Distinguishing between lean body mass and fat mass is vital for anyone interested in his or her health, maintaining optimal weight and sports performance. Our weight on the bathroom scale is our total weight, which comprises of everything; muscle, fat, skin, bone, fluid, organs etc. Our Body’s composition is the difference between lean mass which is muscle and fat mass which is stored body fat. For years we have been judging our total weight on the scales as our ideal weight, not paying attention to the composition of our tissues. This is really like hitting your head against a brick wall! Many women like to reach a low number on the scale – generally the lighter the better and well I know many males who aspire to several kilograms higher thinking this will be their muscular best. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Numbers on the scale give us an idea of where our weight should sit, but don’t give us a measure of how our body is composed.
One of the fundamental measurements I use with all my clients is body composition. Without working out lean mass and body fat mass it is very hard to set goals and help someone understand how to get into shape and more importantly stay that way. There is a huge difference between fat tissue and muscle tissue and many people have no idea about the importance of preserving muscle. Muscle tissue is metabolically active which simply means it burns energy – in fact 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whereas stored body fat is relatively useless apart from the small amount needed acting as insulation and assisting with hormone production which is only needed as a small percentage. Our metabolism is our body’s inner furnace and is largely influenced by how much lean muscle we have on our skeletons. You see, so many people think it is their inevitable destiny to get fatter and that their metabolisms will slow to a snail’s pace as they age. This can be true if and only IF you allow this to happen. If you preserve as much lean tissue and burn body fat through correct exercise and diet then this need not happen AT ALL. By correct exercise I mean using resistance training (using weights) combined with cardiovascular exercise and cleaning up your diet to include the correct ratio of healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein. Women in particular need to train with weights to create toned lean muscles and need not fear of turning into the ‘Incredible Hulk’ as we do not have enough of the muscle developing hormone testosterone.
There are several ways of measuring body composition. The most invasive approach is the skin fold test or ‘pinch test’ which when used should take at least 20 minutes of precise measuring to get an accurate read. I have found that over the years of using this method NOBODY likes to have it done and it is time consuming. The most accurate method is by an ultra sound device called Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry or DXA which is a more expensive method and only performed by a Doctor or specialist in Body composition Analysis. I use a method called BIA (Body Impedance Analysis) which is a very accurate method using a very mild electrical current to measure the body’s composition with little invasion to the client. Tape measurements can also be useful to keep track of centimetres lost and it is far more important to pay attention to how our clothes fit than paying too much attention to how much we weigh on the scales.