What’s the ideal body composition?

Haven’t we always wondered about what our body is made of?

How we wish we could control the percentage of fat in our body; to know how many muscles we have…

In physical fitness, body composition is used to describe the percentages of fat, bone and muscle in human bodies. Because muscular tissue takes up less space in our body than fat tissue, our body composition, as well as our weight, determines leanness. Two people of the same height and same body weight may look completely different from each other because they have different body compositions.

Body composition is divided into two separate types of mass: fat-free mass — which is comprised of all of the body’s non-fat tissues — and body fat. Fat-free mass includes bone, water, muscle, and tissues. Body fat is literally fat located within the body. Some fat is necessary for overall health; it helps protect internal organs, provides energy and regulates hormones that perform various functions in body regulation. However, when someone is overweight or obese, they have an excessive accumulation of body fat.

Body composition (particularly body fat percentage) can be measured in several ways. The most common method is by using a set of measurement calipers to measure the thickness of subcutaneous fat in multiple places on the body. This includes the abdominal area, the upper back region, arms, buttocks and thighs. These measurements are then used to estimate total body fat with a margin of error.

Another method is bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), which uses the resistance of electrical flow through the body to estimate body fat. This kind of analysis is used in most modern health clubs.

Someone with a body composition that includes excessive body fat is more likely to suffer from weight-related health problems.

The major component of the human body is water. The protein, carbohydrate and fat are relatively small, with the remainder being primarily bone and mineral.

The body is composed:

Water                                                   61.6%

Fat                                                        13.8%

Protein                                                 17%

Carbohydrate                                      1.5 %

Various vitamins and minerals              6.1%

So if a person weighs 65kg, he will have:

11kg protein, 9kg fat, 1kg carbohydrate, 4kgs minerals and 40kgs water

If you have too much fat, especially at the waist, you’re at higher risk for health problems such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Risk for heart disease and stroke

Storage fat is located around internal organs and directly beneath the skin it provides bodily protection and serves as an insulator to conserve body heat.

Weighing yourself on a regular scale does not truly assess your body composition, because a regular scale cannot tell the difference between how much of your total weight is comprised of water, fat, or muscle.

Body Mass Index

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a quick and easy way to determine if one’s weight is appropriate for one’s height. It has recently been used to quantify an individual’s obesity level.












BMI =   Weight (Kgs) / Height (meter square)

Weight BMI
Normal 18.5 – 24.9
Overweight 25 – 29.9
Obese 30 – 34.9
Severely obese 35 – 35.9
Morbidly obese >40

Recommended Body Composition


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) USA recommends that healthy adult men should have between 13-17 percent body fat, while adult women should have between 20-21 percent body fat. Men who have a body fat percentage that exceeds 25% and women who have more than 30% body fat are considered obese.

However, athletes or people participating in competitive sporting activities may benefit from even lower body fat levels than recommended by the NIH.

The ‘ideal’ body composition may also vary depending on the type of sport or activity.

Set a realistic goal for maintaining your body fat and you will be able to achieve it with moderate regular physical activity and a healthy diet.

Text: Y. Ramakrishna.

The author is a Sports Performance Enhancement Specialist

Image: Flickr Creative commons puuikibeach

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The truth about strength training for women
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