Your body is made up of four things. The proportions of each of these components makes up your body composition. They are:
Water contributes approximately 60% of your total weight and varies from day to day based on many different factors:
- The amount of muscle you have – the more muscle you have the higher your total body water.
- Your electrolyte balance – the balance of salts and minerals in the body determines how much water the body holds inside and outside its cells.
- Your last meal – whatever is in your gastrointestinal track contributes to your total body water.
- The contents of your bladder – your bladder can hold up to 600-700ml of fluid.
- Your hormones – your monthly cycle (women) and your natural hormone levels will also affect your body water levels.
When you’re mostly water, staying well hydrated is an important long term habit to establish.
Protein is the building blocks of nearly all your body’s tissues and cells. A high amount of protein is one indication that you have good levels of muscle and overall health. Muscles are vital for strength, balance, coordination, strong bones and managing a healthy weight. Low protein levels may indicate low muscle mass and poor nutrition. The best way to increase your body’s protein stores is to increase your muscle mass, more on this below.
Minerals are found in many places in the body. The most obvious place is in your skeleton (osseous minerals), like calcium and less obvious in your blood and tissues (non-osseous), like iron and zinc. A higher mineral content is indicative of strong bones which are a vital part of long term health.
Fat is a normal part of your body composition and is vital for good health. When body fat mass is too high or too low, this can lead to poor health outcomes. Check out this post for more info on what is a healthy body fat percentage. We’ve also written extensively about tummy fat and why it’s bad for our long term health.
Measuring Body Composition
Standard bath room scales don’t tell you much about your overall health or body composition. They are simply a measure of the force you exert against earth due to gravity. You can have the same body weight as the next person, or as you did 10 years ago but the amount of muscle and body fat might be vastly different.
The InBody570 machine measures and analyses your individual body composition in terms of water, fat, protein, muscle, bone minerals and much more. The device can also determine the weight of lean muscle tissue in each limb (arms and legs) and the amount and percentage of body fat.
You can find out more about Body Composition scans with the InBody 570 machine here.
Optimum Body Composition
There is not one single measure of optimum body composition, but rather healthy ranges which encompasses our natural genetic diversity and preferences. We’ve written extensively about what constitutes a healthy body fat percentage, with the key take home message being to find a body composition that you can easily maintain with daily habits and routines that are sustainable long term.
Generally speaking the most optimum body composition is one that:
- has sufficient muscle mass – the more muscle the better. Muscle is metabolically active and contributes to strong bones, good balance, coordination and better blood sugar control.
- has the right amount of body fat – too little and too much body fat is associated with poor health. A healthy amount of fat is often one that is not too high relative to your total amount of muscle mass. The InBody570 machine can measure this for you.
Changing Your Body Composition
Research has shown that good long term health is directly impacted by body composition. Too much body fat is associated with a myriad of chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Low muscle mass is associated with poor balance and falls in the elderly with an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Let’s discuss the two key areas where you could improve your body composition:
Increase muscle mass
The amount of muscle mass in your body composition is largely dependent on three key factors:
- physical activity
Some people have a higher amount of muscle mass based on their genes. One area where this is most obvious is your gender. Genetically, men tend to have a higher proportion of muscle compared to women based on their hormone profile. And within both genders, some people are genetically morel likely to have more muscle than others.
The age-old adage of ‘use it or lose it’ is very true when it comes to muscle. The more you use your muscles in movement and physical activity the more muscle you tend to have. Particular activities, known as resistance exercise, or weight training, have been shown to directly stimulate muscle building pathways and are a key part of building muscle mass over time.
Building muscle requires what’s known as anabolic metabolism to occur. Anabolic means ‘to build’ and requires sufficient energy and protein from the diet. In most cases, an individual will need to be in a consistent energy surplus (a little more energy than the body needs), with an emphasis on sufficient protein combined with a resistance training program to successfully build muscle over time.
