Body composition refers to the amount of fat and lean body mass in your body. At times the amount of water you hold can also transiently affect body composition but since can be fixed rather quickly it’s usually not involved in the body composition equation.
For most people maximizing body composition means minimizing body fat, decreasing waist size since two types of fat are mostly responsible for expanding waist lines, and keeping muscle so they can look fit and healthy.
While your unique genetic makeup is a factor in the body composition equation, we can all improve our body composition and achieve a look that you feel is ideal for you.
For most athletes, the body composition equation comes down to maximum performance relative to body weight, muscle mass, and fat mass.
Power athletes, especially in those sports that have weight divisions, want to maximize their performance by maximizing the amount of muscle mass and strength, while minimizing body fat so that they’re carrying the most amount of functional muscle specific to their sport, while remaining within their respective weight class. This may not apply to a weight class that has no weight limit such as super heavyweights in some power sports. In these cases body composition means carrying the maximum amount of muscle and at times the maximum amount of weigh.
For those athletes that compete in a specific weight class maximizing the amount of muscle is paramount, giving them a pound for pound edge in strength and performance. For example, let’s say that you’re a powerlifter, bodybuilder, wrestler, Olympic lifter, MMA fighter, boxer, etc., that competes in the 180 lb weight class. If you have 10 percent body fat you’re carrying 18 pounds of fat. If you’re at 5% body fat then you’re only carrying 9 pounds of fat, but more importantly 9 more pounds of muscle and thus more strength.
Water of course comes into this equation as most athletes in weight classes will dehydrate themselves before the weigh in and rehydrate after so that their weight at weigh in will usually be at or close to the maximum weight allowed for that weight class. However, after rehydrating the athlete may compete at a much higher weight.
There are other ways that athletes try and minimize their weight at weigh ins such as emptying their bowels and bladder, minimizing body hair, etc.
However, manipulating your weight over a short period of time, usually one day or less (for example it’s only 2 hours in some powerlifting federations) for purposes of gaining an advantage at a particular weight class really has no effect on the amount of muscle and fat in your body, just in the amount of water you’re carrying and so is not important when discussing body composition.
Athletes not in weight classes, including most track and field events, and many amateur and professional sports, such as football, basketball, baseball, soccer, gymnastics, etc. maximizing body composition for whatever weight works best for them in the sport, is a vital key in maximizing their performance. Even an ultra marathon runner who wants to minimize his or her weight and thus maximize running efficiency and performance, will want to maximize their body composition.
Improving body composition is also a goal for most people who want to lose weight or just increase their fitness level. Those who want to lose weight should be looking at maximizing fat loss and minimizing the loss of lean body mass, especially muscle, not only because they’ll look better (trim waist, no cellulite, etc.) but because they’ll also improve their health and well being, and decrease disease.
The bottom line is that everyone, average Joe or elite athlete, should be looking to improve their body composition. This is also an important issue as we age since age related changes in body composition can compromise function and quality of life.
On this site we’ll show you why you should and just how to achieve your body composition goals, regardless of what they are.