Picture of muscular males body

Why Body Composition Matters a Lot More Than Body Weight

Like most people, you’ve probably used the weight scale to measure your fitness progress.

But have you ever stopped to consider what the value represents and if changes always mean improvement?

For example, if your goal is to lose weight and the scale shows a smaller reading, does that always mean you’re on the right track?

Today’s post will review the crucial differences between body composition and weight and why the former matters a lot more.

What is Body Composition?

Body composition measures how much adipose (fat) and lean (muscle, bone, water, etc.) tissue a person has. 

The simplest and most popular way to determine a person’s body composition is to look at their body fat percentage, which tells us how much fat they carry and largely determines physical appearance, health and long-term disease risk.

For example, if a person weighs 160 lbs and carries 16 lbs of fat, they are at ten per cent body fat, which is considered healthy and athletic. 

Now, if a person weighs 160 lbs but carries 32 lbs of fat, they are at twenty per cent body fat, which is considerably higher. Aside from impacting a person’s appearance, high body fat can put people at risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and more.

What is Body Weight?

Body weight is a measure of how heavy a person is. The simplest way to determine that is to have the person step on a weight scale.

Why Body Composition Matters a Lot More Than Body Weight

Most people, especially those new to fitness, obsess over their body weight and do everything they can to change it. The skinny person often looks to increase their weight, whereas overweight individuals love seeing smaller readings on the scale.

Unfortunately, body weight doesn’t tell the whole story because it doesn’t account for body composition. In other words, you might be gaining or losing weight, but is it the correct type of tissue?

For example, if an overweight person loses weight but mainly in the form of muscle, would that be good? Similarly, if a skinny individual gains weight but mostly in the form of fat, can we call that a win?

The body mass index (BMI) has a mixed reputation among health authorities precisely because it doesn’t tell the full story. It classifies people as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese solely based on height and weight. 

For example, if your BMI goes over 24.9, the upper limit for ‘normal weight,’ you would go into the overweight category. But what if that results from muscle gain and you are at a healthy body fat percentage? In that case, BMI becomes obsolete, and you’re better off focusing on other methods for tracking your fitness and health.

thin man stands on the scale

How to Track Body Composition More Accurately

1. Weight Scale

Aside from tracking body weight, more sophisticated scales can estimate your body fat percentage. Scales use bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) to determine what percentage of tissue is lean and fat.

These scales are not as accurate as other methods, such as a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan, but they are convenient and show you how your body fat percentage changes over time.

2. Circumference Measures

Taking circumference measures of various body parts is another way to determine if your body fat percentage is decreasing. For example, if your waist and hips are getting smaller, it most likely means you’re losing body fat.

You can also measure your arms, chest and thighs.

3. Progress Photos

Progress photos are the third good way to track body composition changes. We see ourselves in the mirror daily, so it can be challenging to notice changes. But, by comparing how your body looks at regular intervals (e.g., monthly), you can see improvements and stay motivated.

Where to Go From Here

Body weight is one way to track progress and can provide valuable data, especially when applied correctly. But, as you can see, it alone is not useful for tracking improvements because it can be misleading.

Additional progress-tracking tactics include progress photos, circumference measures and workout logging.

Combining these tactics would give you a far better understanding of your body composition and athletic performance.

Ready to transform your body composition? Get in touch with me today if you need some help!



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