An energy surplus is where you consume more energy than your body needs. A consistent energy surplus is required for effective anabolic metabolism and if combined with a good training program, results in building muscle over time.
If you’re not eating enough, you’ll struggle to train adequately and your body won’t have all the building blocks it needs.
Proteins are the building blocks of all body tissues, especially muscle. Without adequate protein, you’ll struggle to consistently build muscle. In fact, research shows that particular amino acids (the smaller components of proteins)directly stimulate the anabolic pathways that result in muscle protein synthesis. ie: building muscle and making them bigger and stronger.
Your best source of protein is from whole food sources, as opposed to supplements and both the distribution and timing of protein intake is especially important.
We’ve got lots of information on good nutrition for muscle building and if you’d like more individualised help, our team of qualified dietitians can optimise your diet to help you achieve your goals and feel great. On top of that, we also write recipes or tailor your family favourites to meet your needs.
Reduce Body Fat
The amount of body fat in your body composition is largely dependent to two key factors:
- energy balance
Some people have a higher amount of fat mass based on their genes. In fact, there is an extremely complex interaction of genetics and environment that affect your individual fat mass and much of this is largely out of your control. The good news is, regardless of your genetics, you can directly change your body’s fat mass through the consistent creation of an energy deficit.
Energy balance refers to the balance of energy between what your body expends, through it’s metabolism and movement and what your body consumes, through food and drink. Weight (fat) gain occurs when we consistently create an energy surplus. ie: when the energy we consume through food is more than our daily expenditure. This means that in order to achieve weight (fat) loss we need to consistently create an energy deficit. ie: the energy we consume though food is less than our daily expenditure.
There are many many ways that you can create an energy deficit: Keto, intermittent fasting, paleo, fast 800, meal plans, ‘detoxes’, etc. All these different diet philosophies and programs restrict food groups, recommend fast periods and control calories which will help you create the energy deficit required for fat loss. There is no argument whether any of these diets will work. If you stick to them consistently enough, they will all work. It’s sticking to them, both short and long term, that’s the challenge.
Research actually suggests that it doesn’t matter what type of diet you follow, so long as you achieve adequate diet quality through eating plenty of vegetables and fruits and create an energy deficit, you will lose weight and maintain good health. You can read a nice explanation of the study here and read the full published study here.
How the study worked:
There were two groups of people. One group followed a low-fat diet, guided by the ongoing support of a dietitian. The other group followed a low-carb diet, also guided by a dietitian in the same way. Both diets were healthy in that the participants were encouraged to choose whole, minimally processed foods and eat lots of fresh vegetables.
The researchers then measured dietary compliance, body composition and insulin levels at regular intervals throughout the study. They also classified participants by their genetic pre-disposition towards following particular diets.
What it found:
The study showed no significant difference between the low-fat and low-carb diets. Both groups lost the same amount of weight over 12 months. It also found that neither genetics nor insulin production could predict weight loss success on either diet. This means that regardless of their genetic make-up and insulin levels, the participants got the same weight loss results following either diet.
So, two diets went into the ring. The conditions were fair, well-controlled and the science was rigorous. What came out of the ring was not one winner but two!
I’d like you to picture both diets holding hands with mutual respect and awe.
PS: This article is a VERY basic explanation of the study so please take the time to read the full piece of research for all the details.
What to do next:
There is no perfect approach for you to build muscle and/or lose body fat. Changing your body composition is the result of consistently applying the key principles outlined above.
Building habits that support the points below are a good place to start:
- a high vegetable intake,
- choosing mostly whole, minimally processed foods, and
- sticking within your individual energy budget (surplus or deficit)
If you’re truly struggling to stay consistent or truly confused as to where to start, getting individualised advice is going to be a highly valuable next step.
Discover your individual body composition
If you’re keen to know what your muscle, water and fat levels are and would like to accurately track how they change over time, then book a body composition scan with our friendly trained analysts today!