Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

What Is body composition?

How much do you weigh? You might think it’s important, but your body weight is irrelevant to your health and fitness. Your body weight is simply the total weight of your bones, organs, muscles, fluids, and fat. It would be best if you were more concerned about your body composition: the ratio of muscle to fat.

Healthy body composition means the right balance between the two. It will reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance while increasing your energy level and improving your appearance and self-esteem. 

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Muscle weighs more than fat.

As you begin to diet and exercise, it’s important to remember that your weight does not show the relationship between muscle and fat. It is common for new trainees NOT to see a change in weight on the scales – but you might see an increase in muscle and a decrease in fat and inches when looking in the mirror. 

This is because muscle weighs three times more than fat per unit of volume! As you begin to exercise, you’ll gain muscle – you can be smaller physically but weigh more. As you choose to follow a healthy and fit lifestyle, remember the distinction between being overWEIGHT and overFAT.

How to change your body composition with food

Your goal is no longer weight loss. Your goal is now fat loss and gaining lean muscle! How do you accomplish this? You know the answer: diet and exercise. To be more specific, you need a healthy, natural eating plan filled with nutrient-dense foods PLUS regular, moderate exercise. 

Everything you eat fuels your metabolism. The nutrients, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates each have specific functions, but the calories they provide are “burned” to fuel your metabolism, the biochemical and biological processes that support your body. Walking, running, breathing, and even your heart beating all require calories. If you eat many calories above those needed to support your metabolism, they are converted and stored as fat!

Should I eat less and exercise more? While this approach has been used for decades with moderate success, a better approach would be EAT SMART and EXERCISE SMARTER. Start by eating higher quality, nutrient-dense foods like lean proteins, complex carbs (fruits and vegetables), and healthy fatty acids. Next, eliminate high-calorie junk foods from your diet, which will reduce the number of calories being converted to fat.

How to change your body composition with exercise

How to exercise smarter – exercise burns calories: so, the more you move, the more calories are burned to support that movement. Choosing the RIGHT exercises can also burn body fat and build lean muscle; if your goal is to have less fat and more muscle, select activities that provide both these benefits!

You’ll need cardio training to burn calories, but if you want to increase the calorie burn during and after exercise, you’ll need to increase your cardio’s intensity, not the length. Remember, work smarter, not harder! Keep your cardio sessions short and intense: between 3-5 times a week. Now add three days of resistance training using bodyweight, resistance bands, kettlebells, or weights – this will increase your lean muscle. A Bootcamp-style workout is ideal for adding a combination of cardio plus bodyweight resistance.

Increase your NEAT. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) burns calories during every daily activity that is not sleeping or direct exercise: for example, walking to work, standing at your desk, cleaning the house, or even climbing the stairs. Increasing these activities can significantly improve your fat to muscle ratio. So, find ways to stand more, move more, and walk farther! 

By Terry Clark

Terry Clark is a math professor, certified fitness trainer, bodybuilding coach, nutrition specialist, writer, and fitness enthusiast. Terry loves working out, playing with numbers, solving problems, writing, and teaching.