What Is a Healthy Body Composition?

Is your body composition healthy? If you aren’t sure what your body composition is, you can have your body evaluated at The Metabolic Institute in Spokane, WA to find out if you are healthy. The evaluation provides more information than the typical body mass index measurement.

Body Composition

A physician can use body composition to evaluate a patient’s overall health. Doctors can find a patient’s composition by using a Seca medical body composition analyzer, a device that measures the patient’s fat mass, fat-free mass, body water, and skeletal muscle mass using six analytical methods. The composition of a patient’s body can also be found by taking measurements using various methods and then calculating the composition, but this method is more time-consuming.

The patient steps on the Seca analyzer and the standing aid ensures they are in the proper position. The analyzer can hold patients up to 300 kilograms. The patient holds electrodes, and the analyzer takes the measurements in as little as 20 seconds. A doctor uses the touch screen display on the Seca analyzer to make adjustments and view the results.

What Can You Gain From Knowing the Composition of Your Body?

Knowing the composition of a patient’s body can help doctors identify health conditions that the patient may be facing. The composition is key in determining the best diet for a patient and if they need more exercise. Using the four measurements from the Seca analyzer, a doctor can determine if a patient is lacking in one composition that could cause health problems.

Why Do We Need More Than the Body Mass Index?

The body mass index or BMI is only an indicator of mass to height and does not determine where the mass comes from. The BMI was once a standard measurement in determining if a patient was at risk of obesity, but knowing the composition of a patient’s body is much more helpful in determining health risk.

An athlete such as a football player may appear to be obese from their BMI alone, but a composition analysis will reveal that the mass is more skeletal muscle mass and fat-free mass. A BMI for an office worker who does not work out regularly may identify the patient as being fit, but they may suffer from low skeletal muscle mass. Knowing the composition of the body provides doctors with a more complete evaluation of the patient.

Composition of the Body

Fat Mass

Fat mass identifies all the fat on the body. Fat acts as insulation and provides some protection for organs. The fat mass also stores energy, so removing every ounce of fat from a patient would not be healthy. The body needs at least 4% body fat to function and even more for optimal health. A physician can determine a patient’s body fat percentage by dividing the fat mass from the entire bodyweight of the patient.

Fat-Free Mass

Fat-free mass encompasses the entire body mass except for the fat, so any substance that makes up the body that is not fat content is included in the measurement. This can include muscle, organs, skeletal muscle mass, and water content in the body. Using more traditional measurements like skin fold calipers, a professional can find a patient’s fat mass and subtract it from the overall mass to find their fat-free mass.

Body Water

Water makes up a majority of the human body. In adults, the water content can be greater than half the body. Body water content can be divided into two categories; water outside the cells, called extracellular water, and water inside the cells, called intracellular water. The body’s fat, blood, and muscle all contain water. Finding the body water content can help a doctor better understand overall health.

Skeletal Muscle Mass

Skeletal muscle mass is composed of muscles that connect bones to muscle and allow the body to move. The muscles can grow through exercise, creating a greater skeletal muscle mass. Weight lifters grow bigger pectoral muscles, triceps, and biceps through their workout by increasing their skeletal muscle mass, which increases their overall body weight.

What Is Considered a Healthy Body Composition?

A healthy or ideal composition of a patient’s body difficult to determine with so many analytical measurements. A health professional can help a patient determine if the composition of their body is considered healthy or requires some improvement. Healthy body fat percentages vary between men and women and change with age. Low skeletal muscle mass and high body fat percentage can increase a patient’s risk of health conditions like cardiovascular disease.

Body Fat Percentage for Men and Women

The ideal body fat percentage for women is slightly higher than men, with young men able to survive long term with only 2% to 5% body fat percentage and women requiring 10% to 13% just to function normally long term. As men and women age, the amount of body fat percentage acceptable becomes higher. A young woman may be healthy at 31% body fat, but for a woman in her 70s, it is acceptable to have as much as 35% body fat. 

Athletes have a lower ideal body fat percentage, and to be considered fit, a man or woman must be slightly below the acceptable body fat percentage. Each person has his or her own needs and will require enough skeletal muscular mass to be healthy at a specific body fat percentage. Having a greater body fat percentage than acceptable may lead to obesity and health concerns.

Ready to Learn More?

If you are ready to know your body composition, visit The Metabolic Institute in Spokane, WA for your initial consultation today. We can help you become healthier and identify areas where you can improve.