Body composition analysis is an assessment of the fat proportion to fat-free mass in the body. This assessment is considered vital for evaluating the health status of a person and more important for athletes to evaluate their total body composition. As for athletes, it is essential for them to stay in the healthy zone of a low range of body fat to muscle, bones and organs. Body composition analysis is typically recommended at the start of any weight loss program, weight gain or targeted training program.
What Is A Body Composition Analysis?
Body composition involves breaking down into core components-protein, fat, mineral and body water. It is the proportion of fat to the non-fat mass of the body. Healthy body composition is one that has lower percentage of body fat and a higher percentage of non-fat mass that includes muscle, bones and organs.
The Basics Of Body Composition
A desirable amount of body fat is essential for all individuals for protecting the vital organs, maintaining body temperature, used as a source of energy and regulating body hormones. The energy needs of the body are obtained from the food we eat and drink. Energy is burned through activity and other bodily process. If a person intake the same number of calories, as you burn, all the calories are converted into energy. But, if you take more than you burn, the excess calories are stored in the fat cells. If the stored fat is not consumed as fuel later, excess amounts of fat build up and may eventually damage your health and increase your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. Too little body fat may also lead to osteoporosis, irregular cycle and infertility in women.
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Typically, fat cells are mainly stored in three regions which include:
Essential fat found in muscle tissue, which is required for a healthy functional body
Subcutaneous fat is found just beneath the skin. This is the body method of storing fat as energy for later use.
Visceral fat that surrounds organs, mainly the abdomen. A high amount of visceral fat can increase your risk of developing several diseases.
Lean tissue means fat-free mass, which is the portion of body mass that excludes fat- bone, water, muscle, organs and tissue. Lean tissue is metabolically active and born calories for fuel, while fat is not metabolically active.
By analysing body composition, we can evaluate body fat percent: the ratio of lean tissue to fat in the body. The result is compared with fat percent to the accepted normal ranges, which considers certain criteria such as difference between men and women, age, medical history and overall performance goals.
How Body Composition Analysis Is Measured?
A normal weighing scale cannot provide you with body composition analysis. This test can be done by a healthcare provider or trained paramedical staff. There are specially designed scales and handled devices that use bioelectrical resistance to send a small wave of electrical current via the body to measure complete body composition. Fat, water and lean tissue are read separately with different currents and provide a general picture of the body fat index of a person.
A simple method used to measure body composition is called skinfold measurement. A painless instrument called calipers is used to measure the fat in different parts of the body by gently holding a portion of the skin.
A DEXA scan or bone density scan is generally performed in a lab to assess the bone density of a person. It provides precise information about a person’s bone density, body fat and muscle mass and beneficial in evaluating levels of physical fitness. It is usually suggested by a healthcare provider to determine any bone loss due to osteoporosis, inappropriate weight management or other factors.
Hydrostatic weighing is a high-efficiency test for measuring body composition. The person must completely submerge underwater, and the water’s displacement is measured. A combination of bone density measurement with water displacement helps to calculate the accurate body composition.
It is essential for athletes to keep in mind that though the overall target is to maintain a low body fat percentage, there is a high risk of having too little body fat. An extremely low level of body fat increases the risk of injury, illness, low bone density and increased probability of fractures. In some cases, being obsessed with a low body fat per cent may also lead to eating disorders.
For instance, some athletes have to lose weight for optimal performance, but for some, they need to gain weight for a particular sports event. Managing weight and increasing muscle mass is a process done under the proper assistance of trainers, health care experts and nutritionists. Medically accepted standard body fat ranges as per the American Council Of Exercise (ACE):
ACE Body Fat Percent Norms for Men and Women
10% to 13%
2% to 5%
14% to 20%
6% to 13%
21% to 24%
14% to 17%
25% to 31%
18% to 24%