It's a well-known fact that being healthier is about much more than just losing weight. You may have heard terms like "body composition," "body mass index," and "body fat percentage," but what do they really mean?
Whether you're trying to lose weight, build muscle, or get healthier, understanding your body composition can be key to making sure you're on the right track and staying there.
Why measure body composition?
Obesity is a major health problem in the UK. In 2018, a record 20% of children aged 9 to 11 were classified as obese. Overweight children are more likely than adults to be overweight and are at greater risk of various health conditions.
Knowing your body composition gives you a complete picture of your body's health and provides insight into areas to focus on.
Using body composition scales has many advantages. First of all, it will motivate you to achieve your health goals. You can find out how much body fat you have and set an accurate and realistic calorie limit for your body. The scale also lets you see if you're dehydrated or overhydrated by measuring your body's water content.
If you measure your body composition and find that you are high in fat, you can start exercising while measuring your body fat percentage and muscle growth.
total body water
- This shows how hydrated the body is.
- Useful for transporting waste, supporting organ function, regulating body temperature and digestion.
- Healthy total body water for men is between 60 and 65%; in women it is between 45 and 60%.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
- The number of calories your body needs to function.
- Typically around 1,662 calories for men and 1,393 calories for women.
- It helps you set an accurate and realistic calorie limit for your body.
- It's not simply based on the general male/female/age stats you would find online.
- Based on how many calories your body would need if you were resting for 24 hours and only needed them to support vital functions like breathing.
- Anything but body fat.
- Bones, water, muscles, organs and tissues.
- Metabolically active, meaning they burn calories for energy.
Healthy body composition between women and men
- 12% Essential Fett
- 15 % Reservefett
- 12 % Osso
- 25% organs, water etc.
- 36% muscle time
- 3% Essential Fett
- 12 % Reservefett
- 15 % Osso
- 25% organs, water etc.
- 46% muscle time
How to calculate your BMI
To calculate your BMI, divide your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in meters) and then divide that result by your height again.
- under 18.5You are considered underweight.
- 18,5-24,9A healthy BMI range for your height.
- 25-29,9You can be heavier than healthy for someone your size.
- 30 or morePeople with a BMI over 30 are considered obese.
Remember that being overweight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
The NHS believes BMI is the best way to quickly determine an adult's weight, although it has its shortcomings.
The following factors show why the BMI is not always the perfect universal measure of weight:
- the pregnancyPregnant women naturally gain weight as their baby grows, so BMI values are not accurate.
- KinderIn the case of children, in addition to height and weight, age and gender should also be taken into account.
- MuscleYour muscle mass is not included in the BMI measurements. Particularly active people may get an inaccurate reading.
- ethnicityResearch has shown that people of Chinese or South Asian descent have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Although the evidence is less clear, black people are advised to keep a BMI below 25 to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes to reduce type 2 diabetes.
Body composition and smart scale
Smart bathroom scales go beyond simple weight measurements and can report on everything from body fat percentage, muscle mass and bone density to water mass, heart rate and even our metabolic age.
Traditional bathroom scales don't tell you how much of your body is fat, water or muscle. You just get a number that looks at you and says you've lost or gained weight. You could work out five times a week and eat a salad at night only to step on the scale and see that nothing has changed.
If you weigh yourself every day with a regular scale, chances are the number you see will be skewed by fluctuations in weight due to things like dehydration or a big lunch. To get a good idea of changes that occur over time, weigh yourself once a week at similar times (eg, first thing in the morning).
In comparison: female and male body fat percentage
Due to factors like height, gender, and genetics all playing a role, there is no universally accepted ideal body fat percentage.
The following chart of body fat percentages from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a commonly used reference point.
Female body fat percentage chart
|36-55||14-24%||25-30%||31-37%||38-40%||over 40 %|
Body fat percentage chart for men
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the healthy body fat range for men aged 20 to 40 is between 8% and 19% body fat. The normal range for men over 40 is 11% to 25%. To be considered obese, a person has a body fat percentage greater than 30%.
Women generally need a higher body fat percentage than men because they have children and need to produce estrogen. The WHO defines a healthy body fat range for women aged 20 to 40 as between 21% and 33%, while women over 40 need 23% to 36% body fat. Women with more than 40% body fat are considered obese.
The essential body fat needed to maintain a minimum level of health is 5% for men and 8% for women.
Athletes tend to have lower body fat percentages than non-athletes because excess fat can affect their performance.
How to get healthy body fat
Your body is made up of two types of mass: body fat and lean mass. "Essential fat" is necessary for staying healthy: it helps protect our internal organs, stores fuel for energy and regulates important body hormones. However, the problem arises when we have excessive storage of non-essential body fat.
Body fat percentage is a measure of body composition. Keep in mind that not all of the fat is visible, so you may have more than you think. Visceral fat is stored in the abdominal area and surrounds important organs such as the liver, stomach and intestines. It can also build up in your arteries, increasing your risk of serious health problems.
A high body fat percentage can indicate overweight and/or insufficient fitness.
Dangers of being overweight or obese
- Typ 2 Diabetes.
- Coronary heart desease.
- Some cancers, such as breast cancer and colon cancer.
The best way to lose weight is through a combination of diet and exercise. To lose weight at a safe pace and have a better chance of maintaining the weight, cut 500 to 1,000 calories from your diet each day, as this should help you lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.
Dangers of being underweight
- nutritional deficiencies.
- weakened immune system.
- fertility problems.
Being underweight can mean that you are not eating enough or that you are nauseous. Adjusting your calorie intake will help you increase or decrease your body fat percentage. To gain weight at a safe rate, increase your calorie intake to 250-500 per day.
Information on the dangers of being overweight and underweight from the NHS website.