Body Composition - the 'F' word
In its recent Body Composition series, PerformancePro gave an overview of body composition and the ways of measuring the proportion of fat, muscle and bone. We confirmed the most accurate and consistent way to measure the visceral and subcutaneous fat in your body is with a DEXA scan.
As with most things in life, knowledge is power, so equipping ourselves with some essential fat facts helps us take control.
Knowing how much body fat and visceral fat you have and where levels may be abnormally high is important. Not for the sake of the number itself, but for what it implies about both your health and physical performance. There are guidelines on what is deemed healthy or excessive and this differs according to age and gender.
Also decisions as to what you do will depend upon your health and/or if your sporting or daily performance of tasks would be made easier by losing some fat mass. Or you may just want to be leaner for personal preference.
FAT FACTS – THE ESSENTIAL ROLE OF FAT
Fat isn’t bad, it’s essential. We need some fat to stay healthy and allow our bodies to function optimally. Fat has a vital role in energy storage, cell integrity, insulation and protecting us from impact injuries. It literally cushions the soft tissue around the major organs.
In the sporting arena, there are sports where extra fat levels do no harm to performance and can even play a key role in beating an opponent, such as strongman, highland games and sumo-wrestling. That is not to say, however, that increasing muscle isn’t desirable too.
For endurance sports, athletes benefit from some fat storage to maintain energy production on longer events. The only drawback to using stored body fat as fuel for exercise is that the process of getting energy from fat is slower than from a stored or consumed carbohydrate. As a result, force outputs (productivity) could be lower.
Before we look at whether or not it’s a good idea to lose any fat mass, let’s consider two types of fat we carry.
WHITE AND BROWN FAT
Fat cells (adipocytes) fall into two main types, white and brown. The existence of beige fat cells suggests a ‘browning’ effect (cells changing from white to brown) and therefore the possibility of change within the cell function.
White fat cells have lower metabolic properties, are harder to access as an energy source and are shown to be more harmful long term. Comparatively, brown fat cells are much more metabolically active, an easier to access energy source and can be protective against extreme cold.
Beige fat tends to show up after exercise. For some time, we have known that exercise increases metabolism and some types of exercise do this even beyond the calories used for the workout itself (eg, the “after burn” of HIIT and resistance training). Part of the mechanism behind this is thought to be the enhancement of brown (metabolically active) fat cells and ‘browning’ of the white cells. So this suggests that exercise, in turning white cells brown, makes them metabolically more active and they get drawn upon for energy (what most of us call “burning fat”.
Not surprisingly, research in this area is now starting to reveal potential obesity and diabetes treatments through the same mechanisms.
TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR OWN FAT LEVELS
Fat isn’t all bad. We need it in our bodies and in our diet. Too much body fat, however, can be dangerous so it’s a good idea to get a precise indication of exactly how much fat you’re carrying so you can set a target for how much you need to lose.
Whilst it doesn’t differentiate between white and brown fat cells, a DEXA scan is the most accurate and consistent way to measure your fat, how it’s distributed around your body and changes over time. You’ll also see how much visceral (internal) fat you have, how much muscle and how it's distributed.
If you’re looking for high-quality personal training to reduce body fat and/or improve health, fitness and performance, then consider Bodyscan partner PerformancePro. They are a small athlete-grade gym and training centre in the West End, just 15 minutes from both Bodyscan locations (walk from W1, tube from City). They don’t tie you in with memberships but instead offer pay-as you-go intelligent personal training for grown-ups in a beautifully designed, state of the art, calm environment. With no more than a handful of people training at any one time, it’s a space where our clients feel comfortable and motivated.
Special Offer for Bodyscan customers
Bodyscan clients can enjoy a complimentary training session when they book 5 sessions or more with PerformancePro. This is in addition to your free consultation. Take your first step and book your free (no strings) consultation with PerformancePro today.