Don’t you just love all those celebrities who say they never work out and eat whatever they want, but still manage to look fabulous? Would it surprise you to know that many of these beautiful women may actually have high percentage of body fat? There is a difference between being thin and being healthy and it lies in our body composition.
What is body composition?
Body composition is a measure of the lean and fatty tissues that make up your body weight. Your body is comprised of many tissues: fat, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs and lots of water. A healthy body composition is determined by the percentage of fat versus lean muscle mass. Ideally, it is best to keep fat lower and lean muscle mass higher.
You can develop poor body composition when the percentage of body fat is too high. The most common cause of a high percentage of body fat is excess fat, although it can also result from a loss of bone, as in osteoporosis, or a loss of muscle if you tend to avoid weight training in lieu of the treadmill. I find that patients who do an excessive amount of cardio and skimp on the weight training often have a higher body fat percentage despite a low body weight.
How can you improve your body composition?
A weight-loss program can actually be harmful if it results in excessive loss of muscle along with fat. Our reserves are in our muscles. As we age, we naturally tend to lose muscle — unless we work to keep it. A loss in muscle mass has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome (otherwise known as Syndrome X — a condition that has been linked to heart disease and diabetes). It also means that the amount of calories that your body burns on a day-to-day basis takes a decline — which is a recipe for a being skinny fat, at best.
Tips to maintain muscle and boost fat loss
1. Pump it up: Research shows that muscle strength declines by 15 percent per decade after age 50, and 30 percent per decade after age 70. As expected, along with this decline in muscle mass is a five percent decrease per decade in our metabolic rate. You should adopt an exercise plan that incorporates cardiovascular exercise along with weight training. Do not overdo cardiovascular exercise — it can damage the muscle fibres that you are working so hard to build and maintain. Do your weight training first, followed by your cardio, if you are doing them both on the same day. This will ensure your strength is at a maximum for lifting and you will continue to burn fat during your cardio session.
2. Don’t skimp on protein: Protein is the building block of muscle and it is essential for repair after workouts. According to a recent study from the University of Illinois, a higher protein intake during weight loss can offset negative effects on muscle mass by maintaining more muscle relative to the amount of weight lost. Women who ate more protein lost 3.9 percent more weight and had a relative gain of 5.8 percent more thigh-muscle volume than woman who did not. Complete your meal with low-glycemic carbohydrates.
3. Practice stress management: Elevated levels of stress hormone (cortisol) can have a negative effect on body composition by increasing the breakdown of muscle mass and increasing the deposition of fat around the abdomen. Relora is an herbal compound found to be effective in keeping stress hormone levels balanced and reducing abdominal fat. Phosphatidylserine may also help reduce stress hormone levels and protect body tissues, such as the brain and muscles from the negative effects of stress.