Body composition analysis is the assessment of the proportion of fat to fat-free mass in your body. Even though it’s important for the health of all individuals to have an understanding of their body mass index, it is especially important for athletes to monitor their body composition.  Athletes look to stay in the healthy zone of a low ration of body fat to muscle, bones and organs.

We typically recommend conducting a body composition analysis at the start of any weight loss, weight gain, or targeted training program, as well as period checks to monitor progress.

Body Composition Basics

A certain amount of body fat is important to all individuals. We typically are concerned with three areas of fat storage:

  • Fat found in muscle tissue
  • Subcutaneous fat – that which is just under the skin
  • Visceral fat – that which surrounds organs.

A certain amount of essential fat in these areas protects organs, is used as fuel for energy, and regulates body hormones.  However, monitoring your levels of excess fat is important for a full picture of your total health and fitness.

Lean tissue, aka fat-free mass, is what we refer to as the portions of your body mass that excludes fat – that is bone, water, muscle, organs and tissue.  Lean tissue actively burns calories for energy, while fat is not metabolically active.

By measuring your body composition, we can determine your body fat percent: the ratio of lean tissue to fat in your body.  We then compare your personal body fat percent to the generally-accepted normal ranges, taking into consideration differences between men and women, ages, personal health history, and overall athletic performance goals.

Healthy Ranges

It is important for athletes to keep in mind that even though the overall goal is to have a low body fat percent, there is a risk of having too little body fat.  Extremely low body fat can be especially detrimental to female athletes.  Athletes with extremely low body fat increase the risk of injury, illness, low bone density (osteoporosis) and increased likelihood of fractures.  Obsessing over a low body fat percent can quickly lead to eating disorders of a wide variety.

In some cases, it will be important for athletes to lose weight for optimal performance. In other cases athletes seek to gain weight for competition.  Managing your weight and increasing protein for muscle mass is a process best done under strict guidance of trainers, medical experts, and nutritional counselors.  Please talk to the coaches at NJ FASSST about your weight management goals and nutritional needs in order to set up a personalized program to reach your goals.

These are the medically-accepted standard ranges, as determined by the American Council on Exercise (ACE)

ACE Body Fat Percent Norms for Men and Women

Description Women Men
Essential Fat 10% to 13% 2% to 5%
Athletes 14% to 20% 6% to 13%
Fitness 21% to 24% 14% to 17%
Acceptable 25% to 31% 18% to 24%
Obese over 32% over 25%

 

How We Perform Body Composition Analysis

A regular weight scale cannot tell you your body composition analysis. To truly find out the proportions of water, fat and muscle within your body, we use a series of simple measurements and a body fat percentage calculator.  You can do this at home, with a coach at the training center, or with your medical doctor.

There are specialized scales and handheld devices that utilize bioelectrical impedance to send a small electrical current through your body to measure your body composition. Fat, water, and lean tissue are each read differently with the current and can therefore offer a general picture of your body fat index.

Another method used to measure your body composition is called a skinfold measurement.  Painless instruments called calipers take measurements at different parts of your body by gently pinching portions of your skin.

A DEXA scan (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry scan, bone density scan) is typically performed in a medical doctor’s office to check for bone density. This helps track any loss due to osteoporosis, improper weight management, or other factors.

Hydrostatic weighing is a highly-effective analysis for measuring your body composition. An individual fully submerges under water, and the water’s displacement is measured. Combining a bone density measurement with water displacement, the body composition can be calculated.

To learn more about the Body Composition Analyses Unit utilized at Comprehensive Medical Care visit our friends at BodyLogic.