Body Composition – A Guide About Importance and Measurement

Body Composition – A Guide About Importance and Measurement

The so-called “body composition” is of crucial importance for our health and well-being in order to achieve individual health goals and minimize health risks. But what exactly is the body composition and how can you measure it?

Blog Author Jris Health Coach at CARE
Jris Bernet

Health Coach EN

Published in General Health
12 min read · Nov 05, 2023

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What Is the Body Composition?

The term “body composition” refers to the percentage distribution of different types of tissues that constitute our human body. [1]

There are several scientific models and definitions for body composition – the Basic-2-Compartment Model, the Atomic Model, the Molecular Model, the Cellular Model, and the Functional Model. [2]

The basic-2-compartment model only distinguishes between adipose tissue and nonadipose tissue, while more specific models called "multicompartment models" distinguish body composition at multiple levels.

The model relevant to you is the "Functional Model", which distinguishes between adipose tissue, muscle mass, bone, water, and other components, as well as the Basic 2-Compartment Model.

Body composition is critically important because it not only affects our physical appearance, but also has a fundamental impact on our health and well-being. [1]

The Main Components of our Body Composition

Our body composition describes the essential building blocks of the human body and is of critical importance to your health and well-being. The main components of our body composition include fat tissue, muscle mass, water, and bone minerals. [1]

We will now take a closer look at the main components of our body composition and highlight their interaction in relation to our physical health.

Adipose Tissue (Body Fat) – Insulation and Energy

Adipose tissue is one of the central components of our body composition. It serves as an energy store and has an important function in insulating your body and protecting the internal organs. Adipose tissue can be stored both under the skin (subcutaneous fat) and around the internal organs (visceral fat). [1]

Muscle Mass – More Than Just Muscles

Muscle mass consists of the skeletal muscles that are responsible for moving your body. But muscle tissue is not only important for your physical performance, but also plays a crucial role in metabolism and calorie consumption. [1]

Bone Mass – Come on, compose Yourself

Bone mass makes up the body's skeletal system and gives your body structure and stability. Our bones are also involved in the production of blood cells and store minerals such as calcium. [1]

Water – Temperature Regulation & Nutrient Transport

Water is another critical component of our body composition and makes up about 60% of our body weight. It performs vital functions such as transporting nutrients, regulating body temperature, and lubricating joints. [1]

Why Is Body Composition So Important?

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The importance of body composition to our health and well-being is paramount.

Body composition is much more than a statistical number or a matter of aesthetics. It goes beyond physical appearance and is associated with important health aspects of our bodies.

A better understanding of your body composition allows you to make more targeted decisions for your health and improve your quality of life in the long term.

After all, your body composition affects your physical performance, metabolism, and risk for various health problems. [2]

We have summarized for you the main reasons why body composition is of great importance:

1. Recognize Health Risks

An unhealthy ratio of fat tissue to muscle mass can have significant health implications. High body fat, especially visceral fat around internal organs, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and many other chronic conditions. [2]

Thus, body composition is not only a matter of external appearance, but also of health and long-term wellbeing.

2. Metabolism

Your body composition impacts your metabolism. Muscle mass consumes more energy than fat tissue, even at rest. This means that people with a higher percentage of muscle tend to have a higher basal metabolic rate, which in turn increases calorie consumption.

This is an important factor in controlling body weight. [2]

3. Physical Performance

The amount of muscle mass and adipose tissue affects physical performance. [2] Muscle is responsible for the movement of the body, and adequate muscle mass is critical for accomplishing everyday tasks and athletic activities.

A well-balanced ratio of muscle to fat mass can, therefore, improve mobility and endurance. [2]

4. Aesthetics

For many people, aesthetics play an important role. Just how we like a tidy and clean room, a lean and healthy body can bring joy to us as well. A balanced body composition that includes sufficient muscle mass and a healthy body fat percentage results in a defined and healthy appearance.

This can increase self-confidence and promote a sense of well-being.

5. Health Goals

Knowing your body composition is critical to achieving individual health goals.

Whether it is to lose weight, build muscle, reduce the risk of health problems, or improve overall fitness, body composition provides valuable information to define and monitor these goals. [2]

What Is the Difference Between BMI and Body Composition?

As we have already learned, body composition refers to the distribution of different types of tissue in your body, including fat tissue, muscle mass, bone, water, and other components.

