Weight Loss and Body Fat Ratio

"Did I gain weight?" is probably the most abused question of our time. It is remarkable how as much as we dread asking this, we also can't help but be compulsive about it. Come to think of it, a huge chunk of our lifestyles evolve around our weight—our diet, preferences, idea of leisure, even our consumer habits. We have become so conscious of our weight, that monitoring it has become an integral part of our lives.

Unfortunately, we are not asking the right question. "What is my ideal weight and am I meeting it?" is more appropriate. Our body is composed of several types of tissues that are classified into lean and adipose. Lean tissues are those of muscles, bones and organs. They are metabolically active. Fat tissues on the other hand are not. This is why it is important that our lean mass is larger in ratio to our fat mass. Our ideal weight is therefore dependent on our body's composition and percentage of lean and fat tissues.

Elizabeth Quinn, author of Body Composition vs. Body Fat, said the minimum percent of body fat is 5% for males and 12% for females. Any lower that this would be a health risk. Fat is one of our sources of energy, it insulates our body and cushions our internal organs.  Having too much fat however has also health ramifications. Excessive fat can give us coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, arthritis, and some forms of cancer.

Attaining and maintaining that lean to fat ratio is important and we should indeed be mindful of it. Regrettably, aside from lacking the necessary information, many of us are also using the wrong tool to measure our progress in achieving our ideal weight. The weighing scale cannot accurately measure how much fat we have. The fact is; it measures our total weight, which includes our bones, fat, muscles, water and lunch we had that day.

Paige Waehner of Your Guide to Exercise has listed 5 tests that are more accurate in measuring our body fat in proportion to our lean mass.

DEXA or Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry is primarily used to measure bone density. However, it can be used to measure body fat percentage as well and locate where much of our fat is. This test takes less than 30 minutes and utilizes a body scanner and two different low-dose x-rays.

Hydrostatic Weighing on the other hand operates on the principle that fat is lighter than water. This test will require us to sit on a scale inside a tank of water while blowing as much air as we can from our lungs. By measuring our weight underwater, we will be able to determine our body density.

In the sports business, the Pinch Test is quite popular. It uses calipers to measure skin fold thickness in various parts of the body. Body fat is then determined by computing the results using a formula. This test operates on the theory that the thickness of fat under our skin is representative of our total body fat.

A quick way to measure body fat is by doing the Bioelectrical Impedance test. A special scale is used to pass signals from one hand to another or from foot to foot. Because fat contains almost no water while muscles comprise 70% water, the signals will travel faster if there is less fat in the body.

The most popular of all these tests however and the most accessible is the BMI or Body Mass Index. We must bear in mind though, that it can only tell us if we are overweight or obese.  Although it takes into consideration our weight and height it does not take into account our sex and age, which are also important factors in measuring our ideal weight.

In essence, these tests will be able to give us an idea if we have reached our ideal weight. We have to understand however, that our ideal weight is both a means and an end. Aiming to get our ideal weight is an essential ingredient of our health. In retrospect, having a healthy lifestyle is key to getting our ideal lean to fat ratio.

Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.