Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough–Oh that extra layer, extra cushion, or extra roll we cringe looking at in the mirror. Body fat is that extra storage dump that seems to creep up on many of us. These fat cells called adipose tissue add up in the body and suddenly there is an excess amount we don’t want. So let’s take a look at this not so hot topic, as we continue to educate ourselves on our fitness journeys.
Alright I’m going to get the science part out of the way…. “When burned by the body, one gram of fat provides 9 calories so 400 grams of fat contains about 3600 calories of stored energy. Now you know where the old axiom of -3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat come from” (http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/waht-is-body-fat-html/). Fat functions as energy storage in our bodies. These cells also insulate us and protect our organs. Here are a few major functions of body fats (https://www.healthstatus.com/health_blog/body-fat-calculator-2/body-fat-how-do):
- *Body fat help to maintain healthy skin and hair.
- *To maintain the right body temperature, it is essential to have adequate body fat.
- * Body fats are necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of cells.
- *Body fats have a cushioning effect on organs and tissues.
- *Body fats act as a shock absorbent for bones.
- *The body will not be able to absorb many vital vitamins like A, E, D and K unless they are able to combine with fats.
- *Body fats are also believed to act as immunity boosters to protect the body from ailments.
BUT the accumulation of too much fat can lead to difficulty breathing, arthritis and heart disease.
There are 5 ways to measure body fat. At the studio we use the bioelectric impedance in which you use a hand held device or step on a scale with sensors. Technically speaking, “Bioelectric Impedance Analysis, or BIA, determines the electrical impedance, or opposition to the flow of an electric current through the body. Muscle has higher water content, and is highly conductive, while fat has lower water content and is not highly conductive. Based on the strength of the impedance along with the height and weight metrics, the BIA scale will estimate fat-free body mass and body fat percentage” (www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage).
Skin fold calipers are another method. Your fat is literally pinched and the caliper (tool) measures the thickness. After compiling the measures between 7 – 12 sites on the body, the readings are compared to a chart and body fat is determined based on age and gender. I like the calipers but know they are uncomfortable and invasive for some folks.
Anthropometric measuring uses measuring tape for circumference. This is actually used by the Navy, “The U.S. Navy method takes waist, neck, and height circumference for men and hips, neck, and height for women” ((www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage). Their standards can be found online and are adhered to for employment purposes.
Hydrostatic Weighing is called the “Gold Standard”. This underwater test works well, “Because bone and muscle are more dense than water, a person with a larger percentage of body fat free mass will weigh more in the water and have a lower percent of body fat. Conversely, a large amount of fat mass will make the body lighter in water and have a higher percentage of body fat” (www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage). I did this last weekend and will have the company come in April to the studio for anyone interested. The person literally exhales all the air out of their lunges, submerges into the water, and then the statistics are compiled. The best of 3 readings was taken for me. I look forward to doing it again when I understand the test better and won’t be so scared to blow out all my air haha.
Finally, the DEXA Scan (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) uses 3 measures. It divides the body into total body mineral, fat-free soft (lean) mean, and fat tissue mass. You can actually figure out how fat is distributed in your body.
I don’t think anyone of us should get caught up or obsessive with these readings though. If it is headed in the right direction of our goals, than that is what counts. All the variables and the environment on that particular day come into play. For example, when I did the under-water test, I left thinking that I could have done better. Heads games for sure. Those readings can be dangerous for the mind depending on your self-awareness. We are on this journey together so let’s keep on keeping on in the forward direction.