Know Thyself: Why Body Composition Matters

· Body Composition

Periodically assessing the composition of your body allows you to monitor changes over time. We are all unique, with different genetics, lifestyles and goals that affect us at different times of our lives.  

By tracking the level of muscle, bone and fat in your body over time, you can define clear health goals as well as see the patterns that emerge. You’ll be able to notice improvements and changes, which means you can adjust your aims or address concerns with your doctor.  

When you know and act on your history, you have a better chance at a body that will let you move, lift and play into the later stages of your life.  

What is body composition? 

Briefly, body composition is the term used to describe the proportions of fat, bone mass, muscle mass and water that make up your body. It’s often simplified as total body fat (accounting for the different types of fat) versus fat-free mass, which is bones, water, muscle and body tissue. 

Why does it matter? 

The balance of fat, muscle, bone and water in your body gives a pretty good idea of how healthy you are. Regularly assessing that balance and recording the results means you have an unbiased record of your health and a possible early indicator of serious long term health risks.  

Below we’ve talked about some of the measurements captured by our BodyExo scales and how they contribute towards an overall picture of your health. 

Fat vs Skeletal Muscle Mass 

We know you’ve heard about this one as the ratio of fat to muscle is considered a key indicator of overall health. Less fat means greater freedom of movement, healthier insides and greater resistance to disease (see visceral fat, below). More muscle means greater strength, decreasing the risk of injury, and an increased metabolic rate1, which improves appetite and energy levels. 

Visceral Fat Levels 

Body composition analysis is an accessible way to get an idea of how much visceral fat is in your body. A CT or MRI scan is the only direct way to check visceral fat levels.  

Visceral fat sits deep inside your body, where it surrounds vital organs like the heart and liver. This can lead to a whole host of health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes2. There’s also evidence that visceral fat negatively affects the immune system3, meaning those with high levels of it are at greater risk from contagious diseases4 and further health complications.   

Bone Mass 

Body composition analysis also measures bone mass, an indicator of bone density. Good bone density is essential for resistance to breaks and fractures. From around the age of 30, all humans lose bone density5. However, some people –particularly post-menopausal women, as bone density is affected by estrogen levels6 – are genetically predisposed towards accelerated bone loss. It is critical to monitor this if you have or your family has a history of osteoporosis or similar diseases7.  

Fat distribution 

Where fat sits in your body can sometimes indicate hormone imbalances. For example, a lack of estrogen has been found to lead to weight gain8 and a more apple-shaped body, which is why post-menopausal women and men tend to find their weight settling more around their stomachs9.  

Basal Metabolic Rate 

The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of energy the body uses to function correctly at rest10. It’s the amount of number of calories you would use if you laid in bed and did nothing but breathe for a day. Your BMR is influenced by your gender, age and – yes, your body composition.  

People with a high percentage of muscle tend to burn more calories, even at rest, because their body composition demands more energy. The higher your BMR, the easier it will be for you to burn more calories than you eat – critical for achieving and maintaining a lean physique.  If you know what your BMR is then you have a good indication of how much you need to consume over a 24-hour period for optimal health. 

Hydration Levels 

Almost every cell in your body needs water to function well – which is why staying hydrated is so important even if you’re not doing much. There have been many studies on the effects of proper hydration, with results that suggest even moderate dehydration can impair performance11 and increase risk of injury12. On the other hand, keeping up your fluids has been shown to decrease appetite and increase feelings of satiety after a meal13.   

How does it work and is it safe? 

Body composition scans, or multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance analysis, works by sending high and low electrical currents through your body. The current measures the level of resistance it encounters. Most of the water in our bodies is stored in our muscles, which is easier for the sensor to travel through14. The higher the resistance the current encounters, the higher the body fat percentage.  

This technology is safe for most people but is not advisable for someone fitted with a pacemaker or other electrical device. Please discuss any health conditions you have with the person assisting you at the scales and your medical practitioner.