Body Composition And Fat Loss


Since my last post when I shared that not so flattering picture of my stomach  ( )

and I expressed that my focus is not on what the scale says but returning to my pre-baby body composition I have had a lot of questions……..

  • What is body composition?
  • How do you measure it?
  • What should percentage should it be?
  • What is the benefit of focusing on this number verses the scale?
  • How do I improve it and lose fat?

So I thought I would hit up some of the questions here and give some insight on my goal.

First of all, What is body composition? Body composition is the proportions of fat and lean mass (bones, muscles, organs…basically everything in your body BUT fat). This number is given in a percentage. For example a 150 pound person who has a body composition of 30% fat would have 45 pounds of fat on their body and 105 pounds of lean mass

Body composition testing is not your BMI test. These two terms get  confused often. BMI is your body mass index. Some literature says it is a “convenient” way to measure your body fat and assess risk for diseases. This number is taken by using your height and weight. BMI does not take in to count your lean mass and muscle. For a fairly muscular person your BMI may be high,  putting you in the “obese” category. The accuracy of BMI and whether we should asses risk based on height and weight alone is easily debatable on both sides.

Therefore I like to do skinfold body composition testing on my clients and myself to know exactly what is going on with the body……how many pounds of fat…and how many pounds of lean mass does the body consist of. How do you measure it? There are multiple ways to do this from scales and hand held devices, skinfolds, underwater weighing, Bod Pod, DEXA, etc. Some are more accurate then others, more expensive,  and harder to find. My preferred way is measuring with skin fold calibers. Pinching the top layers of fat and measuring with calibers and putting the results into a formula. I know, it doesn’t sound glamours. Some people can get embarrassed with having their fat pinched and measured.  But after measuring people for over 10 years I don’t think twice and there is no judging going on!

There is a healthy and unhealthy percentage for your health and to have a lower risk of disease. What percentage should you be? This does go by gender. Men should be less than 24% , women less than 31%. Keeping in mind there is a minimum amount we need in order for our bodies to function properly. 0% body fat is not an option! To get an idea of a percentage you may want to set as your goal, in my experience with the many people I have worked with they feel pretty confident and comfortable if they reach around 21% for women and 14% for men.

So why is this my focus? What is the benefit of focusing on this number verses the scale? There are health risk associated with too much body fat,  according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases “Overweight and obesity may increase the risk of many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. If you are pregnant, excess weight may lead to short- and long-term health problems for you and your child”. The scale alone does not tell you how many pounds of fat or lean mass you have. These numbers are especially helpful as your body is changing. What if you worked hard and you gained 5 pounds of muscle and lost 6 pounds of fat? If you stepped on the scale it would say you weighed one pound less. That’s kind of disappointing after all that work! In reality losing 6 pounds of fat is amazing!!! The scale just doesn’t tell you this.

As far as my own personal goals……why focus on body composition? I am not above 31% so I am not in that high risk category. But I know how I feel at a certain percentage and more so I know I can get there.

Numbers aren’t everything. You do not have to go by the scale or body composition at all. You will know the rate of your success based on how you feel, how your clothes are fitting, how much more energy you have. In fact this is what I encourage people to do all the time! They don’t need to know their numbers. But I do. I want to know how their bodies are reacting to the exercise program that is designed for them with a specific goal in mind.

For myself…if you know me at all. I like goals…. and I like them to be specific and measurable. I like to have that number in mind to strive for, to work for, and to keep me motivated. CHALLENGES…that is what I like! But that’s just me…..I respect people who don’t want to know their numbers and those who do want to.

As far as improving your composition and losing fat.….sorry I don’t have the magic pill for you. It still comes down to balanced eating and movement. BUT ….the type of exercise you do does matter. High reps verses low reps. High intensity verses low intensity.

Fat burns during lower intensity workouts. This is why strength training programs are so important. But in order to lose weight and fat you need to burn more calories then you take in…hence the popularity of high intensity boot camp style classes. Whats the right way to lose fat? Honestly a combination of calorie burning and lower intensity exercises. I prefer exercises that involve multiple joints (and muscles) to get the most out of exercise and to be efficient with time.

If you haven’t already, check out fat burning exercises I post on Facebook YouTube .

Hope this information helps answer some of the questions! Just remember we all have fat and need fat. This does not make us fat. How you want your body is change is totally up to you. Fuel your body will proper nutrition and exercise according to your goals and never compare yourself to anyone else. Health comes first!