Setting attainable goals is the first step in your fitness journey. As you achieve each goal, always keep looking ahead to the next one. What is ‘achievable’ for you will depend on where you are in your health and wellness journey.
So how can you know what is an attainable goal with body fat? Is there a magic number for body fat? The target body fat objective is frequently cited as 15 percent for men and 18 percent for women.
Why the difference between men and women? The female body requires more essential fat than the male body to perform functions such as pregnancy, birth, ovulation, and menstruation. As a result, women have higher overall body fat levels than men of comparable size and fitness levels. In fact, if the fat in women falls below 14 percent it can negatively impact their body.
So why are these considered the magic numbers when it comes to body composition?
The Background On Body Composition
Body composition measurements provide the percentages of lean mass (muscle) and fat, including visceral fat (the dangerous fat wrapped around your internal organs), offering a window into your physical fitness and risk for diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Although body mass index (BMI) is the common benchmark to assess whether a person is overweight or obese, it does not account for the percentage of lean muscle mass compared to fat mass. It also does not account for the distribution of weight, a common concern for fitness enthusiasts. Physicians have become increasingly aware of the limitations of BMI and the relationship between body composition and health risks. The most common measuring methods underrepresent a person’s fat mass percentage, downplaying the risk of chronic disease.
Dual Energy X-Ray (DEXA) is the most accurate method to determine body fat percentage. With this noninvasive test, you receive comprehensive data about your body composition, including the amount and distribution of fat and lean mass. It also provides bone density, which is a predictor of osteoporosis and osteopenia, and if treated early can prevent dangerous fractures and complications.
How Can You Reach Your Ideal Body Composition?
The short answer? Diet and exercise.
If your objective is to lose weight, you will need to create a caloric deficit, in a healthy way. Limit fatty, fried, sugary, and processed foods, and incorporate fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein.
One exercise routine technique is to set a minimum number of days per week to exercise, say 4-5, with 2-3 days focusing on weight training and the others focused on cardio.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a popular tool for athletic training. You exercise at your maximum heart rate for five minutes, then take a five-minute rest period before returning to your cardio activity of choice. You can opt for shorter intervals, such as 30 seconds of sprinting followed by 30 seconds of walking or jogging. Examples of HIIT Training include CrossFit, OrangeTheory, F45, FitBody Boot Camps. These programs are instructor-led, and designed so that you don’t need to wonder about your next move.
While cardio is critical, weight training is just as important in reaching your body composition goals. Strength training has a number of benefits beyond achieving weight loss:
- Reversing decreased muscle mass
- Increasing metabolism
- Building stronger bones and reducing risk of fracture
- Helping joints stay flexible and easing arthritis symptoms
If you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, try equipment-free exercises such as push-ups, squats, and lunges. When you feel comfortable with these exercises, you can begin adding weights to make it more challenging.
Understanding other metrics of your body may also shape your nutrition and fitness plan. Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) indicates the minimum amount of energy your body needs to function. Lowering your RMR increases the number of calories your body burns during physical activity, helping you build lean muscle and burn fat. Like body fat percentage, you may want to decrease your RMR to improve your overall fitness. Tracking this number reflects your progress toward these objectives.
VO2 max indicates the maximum amount of oxygen your body uses during physical activity. VO2 max increases endurance, improving your ability to burn fat.
Tracking your metrics and keeping a scoreboard or report card of your goals and measurables will help you achieve attainable long-term goals. Visit DEXASCAN.COM to find a provider near you that offers DEXA Scans, VO2, Resting Metabolic Rate and Nutrition programs.