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Published on April 13th, 2013 | by Joe Starks


Physical Fitness Types: Body composition

One of the reasons we exercise is to have a healthy body composition. In other words we want a healthy balance between lean muscle mass and fat tissue to keep us strong and protected. In this article we’ll discuss the need for fat and muscle and the ideal balance between the two. Also we will mention how to achieve such a balance through the right fitness regime.

Body Fat Percentage

Our body fat percentage literally measure how much of our body in comprised by fat. We absolutely need some fat to:

  • Keep our organs safe from damage
  • Give us energy in case of a lack of food
  • Give us energy in case of an inability to eat (some diseases like cause a lack of appetite or pain during swallowing. Also diarrhea and purging can cause us to need fat to survive)
  • Keep our heart healthy, because it need immense amounts of energy best given by fats
  • Keep our skin and hair healthy

These are only some of the reasons. Fat makes us look more beautiful when we have it in the correct amount. Female breasts, round buttocks and cheeks are all formed by some fat. Generally, fat gives us a smoother appearance overall, covering our bones where we don’t have large muscles, like on the hip bone and our ribs.

The minimal amount of fat a woman should have is 10-13%, while a man should have around 2-5%. Any less is very hazardous to health. The difference between the genders is stark, because of our different body compositions. Women need more body fat to be healthy. Those reserves are necessary both for their fertility and general endurance. Men need less fat because they have more muscle and fewer needs for their reproductive health.

Active athletes should have more than the minimum fat percentage. For women this amount should be 14-20%, while for men it is 6-13%. This is because athletes need greater fat storage to keep their muscles from being burned for energy when they work out. A fit person should have 20-24% for women and 14-17% body fat for men. Fit people do not have as much muscle as dedicated athletes and so need greater fat storages to keep them at optimal health. The woman actually has 25-31% body fat, while the average man has 18-24%. Anything above 31% for women and 24% for men is classified as excess fat. Excess fat can be detrimental to your health and create more trouble than it offers benefits.

Lean Mass Index

The lean mass index calculates how much lean body mass aka muscle tissue you have. You need a healthy amount of muscles to:

  • Be able to be active and get things done. Without muscle you can’t work/move at all.
  • Ward yourself from injuries and illness. Muscles protect the bones and organs just like fat does.
  • Look better. Muscles give your body a firm and practical shape, which most humans immediately recognize as beautiful.
  • Have a higher metabolism. The more muscles you have the more energy your body needs to stay alive in a resting state. This means you can consume more energy before you gain weight.

The only healthy way to gain lean mass is to exercise. Yet not all exercises are as good at giving you more muscles. Usually strength exercises and high intensity training offers you bulkier stronger muscles, while endurance and low intensity training offers you leaner more durable muscles. Both muscle types are good for your health and it is usually up to each person’s preference on what muscle type they want. A mix of both is ideal as far as health and appearance is concerned for most.

Lifting weights, running, doing push-ups, burpies, jumping jacks etc are all excellent ways to improve your muscle mass. Remember to add muscle to your body you need to consume more protein than the average person and to make sure your energy intake is not too low in general, since then you will most likely just lose muscles due to losing weight in general. A balanced diet is best especially for those who want to lose weight while gaining muscle at the same time.

How to achieve the perfect balance?

If your body fat percentage is high but your lean mass is low you should start exercising, while also adopting a healthy diet which covers your nutrient needs. The energy of that diet should be lower than what you need to stay as you are, but not lower than your basic metabolic needs as to avoid health issues.

If your body fat percentage is ideal, but you lack muscle, you should up your calories with healthy protein rich foods while starting a good exercise regime.

If your body fat percentage is low and you also lack muscle, then you need to up your calories a lot when you start your exercising. You have to calculate both the calories you need to gain fat and those you need to add muscle.

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