Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why is Body Composition so important?

If you don't know where you are starting how will you know how to get there or even when you are there?  It is important to set goals (I will share mine with you over the next few days) and then it is important to record your base mark or starting point and have a good reliable way of tracking yourself and your progress. Not only is it important but it certainly makes us feel good when we can see things changing and when things stop or go backwards, you can't argue with it and you can promptly give yourself a kick up the bum to address any roadblocks.

Many people I speak to weigh themselves a few times a week, many are even stepping on the scales every single day hoping for that number to drop even just a little.  I am not saying this is a bad thing because if you have weight to loose ultimately you want to see that number on the scales getting smaller BUT if you are training well and eating right and the scales still aren't moving could there be something more to it?  You may very well be in a period of gaining muscles and loosing fat in such a way that the scales are barely moving yet you get so disheartened by the perceived inactivity that you throw in the towel and revert back to your old ways - if only you have been able to look at yourself on the inside to REALLY know what was going on.

It can work the other way too - the numbers on the scales can be falling but you could be losing  muscle.  Many people who decide to loose weight will cut their food intake and start doing or up their cardiovascular activity.  This will prompt their body to burn an energy source but due to the fact that they are doing nothing to preserve their muscle mass (i.e. resistance exercise) it is likely that that energy source is coming from muscle as well as or rather than fat.  When you lose muscle mass you slow the speed at which you body burns energy at rest, hence lowering your metabolism and your bodies ability to efficiently burn fat.  You may lose 'weight' and the number on the scales may be going down but without performing some other test you won't know if you are burning muscle or fat and whichever you are burning can leave you with either long term benefits or with a long term disadvantage.

I checked in with Jarrod at Body Composition and this is what he had to say about the service I use for keeping track of my progress:

"DEXA scans have been providing Jen and clients of Body Beyond Baby with a sneak peek into their post baby body composition. A concise and accurate measure of body composition allows for the measurement of your ideal weight. This insight allows you to set more appropriate goals over the course of your training program. Getting back into your training post pregnancy is not easy with the pregnancy leaving the body with gains in fat mass.  However, part of the overall weight increase is also due to gains in lean (muscle) mass. Hanging a 3-4kg weight off your tummy changes your centre of mass and the back musculature has to respond by increasing muscle side and strength of the erector spinae muscle group and other back muscles. In fact, following Jen’s last scan we noticed a decrease in muscle tissue from the trunk even though Jen had been training post pregnancy. This is just one adjustment of many by the body as it returns back to “normal”."

Body Composition Australia is located in Darlinghurst and has been operating for the past 5 years as the only provider of DEXA scans by a specialist Exercise Physiologist in the area of body composition.

If you can get to see Jarrod it would be fantastic but if not you can also do things like skin fold tests - although this is a less accurate form of assessing body composition and results will often vary from assessor to assessor if you always use the same test performed by the same person you will get a good gauge of whether you are losing fat or muscle.  Same goes for some of the body fat sales out there.

Measurements are also a good way of keeping track of your progress although alone they will only tell you that you are getting smaller rather than what type of mass you are losing but it is a much better test than just stepping on those scales alone.

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