The BMI (Body-Mass-Index) is a simple calculation that makes no distinction between fat and muscle mass. This means that two people with the same BMI can have very different body compositions. [3]

Unlike the BMI, which only considers total weight and height, body composition provides a more detailed analysis of physical makeup. [3]

What Does an Optimal Body Composition Look Like?

Determining your optimal body composition is not a simple task, as it depends on several factors, including age, gender, genetic predispositions, and individual health goals. [4]

Nevertheless, there are some general guidelines that give us direction on what a healthy and particularly good body composition may look like.

Interestingly, body composition varies in relation to gender. So let's take a quick trip through human evolution to find out why.

Body Composition in Men vs. Body Composition in Women

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The differences in body composition between men and women have roots in our human evolution and the different social roles the genders have performed throughout history. The biological differences in body composition should be understood as evolutionary adaptations to specific functions.

Women tend to have a higher percentage of body fat because it serves as an energy reserve during pregnancy and lactation. The extra body fat helped women and their children survive when food was scarce.

Men, with more muscle mass were able to prevail evolutionarily because their physical prowess increased their success in hunting. Accordingly, these differences in body composition are biological and evolutionary characteristics. Of course, this should not be considered a value judgment.

Nowadays, in our modern society, gender roles are less relevant, and we live more equal and diverse. Still, the biological differences in regard to body composition do shed light on the biological adaptation of humans throughout evolution.

Now, you may be wondering if the changes in our society will also lead to an adjustment in our body composition or physical characteristics evolutionary, right? Theoretically, yes.

However, the physical changes in the human body during evolution occur over a time horizon of several thousand years. This is because evolution is a gradual and lengthy process. Adaptations of the human body during evolution are driven mainly by genetic changes and inheritance from generation to generation.

Individual lifestyle changes that occur in a single lifetime, such as changes in diet or the pursuit of other occupations, affect human evolution only very slowly. Evolution in the biological sense is a very long-term affair and based on genetic variations and selective pressure.

However, the changes we make in our lifestyle can have short- and long-term effects on our health and fitness, even if they don't necessarily cause immediate evolutionary changes in our genome, and we’ll take that, right?

So what are these health benefits of good body composition?

Benefits of a Healthy Body Composition

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A healthy body composition that has a balanced proportion is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also brings numerous health benefits.

In this chapter, we will take a closer look at the positive effects of a healthy body composition on our health.

1. Improved Metabolic Health:

A healthy body composition that has a lower body fat percentage and adequate muscle mass supports metabolic health. [2]

Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, which helps regulate your body weight and reduces the risk of metabolic disorders like diabetes.

2. Cardiovascular Health:

A healthy body composition can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lower body fat and better muscle mass are associated with lower blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels, and reduced risk of heart disease. [5]

3. Reduced Risk of Osteoporosis:

Adequate bone mass and density in body composition are important in reducing the risk of osteoporosis, especially as we age. Strong bones are less prone to fractures and breaks. [6]

4. Better Immune System Function:

A healthy body composition promotes immune system health. A balanced body fat percentage can reduce inflammation in the body, which strengthens your immune system and reduces your risk of infections. [7]

5. Increased Physical Performance:

Proper body composition with adequate muscle mass can increase your physical performance.

Muscle strength and endurance support mobility, everyday functionality, and the ability to engage in athletic activities. [2]

6. Improved Mental Health:

A healthy body composition can also have a positive impact on your psychological well-being. In fact, better physical health and positive self-perception can boost your self-esteem and increase your overall well-being and mental health. [2]

7. Prevention of Overweight and Obesity:

Proper body composition helps prevent overweight and obesity. Excess body fat is a major contributor to health problems and lifestyle-diseases, which is why maintaining a healthy body fat percentage is critical. [2]

The health benefits of optimal body composition are compelling. So, how can you measure your body composition?

Methods for Measuring Body Composition

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There are several methods to measure body composition, from simple methods to cutting-edge technology.

The Inbody scale is the method of choice nowadays, as it is one of the most advanced and accurate methods of measuring body composition in a simple and straightforward manner. At CARE, we also use the Inbody scale, or BIA for short, to accurately determine your body composition.

