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How a Total Body Composition Can Help You
A total body composition report from a licensed practitioner is a great way to determine your overall health and whether or not you are at an ideal weight. Simply looking at generic height and weight charts to determine how much you should weigh is highly ineffective (to say the least), and it is best to receive a total body composition report to have a more detailed understanding of what your body is composed of and how to achieve optimal health and weight.
What is a total body composition?
A total body composition is an extensive report that shows the percentages of what your body is composed of (e.g. fat, muscle, bone, etc.). This report provides a much more in-depth analysis of your overall health. It is often used by weight loss, restorative medicine, and wellness professionals (and other types of practitioners) to determine if the patient is at a healthy weight or if they need to gain or lose any weight (typically in the form of fat) to achieve optimal health. Subsequently, total body composition is often used as a much more detailed and effective alternative to your overall weight on a scale or body mass index (BMI).
What metrics are included in a total body composition?
When you step on a typical scale, you will see a single number: your weight. One number cannot tell you much about your body. A total body composition, on the other hand, gives you many more metrics, such as:
- Fat mass
- Muscle mass
- Bone mass
- Body fat percentage
- Total body water
These measurements give you a more complete picture and allow you to focus on more targeted goals, like losing fat and gaining muscle while keeping your body in balance with the proper amount of water. This is a much healthier goal than simply aiming for one number on the scale to decrease.
Why is your body composition important?
It is crucial to know your body composition if you want more insight into your health. For example, if your fat mass is too high, you may be at risk for certain diseases, like cancer or diabetes. Many people are familiar with using the body mass index to calculate health risks, but BMI alone will not inform your doctor or health coach of how much of your weight is made up of unhealthy stored fat. This is because BMI is simply the ratio of your weight to your height.
You may be the same weight and height as another person and therefore have the same BMI. However, if the other person has a significantly lower body fat percentage, he or she may be healthier and at lower risk for obesity or heart disease.
How do you determine your total body composition?
There are a few different ways to measure your total body composition. One way is to have it done by a professional, who will likely use special equipment to take your measurements. With skin calipers, a health provider can measure your stored fat using skinfold thickness in areas where fat typically accumulates beneath the skin.
Another method professionals use is underwater or hydrostatic weighing. This is effective because your body, and specifically your body fat, displaces water when placed in a special tank. This method is very accurate and, therefore, quite useful.
A popular tool for people wanting to know their body composition without seeking out a professional or using expensive equipment is a body fat scale. These scales use sensors that you step on to send an electrical current through your body. This method is called bioelectrical impedance, and it is very fast and convenient — but not necessarily accurate. It is most useful in measuring change over time rather than giving you a precise measurement of body fat at any given moment. However, seeing how your body composition changes can motivate healthy choices and let you know whether you are on the right track, so these scales should not be entirely dismissed as unhelpful.
Consider body composition
Many people use total body composition as a tool to inform better health choices to increase muscle and lower body fat. This can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on your health and lower your risk for life-limiting diseases. Experts agree that it is much more useful than looking at a single number on a scale.
Talk to your doctor about whether a total body composition is right for you. Your clinic can recommend a method of measurement and help you determine what the results mean.
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