Gone are the days when the body mass index (BMI) alone was used to determine a person’s fatness and to predict the person’s risk for non-communicable diseases. With the use of bio-electrical impedance analysis, a hi-tech non-invasive measurement estimates the components of the body weight.
Parameters, including body weight, BMI, body fat mass (BFM), fat-free mass (FFM), skeletal muscle mass (SMM), skeletal lean mass (SLM), total body water (TBW), mineral content, and body cell mass (BCM) can be automatically calculated. These measurements can help in revealing a person’s risk for certain health conditions such as sarcopenia; muscle loss which is associated with impaired physical functioning.
Outcomes of measurements can then be followed with appropriate nutritional intervention and follow-up. In this article, I will be answering the question; what is in my body thereby showing you what you stand to benefit from knowing your body composition.
Track the changes in your body composition over time
With repeated measures, your body composition comprising skeletal muscle mass, fat mass, body water and mineral content is revealed. The information will help you to know if it is going in a positive direction or the negative direction. For example, if you are desirous of dropping unwanted weight. You want to be sure to drop fat mass without losing the skeletal muscle mass. If your previous analysis indicated the skeletal muscle mass to be 21kg and fat mass to be 16kg, while the present analysis shows the skeletal muscle mass to be 18.2kg and the fat mass to be 15kg, this is an indication of a negative direction. With appropriate dietary counseling you will be able to adjust to a positive direction; to consistently drop the fat mass while preventing or minimizing loses in the skeletal muscle mass.
Building of the skeletal muscle mass
If you are working at building your muscle mass, appropriate dietary and fitness regimen is required to achieve the results ensuring that you gain weight in the form of muscle mass and not fat mass. Your understanding of your starting point and your target is necessary to establish a realistic timeline for tracking progress. This also will enable your nutritionist or dietitian to advice on the dietary interventions to optimize the desired result and to monitor the progress as earlier discussed. The use of supplemental protein may help enhance muscle building. However, an adequate balance with healthy, diverse diets will help in achieving the desired result. It is very vital to ensure the gain in weight is a positive one.
Steady basal metabolic rate
Your basal metabolic rate determines to a large extent your ability to drop unwanted weight. When your skeletal muscle mass increases, this has a positive implication for your basal metabolic rate. Your body’s capacity to utilize energy increases, therefore your ability to burn fat and drop the unwanted weight increases. Knowing your body composition can help in establishing a proper nutrition plan for you. Because this calculation will be based on your unique calorie need as revealed from your body composition analysis, it is specific for you. This is different from a generalized calculation from a population standpoint.
By using your BMR your nutritionist can help in developing the dietary program aimed precisely at an optimizing your fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. Also, the maintenance of a healthy weight will be achieved through the use of BMR by establishing proper nutrition and caloric intake.
Effective weight loss
You will be helped to differentiate between muscle loss and fat loss or both if you accompany your weight loss endeavor with tracking your body composition. Relying on BMI to track changes in body composition has limitations because of its inability to identify if losses are due to fat loss, lean mass loss or both. People often believe that low-calorie diets facilitate weight loss. However, the concern with the use of low-calorie diets in weight loss is the high risk of muscle mass loss. This is a negative outcome in weight loss and implies health risk and functional impairment. The accurate analysis of your body composition during your weight loss regimen will enable you to track where weight loss is coming from either negatively or positively. The body composition results are usually presented in a visual representation showing the balance between muscle and fat; helping to clearly show overall health risk. This hi-tech assessment allows your nutritionist to set effective weight loss goals while tracking the progress to ensure proper improvement is being made. Effective weight loss will show a gradual reduction in the fat mass and a corresponding increase in the skeletal muscle mass over time.
Track excess fat mass and prevent muscle loss in seniors
This situation is particularly important with senior adults; age 65 and above. At this age, the diets need to be coordinated to support muscle maintenance to lower the risk of muscle loss leading to frailty. Because this phase of life is often associated with reduced physical activity and poor dietary intake, there is an easy accumulation of excess fat mass with an associated increase in disease risk especially sarcopenia. This loss of muscle reduces physical functioning, increases the chance of visceral fat storage and may initiate the risk for diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. By tracking the body composition, nutritionists and dietitians can help in planning nutrition programs to maximize muscle maintenance for reducing the risks of sarcopenia, feebleness and injury.
Prevention of injury and inflammation in sports activities
If you are a sports person, knowing and tracking your body composition for changes in skeletal muscle and fat mass is vital to optimizing your performance for your desired success. Understanding the specific needs for your sports activities will guide the dietary plans to support the maintenance and integrity of the skeletal muscles. As a sports person, you don’t have to wait until the imbalance of the skeletal muscle mass and fat mass begins to adversely affect your performance.
Monitoring and tracking your body composition as the sports season changes are also necessary to adjust dietary and exercise routines. With continued monitoring, you can track muscle-fat balance, and the positions where lean mass is being built, lost or needs to be maintained. Undesirable changes in lean mass may indicate a dietary adjustment to prevent decreases in performance. Furthermore, measures of body water can reveal changes in hydration and may require more precise management of fluid intake. Through regular assessment, undesirable changes will be detected and your dietitian or nutritionist will be able to plan a dietary intervention to address them without jeopardizing your performance and success. If you sustain an injury, nutritional modifications are required to promote optimal recovery while preventing the adverse changes associated with decreased activity during the recovery period.
Management of disease risk
The global rising trend in obesity and overweight has led to increased risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and certain cancers. The primary cause for concern in obesity is high-fat mass leading to an unacceptable level of visceral fat. Visceral fat is a primary contributor to increased risk of NCDs. Conversely, obesity is not the only connection with poor health conditions, low muscle mass can also influence disease risk and may impair a person’s physical functioning. In all, dietary adjustment accompanied by physical activity is a major factor in intervention if you are at risk. Tracking body composition changes over time provide a more complete solution to ameliorate the situation.
With the ability to monitor body composition parameters including the skeletal muscle mass, body fat mass and visceral fat, nutrition experts can set more effective nutrition plans geared towards reducing your disease risk over time.
Knowing that your BMI is within the acceptable range of 18.5 – 25.0 kg/m2 is satisfying and good. However, going further to know the variables that make up the weight you are carrying to provide more realistic and complete information about your risk for diseases. It is possible to have visually acceptable body weight and BMI, but have an unhealthy proportion of skeletal muscle mass and fat mass. This situation equally predisposes a person to a high risk for the disease especially if the visceral fat goes beyond 10; the maximum acceptable level. Conversely, it is possible to have a BMI that is above the acceptable range but have a healthy proportion of skeletal muscle and fat mass with an acceptable level of visceral fat. This status describes the body composition of a sports person.
Having tried to answer the question; what is in my body? I like to urge you to take steps beyond the BMI to know your body composition. Engage the necessary steps to secure a healthy body that you desire and deserve. You don’t have to wait until you are suddenly diagnosed with a disease condition; heart disease or type 2 diabetes, and you start to wonder how it happened. The unseen factors may be doing silent harm than you know. The good news is that you can minimize your risk for these diseases once you know what your body composition is and you are committed to tracking them and control changes.