Understanding Body Fat

What is Body Fat?

Body fat is body tissue that is NOT metabolically active (does not burn calories). The main functions of body fat are:

To act as a reserve tank for calories (energy).

Regulate body temperature.

Cushion and insulate organs and tissues.

Although body fat has its purpose, in excess it can put you at risk for some health problems. The highest risk comes from mid section and internally stored fat. Many will also be trouble by the more cosmetic concerns of cellulite.

Having too much fat on a body is the foundation of obesity.

How is Obesity measured?

There is no ideal weight for everyone who is the same height, but there is a range of a healthy weight that is statistically associated with good health.

Some methods to determine overweight or obesity are:

Body Mass Index (BMI) – ratio of body weight (kg) divided by height (m2).

Waist to Hip Ratio – waist circumference (cm) divided by hip circumference (cm)

Desirable weight for Height tables – use as a guideline for relative weights.

Measurement of Subcutaneous Fat – use skin fold measures to calculate body fat.

Bioelectrical Impedence Analysis (BIA) – difference between fatty and lean tissue

Body Fat Percentage – calculations to evaluate changes in body composition.

Note: These methods are used as estimations and work better when combined.

What is a Body Fat Percentage?

Body fat percentage is a calculation method that is superior when it comes to measuring weight loss because what you really want to measure is fat loss. Body fat percentage is simply the percentage of your body weight that is fat. The other portion of your body weight is your lean body mass (muscle, bone, organ tissue, blood, etc). For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and your body fat percentage is 20%, then your body consists of 30 pounds of fat and 120 pounds of lean body mass.

What can be done to decrease a person’s body fat percentage?

Losing excess weight in the form of fat and/or increasing the amount of lean body mass an individual carries can decrease their body fat percentage. The more lean muscle you maintain (metabolically active tissue), means you can burn more fat even at rest.

A healthy eating and fitness program involving the right balance of cardiovascular training, resistance training and stretching can help you achieve a healthy weight and body fat percentage.

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