extreme measures like starvation diets because that can lead to health complications including fractures and reproductive failures. To improve your body composition and build more lean muscles in your body , begin with incorporating nutrient-rich foods in your diet like nuts, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein over starch, sugars and processed foods. Eliminating sugary and starchy foods is a great way to reduce fat around buttocks and stomach as these high glycemic index foods are a prescription for body fat gain; they spike insulin levels, followed by a drastic fall causing you to feel hungry again. Remember not to refrain totally from essential fatty food sources. Include omega3 and omega6 fats in your diet found in fish, nuts and canola oil while you cut out trans fat and saturated animal fats.
Simultaneously, start a full body fitness routine including weight training. Don’t be afraid to lift weights if you want to build lean muscles in your body and alternate with cardio 2-3 times a week. Make sure your weights are actually tiring you by the end of a set with 8-10 reps. Definitely squeeze some strength training into your routine like squats, lunges, lat pulldowns, pushups and the plank and make sure all muscle groups are getting a workout. Pilates and yoga work wonders for strength training, flexibility and building muscular endurance as well.
The resulting increase in body muscles from better diet and exercise will help you burn more calories and improve your metabolism. Remember that body composition is crucial to improving both your appearance and health so work towards building more muscles and getting rid of body fat.