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Body composition

For many Americans body fat makes up a significant portion of total body weight. Knowing exactly how much body fat you store relates to the fitness component known as Body Composition, the next Key Term of Fitness.

KEY TERM: Body Composition

Body composition is the percentage of total body weight that is fat.

The human body is comprised of different substances.  For the purpose of fitness there are two categories:  fat mass and muscle mass. 

Fat, also known as adipose tissue, is the storage form of energy from food.   Based on genetics, your body stores fat in various locations and you have absolutely no say in the matter of where it goes.  However, your eating and exercise decisions have a lot to say about how much fat is stored.  Anytime you eat more food than your activity level burns it becomes fat.

The more active you are, and the less food you eat at one time, the harder it is for your body to store fat.
Muscle comprises the metabolically active part of your body.  During exercise your muscles do the work that burns calories.  The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn during any activity or even at rest.  Because of its muscle-building benefits, resistance training is recommended in conjunction with aerobic exercise for losing body fat.
If you doubt that muscle-building is right for you, consider that overall muscle development reveals shapely muscles as body fat decreases.  Your whole body can appear tight and toned due to lower body fat and increased muscle mass.

Fat is the component of flab and muscle is the component of shape and tone.

It is important to understand that the muscle itself has not become tighter, but bigger.  The increased muscle size is what makes the body appear firm and toned.  Therefore, a toned body is a muscular body.  The image of pumped up body builders is not an accurate picture of how most people will look if they lift weights.  Even if you are genetically predisposed to muscle growth you will be able to adjust your training to limit muscle-building before it exceeds your desired goal.  People do not suddenly grows huge muscles by accident.  It takes hours in the gym over many months and even years.  For many, it also takes supplements that may or may not incur long-term health risks.  In addition to not being tested for safety and effectiveness, some are not legal without a prescription.

A certain amount of body fat is necessary to sustain life and optimal health.  Women maintain higher levels of body fat than men without risking negative health outcomes.  This is because women’s bodies carry excess fat for the purpose of reproduction.  In general, women store body fat below the waist and men store body fat abdominally.   Studies continue to show that extra body fat at the waistline is more highly associated with heart disease than fat storage in the lower body.  However, the location of fat stores is determined by genetics regardless of gender.  Contrary to popular advertising claims, fat stores are not reduced in specific areas according to exercise selection. (If only it were that easy…)

By shifting your body composition to favor muscle over fat you can drop inches and sizes without losing weight – or without losing as much as you think you need to.

It won’t be easy and it will take time, but healthy weight loss goals are achievable.

With realistic goals, a sound exercise program and consistent motivation, you can lose extra body fat and achieve a leaner physique that fits into a smaller size.

By Rachel Eisenman
Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor and Consultant 
www.livebetterfitness.com
 
IMPORTANT INFORMATION: THE FITNESS, NUTRITION, AND RELATED INFORMATION AND RECOMMENDATIONS PROVIDED BY LIGHTEN UP CHALLENGE IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR MEDICAL ADVICE FROM YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER. LIGHTEN UP CHALLENGE IS NOT A MEDICAL ORGANIZATION. WE ENCOURAGE AND ADVISE YOU TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE BEFORE STARTING ANY FITNESS OR NUTRITION EFFORT OR PROGRAM.