body fat explained
the human body is made of water, protein, fat, and minerals. fat is divided into two parts which are non-fat mass (essential fat), and fat mass (stored fat). non-fat mass is fat that the body requires to function normally. this is the type of fat which is found in bones, liver, kidney, intestine, and muscles.
fat mass is found in the adipose tissue. this is the type of fat that is used by the body as energy. it works to insulate and cushion the body and its organs. an excessive amount of stored fat can be harmful to the body and having too much fat can lead to serious chronic diseases such as heart conditions, diabetes, etc.
how and why does the human body store excessive fat?
the amount of energy in a meal or a drink is measured in “calories”. when calories consumed are more than the calories exhausted, the human body starts to store the excess energy as bodyfat. if this process continues, it can result in excessive weight gain.
calculating the percentage of body fat
there are several methods that can be used to measure a person’s body fat percentage. a health professional might use a skin calliper to measure a person’s skin fold thickness. when done with good technique and proper knowledge, this method can be very accurate and efficient. body pod, hydrostatic weighing, DEXA (dual x-ray absorptiometry) scans, and bioelectrical impedance machines are some other methods/devices that are used to measure body fat percentage.
body pod: a machine used to measure how much air a person’s body displaces.
hydrostatic weighing: in underwater, lean tissue sinks and fat floats. underwater weighing helps estimate how much fat mass an individual has. this is a very accurate method of determining body composition but, it requires special equipment.
DEXA scan: a machine that uses low-level x-rays to find how much body fat, muscle, and bone are in a person’s body. it is quick and includes the bone weight in the assessment.
Bioelectrical impedance: this machine sends electrical currents through a person’s body. it then measures the speed at which the electrons travel. it is the cheapest method of measuring body fat, after skin callipers. However, it may not be very accurate.
how to get rid of excessive body fat?
every individual is different. the number of calories a person can consume will depend on their gender, age, height, and activity level. the first step to losing weight is to go on a calorie deficit. a calorie deficit happens when the caloric intake is less than the calories used. the second step is to increase the activity level. it can be something as simple as walking to work, going for a jog, or using the staircase instead of taking the elevator. once the body starts to adapt to the activity levels, it is advisable to increase the intensity of the activity since it will help in burning more calories. studies show that half an hour of aerobic exercise a day correlates with sustained weight loss.
according to the American journal of clinical nutrition, a healthy body fat percentage for men and women is determined by the person’s age. for women between 20 to 39, they should aim for 21% to 32% of body fat. for men between 20-39, they should have 8% to 19% body fat. For women between 40–59, they should aim for 23% to 33% bodyfat, and men should fall around 11% to 21%. women naturally have a higher percentage of body fat when compared to men. the body fat percentage increases naturally with age.
Wizam Abdul Wahid