Weighing In on Body Composition

The topic du jour is body weight versus body composition. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to different aspects of our physical health.

Often, when a new client comes in wanting to lose weight, a more detailed explanation of their goals demonstrates they mean body composition.

Every time someone explains that they don’t mind the number on the scale as long as they look lean and healthy – we have a body composition goal. Body composition goals usually involve a reduction in body weight, but not always.

Body weight simply refers to the total amount of mass that we carry on our bodies. While body weight can be an important indicator of our overall health, it doesn’t tell the full story.

This is one of the reasons I hate BMI as a sole indicator of a person’s health.

Body weight can be manipulated by intentionally monitoring our total calorie intake over time. If the goal is simply to be lighter, and we don’t care if the lost weight is fat, muscle, or both, that’s all we need.

Your body weight times 10 should put you in a mild and sustainable calorie deficit. Obviously, this vague equation doesn’t always work for every single person on Earth, so be ready to make minor adjustments based on your progress.

Body composition, on the other hand, refers to the proportion of fat, muscle, bone, and other tissues in our bodies. This is a more accurate indicator of our overall health and fitness than body weight alone. We typically keep track of LMM (lean muscle mass) and FM (fat mass).

If we only want to lose body fat, we need to manipulate body composition. We still need a calorie deficit, but to make sure the weight we lose is specifically fat we have to add two more habits to our efforts.

The first habit is protein consumption. We should aim for .7 – 1g of protein per pound of our body weight. To maintain LMM we need the amino acids in protein to repair muscle tissue.

Muscle tissue will need repairing because our second habit is regular strength training. Muscle is calorically expensive. Strength training gives your body a reason to keep muscle while in a calorie deficit.

All of this is laid out simply. But simple doesn’t mean easy. Either goal will take some habit changes and a healthy dose of discipline to get the needle moving. Set small daily goals and progress them very gradually. Have patience and realize that this will take time.