How Much Body Fat is Healthy? Taking You to the Secret of "Lean Body Mass"
What do you think is the body fat rate to be considered healthy? 10% or 20%?
To understand this problem, we must first understand body composition. Body composition refers to body fat to non-fat, to body weight. Generally speaking, we divide body weight into two parts: fat weight and non-fat weight. The non-fat parts include muscles, bones, and other non-fat tissues. Nowadays, the impact of fat on health has attracted more and more attention from modern people, and the proportion of fat in body tissues in body composition scale has also been studied more and more. The body composition analysis has become crucial for bodily health and the technique to do so must be reliable. 3D body scanner has been introduced in the healthcare world making the measurement of body fat scales more feasible than ever!
In addition, body fat is divided into essential fats, such as bone marrow, liver, and lungs. If these parts lack fat, the functioning of the body will become problematic.
Another type of fat is called storage fat. Most of this type of fat accumulates in the subcutaneous tissue. When too much fat accumulates in the body, it is easy to cause common health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Of course, in addition to fat mass, there is muscle mass, which is the body’s tissues and fat, bones, and water. Muscles are divided into three categories: smooth muscle, cardiac muscle, and skeletal muscle of internal organs. In most cases, the muscles we are talking about are skeletal muscles. It is the only muscle tissue that the human body can control itself. As the name suggests, it is the muscles attached to the bones. The brain’s consciousness can make skeletal muscles use joints as fulcrums to pull bones to produce actions, so skeletal muscles are also called voluntary muscles.
The Importance of Skeletal Muscles
The human body has more than 600 skeletal muscles of different sizes, which account for about 36-40% of body weight. Skeletal muscles are connected to bones through tendons, which play a pivotal role in sports. For example, if you curl your arms up, you need to contract your biceps and relax your triceps. In addition, training skeletal muscles in various ways can increase physical activity, balance, and muscle strength. Therefore, maintaining the health of skeletal muscles is very important for the body’s normal functioning.
How to Calculate Body Composition
The most accurate method is to test and calculate it through sophisticated medical equipment for the determination of muscle content, body fat percentage, and other tissues a person’s body has. One of the most reliable methods is Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA).
However, many weight scales contain functions to calculate fat, water, and bone weight. Although not every device can be 100% accurate, most rely on calculations to get the body fat percentage. Therefore, we use 100 to subtract this percentage to get the lean body mass percentage.
Lean body mass includes the weight of muscles, bones, and other body tissues.
Muscle and Health
The muscles in your body thrive only when you eat healthily and exercise moderately. The more inactive muscles you keep, the more they move towards ‘dystrophy,’ i.e., muscular deterioration. Muscles might look something superficial for your health, but most of us only disregard muscular health. It is essential to understand how muscles play a role in the body’s gut health and protect all our vital organs. The skeletal muscles allow movement and degradation of muscles, which means less protection and damaged body’s physical health. As age increases, the amount of muscle in the human body will gradually decrease. This phenomenon of muscle loss is “sarcopenia.”
This problem will affect our daily activities, such as walking or climbing stairs and other simple actions. The percentage of human muscle mass varies from person to person, depending on exercise habits, body type, gender, and genetics.
So, how much muscle mass is vital to be healthy? On this point, there is currently no single correct answer. However, a healthy body fat ratio is vital to measuring human body composition.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s data (ACSM), a healthy body fat ratio is in the following chart:
Training Can Increase Muscle
Training the body and lifting suitable weights is an effective way of increasing the body muscles. Different forms of training help increase the muscular mass of the body. It includes lifting free weights or using stationary weights, resistance band activities, and bodyweight exercises like pushups and squats.
Age, gender, and genetic genes will affect the amount of muscle mass, but these are only innate effects. We can also strengthen the day after tomorrow; strength training is the best way to increase muscle. The mechanism of muscle development is muscular hypertrophy. When we exercise our muscles, they demand more energy and oxygen to deliver, which new and more blood vessels make access to the muscle. It creates new muscle cells called myocytes and repairing the older and injured muscles promotes even more muscle cell development. This is how the muscular mass of the body gradually increases.
According to the 2015-2020 U.S. Fitness Training Guidelines, adolescents aged 6-17 should take 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical training every day. Adults between 18 – 64 years of age should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity training per week or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of aerobic exercise intensity training per week.
Older people over 65 years old cannot meet the guidelines for adult exercise time. However, they should maintain their physical activity within the range of physical stamina and conditions.
Causes of Muscle Gain and Fat Loss
Studies have shown that over weightiness (too high body fat) or obesity can cause musculoskeletal damage and reduce exercise performance. It can decrease exercise capacity, poor heat dissipation, excessive heart load, slow response, and poorly affect exercise training. In addition, it can cause many health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, depression, hyperlipidemia, and cardiovascular-related diseases).
Every increase of 1cm² of muscle fiber surface area can produce 6Kg of muscle strength. Therefore, your muscle strength will significantly improve if you increase 1kg of muscle and reduce 1kg of fat. This is why world-class athletes are very concerned about the body; the reason being the fat-muscle ratio.
However, although the body fat rate is probable on body shape or a simple mathematical formula, an approximate interval is predictable. But the actual measurement is more troublesome, such as skinfold measurement, underwater weighing, bio-resistance, etc.
Running & Body Fat Percentage
Their body fat percentage is usually within the normal range for runners who run regularly. Still, for professional and elite runners, their bodies are very well-proportion, smooth, and have low body fat. Researchers conducted statistics on the fat content of middle and long-distance runners and found that the body fat rate of excellent marathon runners for men was 10.3%, and that of women was 15.2%. Such a body fat rate ensures enough energy for the body without affecting running endurance.
The top marathon runners have a body fat rate of 8% for men and 12% for women, or even lower. However, they are already in the lower body fat rate range for these elite runners. The effect of reducing fat affect performance is not apparent. Their performance depends more on the training plan and the athlete’s talent. However, for mass runners, the amount of fat still influences running performance. The body fat range of 10%-15% for male runners and 13%-17% for women is ideal.