Consequently, we will introduce you to the Inbody scale and other body composition measurement methods in a little more detail:

The Inbody Scale (BIA) – Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis

Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) is an advanced method of measuring body composition based on the electrical properties of tissues in the body. It is non-invasive and easy to perform. The basic principle of BIA is that different types of tissues in the body, such as muscle tissue, adipose tissue, and water, have different electrical conductivities. [8]

The InBody scale is a popular and accurate device that uses BIA technology to perform a detailed analysis of body composition. The device sends weak electrical pulses through the body and measures the resistance the pulses experience, depending on the composition of the tissues in the body. [8]

Using this data, the InBody scale can provide information on various body composition parameters, including:

Body fat percentage: the InBody scale can accurately determine the percentage of body fat in relation to total weight.

Muscle mass: an InBody scale measures the muscle mass in your different body segments, which provides information about the muscle distribution in your body.

Fat Mass: The scale can determine the total fat mass and the distribution of fat tissue.

Water Percentage: The water distribution in your body is analyzed, including intracellular and extracellular water.

Bone Mineral Density: The InBody scale can also estimate bone mineral density, which is important for assessing the risk of osteoporosis and other bone diseases.

The InBody scale has the advantage of not only providing accurate measurements, but also the ability to monitor changes over time. This is especially useful for individuals who want to optimize their body composition as part of fitness or health programs, or focus on preventive health care with CARE.

Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) – Low-Dose X-Rays

The DXA method uses low-dose X-rays to measure your body composition. This method is particularly accurate and provides detailed information about body fat, muscle mass, and bone mineral density. [8]

DXA is less suitable for regular measurement of your body composition, but is often used in research and clinical establishments to evaluate osteoporosis and other bone diseases.

Skinfold Thickness Measurements – The Oldie Among Measuring Techniques

This somewhat outdated method measures the thickness of skin folds on various parts of the body to infer body fat percentage. A caliper, a special measuring instrument, is used for this purpose to record the skin folds.

The measurements are then built into equations to estimate body fat percentage. Although this method is less accurate than BIA or DXA, it is inexpensive and easy to perform.

How to Improve Body Composition

Improving body composition is a common goal for people looking to increase their health and fitness. Optimal body composition, which includes a healthy body fat percentage and adequate muscle mass, is critical to your well-being.

In this chapter, we will show you different ways and strategies to improve your body composition.

By having your body composition measured regularly during your CARE Health Check Ups, you can set goals to improve your body composition and track your progress transparently.

Healthy Nutrition For a Good Body Composition

Nutrition plays a key role in improving body composition. A balanced diet with adequate protein promotes muscle growth and can help reduce body fat.

Reduced intake of added sugars and processed foods can also be beneficial. A calorie-conscious diet that meets your individual energy needs is critical to not allowing your body to develop excess fat tissue, especially around your organs, and maintaining or building your muscle mass. [9]

Exercise & Endurance Training

Endurance training, such as running, swimming or cycling, helps to increase your total calorie burn. This can help create a calorie deficit, helping to reduce fat if your body fat percentage is too high or if you want to build more muscle mass. [9]

It's important to incorporate a balanced mix of fitness and endurance exercises into your workouts.

Regular Monitoring & Measuring

Regularly monitoring and measuring your body composition is crucial to track progress and make adjustments to your training and nutrition strategy if necessary.

CARE's InBody scale can be a useful tool for this, helping you to achieve your fitness and health goals more efficiently and optimize your well-being in the long term.

Measure And Optimize Your Body Composition With CARE

Improving your body composition takes time, commitment and patience. It is important to set realistic goals and to approach the changes step by step.

CARE would be happy to assist you in creating an individualized optimization plan to improve your body composition after your Health Check Up.

With a balanced diet, targeted exercise and a healthy lifestyle, you can improve your body composition, which will not only have a positive impact on your health and wellness, but also on the aesthetics of your body.

List of References

Blog Author Jris Health Coach at CARE

Jris Bernet

Health Coach EN at CARE Zurich

About the author

Jris is a health coach (nerd) and blog author at CARE. She has many years of experience as a coach for classic lifestyle conditions such as diabetes and women's health. She enjoys facilitating health challenges and courses. Fasting, keto, sleep, women's health and biohacking - Jris feels at home in these topics. When she's not working for CARE, she loves to listen to health podcasts and try out new (health) gadgets. Her credo: "It's never too late to start living a new lifestyle."