Health and Beauty

Definition, how to measure and conduct body composition analysis

Have you ever wondered what is behind the number on the scale? What actually makes up our body? If these questions are on your mind, then you are in the right place. Today we will delve into the wonderful world of body composition.

Understanding body composition

Body composition versus body weight

Body composition and body weight are two separate concepts. Body weight includes everything: muscle, fat, bones, organs, and even the water we drink.

On the other hand, body composition allows this weight to be divided into different categories: Fat massthere lean mass (which includes muscles, bones, and organs) and body water.

Body Composition vs. Body Mass Index (BMI)

to'Body mass index (BMI) It is a widely used tool to evaluate a person's weight in relation to his height. It is calculated by dividing a person's weight (in kilograms) by the square of his height (in metres). It is a simple and quick tool that gives a general estimate of a person's weight category: underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.

However, BMI has its limitations. It does not differentiate between fat mass and fat-free mass. For example, a person with large muscles may have a high BMI and be classified as “overweight” or “obese,” when in fact their body fat percentage is low. Likewise, an elderly or sedentary person may have a normal BMI but a high body fat percentage, which may increase the risk of disease.

This is where body composition comes into play. It gives us a more accurate picture of our health by showing the distribution of fat and muscle in the body.

How to measure body composition?

Methods of measuring body composition

Performing a body composition analysis is a science in itself. There are several methods, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages. Some are simple and can be done at home, while others require specialized equipment and must be performed by healthcare professionals.

Measuring skin folds

Measuring skinfolds is a simple and accessible way to estimate the amount of body fat. It consists of pinching the skin and subcutaneous fat in different places on the body using calipers, skinfold pliers or a fat scale, which is a specific measuring instrument. The measurements are then used to estimate your body fat percentage. Although this method is easy and inexpensive to perform, it may be less accurate than other methods, especially if performed by an untrained person.

Hand over the fat scale

Amazon Affiliate Link. Prices mentioned in this article are indicative and subject to change.

Two-photon X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA)

DEXA is a highly accurate method that uses low-dose X-rays to measure fat mass, lean mass, and bone density. During a DEXA scan, you lie on a table while the machine scans your body. DEXA can also provide information about the distribution of different types of fat in the body with high precision (including the amount of visceral fat), which can be important for assessing disease risk. This is the most effective way to find out the percentage of fat mass and non-fat mass. However, this method requires specialized equipment and must be performed by a healthcare professional.

The image shows a full body scan performed with a DEXA machine, using X-rays, which are the gold standard way to evaluate body composition, including muscle and fat mass.
Image rights © Adobe Stock

Hydrostatic weight

Hydrostatic weighing, also known as underwater weighing, is a method of measuring body mass by weighing yourself underwater. This method is based on Archimedes' principle, which states that an object immersed in a liquid is pushed upward by a force equal to the weight of the liquid displaced by that object. By weighing a person in water and in the open air, body density can be determined, and from here body composition can be estimated. Although this method is considered very accurate, it requires specialized equipment and may be uncomfortable for some people.

Bioimpedance analysis

Bioimpedance analysis (BIA) is a commonly used method that uses an electrical current to estimate the amount of body fat and lean mass. Current passes more easily through parts of the body that contain a lot of water (such as muscle) than through those that contain less water (such as fat). By measuring the body's resistance to current, BIA can estimate the amount of fatty tissue. This method is quick, non-invasive and easy to use. However, it may be less accurate than other methods, and results may be affected by factors such as hydration status.

Fat mass percentage and its compatibility

Normal body fat values ​​can vary depending on factors such as gender and age. Here is a table that gives an idea of ​​the body fat percentages for men and women:

category men (%) slim (%)
Bodybuilder 6-13 14-20
Athlete 14-17 21-24
middle 18-24 25-31
overweight 25+ 32+

The importance of body composition for health

Body composition is more than just a number on a scale. It is a key indicator of our overall health. In fact, good body composition is essential for maintaining good health and preventing disease.

High percentage of Body fatespecially Visceral fat (The fat that surrounds internal organs) can increase the risk of chronic diseases. This includes conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. Visceral fat is particularly dangerous because it can release inflammatory substances into the body, which can damage the body's organs and systems.

On the other hand, adequate muscle mass is also important for health. Muscle helps maintain a high basal metabolic rate, making weight management easier. They also support mobility and physical function, which is essential for maintaining a good quality of life, especially as we age.

What are the ways to improve body composition?

Dietary changes

A balanced diet is essential to improve body composition. It is recommended to focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid highly processed foods that are high in calories from bad sugar and bad fats.

Physical activity

Regular exercise training is another pillar of improving body composition. All types of exercise can be beneficial, but strength training and HIIT training are the most effective for increasing muscle mass and losing fat.

Sleep quality

Sleep quality can also affect body composition. Poor sleep quality has been linked to lower bone mineral density(1)Low muscle mass(2) High percentage of body fat(3). So it's important to prioritize good sleep.

Other lifestyle changes

Other lifestyle changes can also help improve body composition, such as managing stress and reducing alcohol consumption.

Stress management is another important aspect. Chronic stress can disrupt our hormones and lead to the accumulation of body fat, especially around the waist. Stress management techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing, can help reduce stress and improve body composition.

Finally, alcohol and tobacco consumption can also affect body composition. Alcohol is high in calories and can contribute to fat accumulation, while tobacco can reduce muscle mass. It is therefore recommended to limit alcohol consumption and avoid tobacco to maintain good body composition.

What to remember

Body composition analysis is a valuable tool for understanding our health. It gives us insight into our condition by describing our body composition, distinguishing between muscle, fat, minerals and body water.

Methods for assessing body composition go beyond simply calculating the BMI. They allow us to measure muscle mass, fat mass, and even bone mineral content. This information helps us understand the function of body composition, track our progress, and set personal health goals.

Definition, how to measure and conduct body composition analysis

زر الذهاب إلى الأعلى