Body Composition

For this blog post I have taken the common questions regarding body composition I receive daily and answered them below.
 
What is body composition?
Essentially body composition is a quantitative measure of your bodily tissues, this includes your bone mass, muscle mass, fat mass, water mass and organ mass. Body composition varies from person-to-person and you also see large differences between sports for example sumo wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts.
 
boxer sumo
 
Why is understanding body composition important?
When you weigh yourself on a standard set of scales this will give you a figure, let’s say 80kg…which is great…but what does this mean? The 80kg on the scale is a reference to how much gravitational pull you are producing on the earth, but that’s about it. Body composition measurement lets you dig deeper into your mass, what is that 80kg of me made of? Your performance and general health also relies heavily on body composition, for general health you are looking at not being too high in body-fat but also not being too low. Both extremes can have a detrimental effect of your health over time.
 
How do I measure my body composition?
There are several ways to measure this, the table below highlights the various methods and a few of the pros and cons to these methods.
 
 Measure  Pros  Cons
 Bodyweight Scales  Simple to use and easy to remember result  Bodyweight Scales  Simple to use and easy to remember result Doesn’t tell you how much fat, water, muscle etc. you have
 Callipers   Quick measure, requires small amount of training  Can be inaccurate depending on the skill of the assessor 
 BIA (Bio-Electrical Impedance Scales)  Inexpensive and portable  Error margins can be as high as +- 8% body fat in some individuals
 Bod-Pod (Air Displacement Plethysmography)   Simple, just requires you to sit there   The test is sensitive to things such as body temperature, water and food intake etc
 DEXA (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry)   Gold standard at measuring bone mineral mass/accurate within 3% (approx.)  Generally, only found in hospitals or universities
 Hydrostatic Weighing (hydrodensitometry)  Good accuracy over numerous measures  Not suitable for some younger or older patients as the testing can be uncomfortable 
 MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)  High capacity to measure regional body fat levels  Cost of MRI is around £500 per test on average
 Ultrasound   Applicable for testing in the field/portable   Requires an experienced technician to use properly 
 
 
 
mridiagram
How do I improve my body composition?
Firstly, understanding where you are currently by using one of the above measures. This will help you contextualise what your current body composition is. Following this any improvement you make needs to be based on a sound goal which is specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART) to maximise your chances of success.
 
If you’re interested in understanding more about body composition, where you can access the different types of body measures and how I can help you maximise your training, contact me on mark@optimum-performance.co.uk
 

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