Have you ever felt dreadful the moment you step on a weighing scale? Or checked your weight over and over again on multiple scales?
Curiosity turns into obsession, when all you are worried about is the number on the display. While weighing scales don’t lie and it is extremely important to maintain a healthy body weight for a healthy lifestyle, your weight does not govern how fit or unfit you are- there’s a lot more to it. One can still be at their ideal body weight and still have poor metabolic health parameters such as low agility, sleepless nights, erratic hunger levels etc which are crucial for a sustainable and healthy fat loss.
(For a quick list of key takeaways, check towards the end of the article)
Body weight or body composition comprises of fat, muscles, bone, body organs and water. Essential fat helps to protect internal organs, stores fuel for energy and regulates hormone function in the body. A weighing scale on the other hand gives us a measure of all these combined and does not tell us if we have gained muscle or we’re holding on to water or is there some actual fat loss. Body fat percentage is also a better choice over measuring the Body Mass Index as BMI does not account for muscle mass- a person with a higher BMI can have higher muscle mass than fat mass (as seen in athletes) or vice-versa.
What should be your ideal body fat percentage?
Body fat percentages can be measured using a variety of techniques like a Bioelectrical impedance or BIA scale, skinfold callipers, DEXA scan¹ or a hydrostatic weighing². These techniques help us to get the accurate measurement of fat & muscle mass and water content of the body. One can easily get a body composition analysis done at their nearest gym or visiting a nutritionist or a dietitian.
According to the American Council of Exercise (ACE)³ , your body fat percentages should fall under the following ranges:
If you’re an athlete into performance games especially like running, cycling, gymnastics, swimming etc, a lower body fat percentage may be beneficial for enhancing your performance. But having an extremely low body fat percentage might pose health risks such as weak bones, osteoporosis, amenorrhea (no menstrual cycles), female athlete traid⁴ and eating disorders.
Diet and Body Fat
Diets high in unhealthy fats or refined and processed foods that are usually high in carbohydrates and low in fibre lead to weight gain or excess fat deposition in the body.
A higher body fat percentage puts you at a higher risk for lifestyle disorders like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease etc and healthy diet and regular exercise will help you expend calories to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss.
Having said that, it does not mean that one needs to completely cut off carbs or fat from the diet. Carbs help in providing energy for daily activities while healthy fats are essential for metabolism and absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Carbohydrate sources like whole grains, fruits and root vegetables and healthy fat sources like nuts & seeds, olive oil mustard oil, sunflower oil etc must be a part of the daily diet.
- Body weight or body composition comprise of fat, muscles, bone, body organs and water. Essential fat helps to protect internal organs, stores fuel for energy and regulates hormone function in the body.
- A weighing scale does not take muscle mass into account and hence body fat percentage is a more accurate measurement. Bioelectrical impedance or BIA scale, skinfold callipers, DEXA scan or a hydrostatic weighing can be used to get an accurate measurement of body fat and muscle mass.
- A higher body fat percentage puts you at a higher risk for lifestyle disorders like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease etc and healthy diet and regular exercise will help you expend calories to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss.
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