What is Body Composition?

We have all heard the claims… “lose 10lbs in one week” or “I lost 60lbs in 2 months”.

While it is possible that this can happen, the reality is this is not healthy and it rarely leads to a loss in actual body fat. The bigger question is…what are these people losing?

In this society we seem to be only concerned about weight. One of our main recognized markers for health is the BMI or body mass index. This index measures a persons height against weight and while this is a great general marker, it doesn’t take into account a persons body composition.

We are facing an epidemic in our society called sarcopenic obesity, another name for skinny fat people. These are the people that look “thin” but when they are measured, they have a higher proportion of body fat compared to lean muscle tissue, or an altered body composition.

Body composition refers to the proportion of fat and fat-free mass in the body. Those with a higher proportion of fat-free mass to a lower proportion of body fat have a healthy body composition. This is a true measure of health, as excess body fat increases your risk factors for conditions such as high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.

Since muscle is the main source of protein, during illness the body uses this lean tissue for the production of antibodies, wound healing and white blood cell production. Low amounts of lean muscle tissue has been associated with accelerated aging (J Nutr 127:990S-991S (1997)) and a higher incidence of illness in aging populations (J Amer Diet Assoc 2002;102(7):944-955). In addition, fat burns 70 times fewer calories than muscle tissue so in terms of keeping weight off it is important that the weight we do lose is body fat.

So, to answer the question…with most rapid weight loss programs the majority of the weight that people lose is lean muscle tissue and water and small amount of fat. We can see that while weight is important, it is even more important to make sure that your body composition is changing.

To assess this aspect of health, our clinic uses a combination of weight, BMI, waist and hip measurements and BioImpedence Analysis (BIA). BIA is a science that was originally developed for monitoring patients after surgery in a hospital setting. The Practitioner will connect leads to your hands and feet and pass a low voltage electrical current through your body. This may sound alarming, but it is safe and painless, and provides your Practitioner with insight into aspects of your health such as how much fat and muscle that you have in your body. This science has even been used in several missions to space, to monitor the changes to the astronaut’s body composition.

For our health, lets take our total focus off weight and place it on getting your body composition to a healthy ratio.