What is Body Composition and How Can You Change Yours?

What is Body Composition and How Can You Change Yours?

Posted by Sydney Bollinger on

A big question amongst people on fitness journeys is how to make changes to their body composition. Here's a guide on how to approach changing your body composition which includes everything from working out to your nutrition.

At its core, body composition measures the amount of fat compared to muscle in your body. Health and fitness professionals use this measure because it provides a better picture of holistic health than using the Body Mass Index or weight. 

Understanding the concept of body composition can help you get a fuller picture of your overall health. Many health professionals refer to body composition when determining if a patient is at a healthy weight. The amount of fat in our body matters, because a higher ratio of fat points to the potential to develop long-term health complications like heart disease and diabetes. 

Understanding Body Composition

At its core, body composition measures the amount of fat compared to muscle in your body. Health and fitness professionals use this measure because it provides a better picture of holistic health than using the Body Mass Index or weight. 

Understanding the ratio of fat to muscle in the body offers insight to the health of your lifestyle and potential to develop chronic disease, often due to a high amount of fat cells in the body. Body fat percentage, which we can determine from body composition measures, is an important metric for everyone to have when considering how to improve their health. 

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts also use body composition to better understand how their exercise routines impact their body. For example, body composition can assist in determining muscle gains. 

How to Measure Body Composition

There are different ways to measure body composition, but they vary in accuracy. Most methods require visiting a doctor or other medical professional with access to specialized equipment. 

The most accurate method to measure body composition is through a DXA (or DEXA) scan. This type of scan uses low-level x-rays to determine bone density and body composition. While using this method may be accurate, you will likely need a doctor’s referral to access it. 

Other methods include air displacement, water displacement, Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA), and skinfold tests. 

Skinfold tests are the oldest method of measure. In recent years, BIA has become more popular, especially because many smart scales are able to complete this analysis. However, it has higher values of inaccuracy. 

A tool like ZOZOFIT can measure your body fat percentage with extreme accuracy using just your phone’s camera. ZOZOFIT will also output your body measurements, allowing you full access to information about your body composition. 

What is a healthy body composition? 

When thinking about healthy body composition, consider your body fat percentage. This is the easiest metric to work with in determining if you should work toward changing your body composition. 

According to the Baylor College of Medicine, a healthy body fat range for women is 25-31% and a healthy body fat range for men is 18-24%. 

It’s important to note that some body fat is essential to the function of your body and, in particular, your immune system. Too little body fat can also have negative consequences for your health. 

FFM & TBW: What Are They?

FFM and TBW are acronyms commonly used when discussing body composition. Knowing these acronyms can help you when discussing your own body composition and understanding what your body composition ratio means. 

Fat-Free Mass

Fat-Free Mass (FFM) is the measure of everything in your body that isn’t fat. This includes organs, water, tendons and ligaments, bone, and muscle. 

One way you can think about body composition is through fat-free mass. Instead of trying to decrease body fat percentage, consider swapping your mindset to be focused on increasing FFM. This means you will look toward muscle gains, which prioritizes a healthy diet and exercise. 

Total Body Water

Total Body Water (TBW) is the amount of water in your body. This comes into play when thinking about body composition because so much of the body is made up of water, which means water can influence our body composition ratios. 

On average, most adult men are made up of 60% water, whereas women are 55% water. We find water both intracellularly and extracellularly. Intracellular fluid is inside of our cells. We find extracellular fluid in the space outside of cells. 

Individuals with high percentages of body fat are more likely to have extra Extracellular Water (ECW), which can stress organs. 

Dehydration can also negatively impact TBW. 

How to Change Your Body Composition

Deciding that you want to change your body composition is the first step toward making major improvements in your overall health. Whether you are looking to manage your weight or become a better athlete, changing your body composition can have a huge benefit. 

Like with any fitness goals, it’s important to keep track of your progress. A body scanning tool like ZOZOFIT will help you track the changes to your body composition over time. 

Physical Activity Affects Body Composition 

Physical activity can affect your body composition. If you are looking to make drastic changes to your body composition, weight lifting and other forms of strength training can help you tone, which will increase muscle mass while decreasing fat. 

You can achieve this effect by using free weights, through circuit training, or by attending group fitness classes focused on strength training and burning fat. 

If you don’t know where to start with this type of training, consider reaching out to a coach or personal trainer for assistance. They will be able to take into account your current activity level with your body composition goals and create an exercise program unique to your needs. 

Other activities, like walking, running, and cycling, can also affect body composition, but will not have as large an impact as strength training. 

Body Composition in the Kitchen 

“Weight loss starts in the kitchen,” an old adage says. 

The same is true for body composition. Choosing to eat whole, natural foods can improve your body composition. Staying away from highly processed foods and foods with refined processed sugar, in particular, will help you decrease your body fat percentage. 

Focus on eating lean proteins, health fats, vegetables, and fruit. These nutritious foods will keep you full longer and provide your body with what it needs to keep you energized and moving. 

When starting a new diet, always start by making small changes. Dramatic changes in diet and restrictive diets are hard to follow. 

Track Your Body Composition With ZOZOFIT

As you work towards making changes to your body composition, use the ZOZOFIT app to visualize your progress through our intuitive features like side-by-side scan comparisons, ColorMetric, body fat percentage calculations, and more. 

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