Updated: Jan 24, 2019
It’s tempting to simply eat with your eyes and misjudge serving sizes. Or stay in bed instead of going for an early morning jog. Holding off on things that don’t seem to have an immediate impact on the present is a common, albeit unhelpful, human behavior. The same goes for putting off the idea of getting your body composition measured.
Of course, you want to be healthy and fit, but there’s too much that’s going on in your life right now (e.g. more responsibilities at the office) that you can’t really be bothered to learn more about body composition analysis. Frankly, having a decent breakfast on most days is already a struggle.
For someone who’s running around like a headless chicken 60 hours a week, devoting a huge chunk of time every day fussing about body fat percentages (PBF), and lean muscle mass values is out of the question. And yet, there’s so much you’re leaving on the table by ignoring what’s going on in your body.
The Benefits of Knowing What You’re Made Of
Instead of obsessing over your body mass index, or BMI, for enhanced sports performance and better recovery, the American College of Sports Medicine advocates for tracking body composition.
In contrast to stepping on the scale every morning or calculating your BMI, obtaining body composition values is the better method to accurately distinguish between a healthy and unhealthy weight due to its greater ability to differentiate between lean mass and fat mass.
It is also said that percent body fat is a better screening tool in the prediction of cardiovascular disease —a collective term for disorders of the heart and blood vessels that increase your likelihood of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
While BMI takes your total body weight and height into account, body fat percentage focuses on the fat portion of your total body weight. Simply put, knowing your exact body composition values offers you a glimpse of what your existing body weight is made up of. After all, it’s more important to learn how much of your weight is made up of fat, water, bones, and muscle.
To calculate your body fat percentage, you divide your body fat mass by your total weight.
Benefit #1: You reduce your cardiometabolic risk.
Acquiring knowledge of your current body composition values can potentially help reduce your cardiometabolic risk by configuring if your body fat percentage levels are within recommended ranges or not.
In a study of 12,386 normal-weight, Korean adults, the researchers found that having high body fat percentage is associated with increased cardiometabolic risks (i.e., high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels) even when factoring in abdominal obesity (belly fat).Thus, it’s crucial to monitor your body composition as soon as you can as it reveals these silent risks and helps prevent them from happening.
What This Means For You
The study’s finding implies that even if you are within who recommended normal body weight ranges, your body fat percentage is likely a better indicator of whether you will develop cardiometabolic conditions later in life. Without taking a deeper look into your body, it's impossible to know about these potential risks or complications.
If you’re curious about the normal body fat percentage levels, it typically varies depending on your source but these ranges are recommended:
· Men: 10-20%
· Women: 18-28%
Benefit #2: You reduce your chances of suffering from issues associated with high cholesterol.
In a research study published by the Mayo Clinic in 2017, the recommended body fat percentage range is associated with increased good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL). By increasing HDL, the harmful cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) levels are significantly reduced.
It is worth noting that the researchers set the “healthy” body fat percentage at 5% - 20% for men and 8% - 30% for women.
What This Means for You
The relationship between cholesterol and body fat percentage levels implies that most people can worry less about artery-clogging cholesterol in your bloodstream if your PBF is within normal range.
As we wrote in an interpretation of the Mayo Clinic study last year, aiming for a PBF that does not exceed 20% for men and 28% for women can significantly reduce your risk of suffering from issues associated with elevated cholesterol.
Benefit #3: You’ll be able to recognize symptoms of prediabetes early.
Recognizing what you’re made of in terms of fat, muscle, water, and bones is also beneficial if you want to reduce your chances of developing diabetes.
In a study of 4,828 subjects aged between 18-80 years in Spain, it was found that PBF were significantly higher in men and women (with normal BMI) with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes than those with normal blood sugar levels.
What This Means For You
Like the aforementioned findings, you cannot rely on BMI alone in finding out if you’re specifically predisposed to diabetes.
In their concluding statements, the researchers pointed out that body fat percentage assessment is more helpful in diagnosing impaired glucose tolerance, or prediabetes, than BMI and waist circumference measurements combined.
Benefit #4: You reduce your chances of premature death.
Substantial findings from a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that a higher body fat percentage is associated with higher all-cause mortality (death), regardless of BMI.
In addition, another study found that both fat mass and lean body mass, not just body fat percentage, are also independent predictors of all-cause mortality in both men and women, even after adjusting factors like age and smoking history.
What This Means For You
The numbers on the scale and your BMI say little when it comes to your overall health. You need to rely on a more accurate method of measuring your body composition - both fat and lean body mass - in order to monitor your overall health risks.
Benefit #5: You’ll increase your physical fitness and be more likely to improve your body composition.
Tracking your body composition regularly and aiming for a healthy balance of muscle and fat has been shown to help boost endurance and shorten recovery periods from exercise.
A study published in the Physiology & Behavior Journal last year concluded that boys and girls with a higher body fat percentage have lower cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular endurance than those with low body fat levels.
Another study found that individuals with high body fat percentages have slower recovery in lactate levels.
What This Means For You
Whether you want to swim farther or increase your kettlebell weight on your next workout, you can give your stamina a boost (and enjoy shorter recovery periods, too) by reducing your PBF.
No matter which of the benefits outlined above looks the most attractive to you right now, tracking your body composition is where it all begins. Learn how to by contacting us here. We can help you redesign your lifestyle and make adjustments to accomplish your specific body composition goals.