Body Weight, Body Composition and Health

What is the difference between body weight and body composition?  and why do I need to know?

Body weight is fat + lean tissue (muscles, organs, bones and water) pretty simple…

Body composition is the proportion of lean tissue and fat that make up a person’s total body weight.

Body composition is not as easily measured as body weight so most people use a scale to judge their “fatness” and for many overweight means overfat.  This however, is not always the case.  Some people may be overweight by a standard height and weight measurement, such as BMI (body mass index), but have very little body fat.  And on the contrary, some may have perfectly acceptable body weight, but in fact have way too much body fat.  Measurement of body fat is a much better indicator of health then just a simple scale weight.  There are health risks with being underweight and there are health risks with being overweight.  If you’re like me, you just want to be the right weight.  Again, body composition is not as easily measured, so what can you do?

Many gyms and clubs offer body composition testing, a doctor would be able to do that and another option if you live in a college town would be to check with their health programs and see if they ever offer free testing, they often do.   Honestly, just throw out the scales and grab a measuring tape, it’s a much better indicator of body composition change.

Many search and search for a magic pill to this ever longing desire to LOSE WEIGHT.  Changing our thinking from weight to composition is a great start.  Let’s be more concerned with body fat percentage then total weight.  Your stress level just went down by throwing that scale in the garbage.  The magic pill is dun, dun, dun…diet and exercise.  Just what you want to hear uh!  Well, it’s true, but luckily for you it’s not as challenging as it seems.  It starts with your mind set first, which is why I started with this post about body weight, composition and health.   Before next week’s post, let’s determine our calorie (or energy) needs.

Calories, calories who wants to deal with those, right!  Well if you want change then you’ve got to because the key to body composition management and or change is calories in – calories out = change, positive or negative.  Exercise helps us with this simple equation, but the truth lies in our diet, dang it!  Estimating our energy requirements considers the following components

  • energy spent on basal metabolism (energy needed just to make all our body functions, well, function.)
  • energy spent on physical activities
  • energy spent on digesting and metabolizing food
We take in energy from food and on average, spend most of it on basal metabolic activities, some on physical activities and a little on digestion and metabolism.
Let’s determine our Basal Metabolism energy needs here is the equation:
Men: 1 kcal(kg)(hr)
Women: .9(kg)(hr)

First we need to convert weight in lbs to kgs (lbs/2.2)

Example:  120lb female Basal Metabolism need would be: 120/2.2 =55 (rounded), .9(55)(24)= 1188 kcalories/day

Then we need to account for Physical Activity.  The equation is: activity factor(kcal/day)

Level of Intensity
Activity Factor
Very light                       
Men: 1.3
Women: 1.3
Men: 1.6
Women: 1.5
Men: 1.7
Women: 1.6
Men: 2.1
Women: 1.9
Men: 2.4
Women 2.2

So, let’s say our example woman is moderately active: 1.6(1188)=1900 (rounded) kcalories/day would be this woman’s energy requirements.

Next post I’ll share with you my thoughts on managing body composition.

Next Week: Body Composition Management and Body Composition Change

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One Response to Body Weight, Body Composition and Health

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