How to Improve Body Composition, Based on Science

Medically Reviewed on 8/24/2022
How to Improve Body Composition, Based on Science
Body composition refers to all of the components that make up your body: fat, muscle, bones, and water

Most people focus on the number on the bathroom scale when trying to lose weight. However, just because your weight is not changing does not mean that your body composition is not changing.

Body composition refers to all of the components that make up your body: fat, muscle, bones, and water.

Body composition is a good parameter to use to monitor positive changes in your body and health. There is no point in losing weight if what you are losing is bone and muscle mass and not body fat.

Learn how to improve your body composition through nutrition, exercise, and stress management.

3 ways to improve body composition

You can improve body composition by losing body fat or increasing muscle or both. Basic principles to follow when trying to accomplish this include balanced nutrition and regular exercise.


One simple approach to improving body composition is to transition to a healthier diet centered on whole foods rather than junk food. Choose foods that are low in sugar and high in protein and healthy fats, and limit your carb intake to fruits and vegetables. 

Do not forget to include fiber and to drink plenty of water.

Physical exercise

The best way to avoid fat accumulation is to burn more calories through physical activity. 

For the best results, follow a balanced fitness regimen that incorporates both strength training and cardio, as each type of exercise has an effect on body composition. Strength training helps you build stronger, leaner muscles and increase your metabolic rate, allowing your body to burn more calories even when resting. Cardio burns more calories and encourages your body to use more stored fat for fuel.

Stress management

Chronic stress can cause your hormones to go into overdrive, disrupting your insulin sensitivity and eating patterns. Stress also tricks your body into storing more fat.

Why is body composition important?

Understanding body composition is important if you are trying to improve your fitness.

Unlike a body mass index calculator, which cannot distinguish between fat and muscle mass, a body composition test can accurately assess the amount of fat, lean muscle, and water in your body.

Tracking these amounts as you lose weight or gain muscle is crucial for planning your workout regimen and adjusting your diet accordingly. The more you know about your body composition, the easier it is to devise a strategy for losing fat and building muscle.

Knowing your body composition also helps ensure that you do not lose too little or too much fat, which can eventually lead to health problems.

What is ideal body composition?

Body fat percentage is commonly used to assess body composition. 

  • Body fat percentages ranging from 10%-25% for men and 18%-30% for women have been associated with good health.
  • Body fat percentages of 5%-13% for men and 12%-22% for women are more common among physically active people.
  • The minimal level of body fat designated as necessary body fat is 5% for men and 8% for women.

The lowest amount of fat required by your body to maintain health is known as essential fat. Your body needs essential fat, as losing too much fat can have serious health effects. Being underweight can make it difficult to retain lean body tissue as you age, cause electrolyte imbalances, and make you prone to fractures due to brittle bones.


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How to assess body composition

Body composition can be measured in a variety of ways:

  • Dual-energy X-ray absorption (DXA) spectroscopy is widely regarded as the gold standard method for evaluating body composition, as it provides scientific and professional findings. However, it can be costly and time-consuming, and it is only available to certain health experts.
  • Calipers can measure fat or skinfolds at various locations on the body to determine the total amount of body fat. Standards are used to compare measurements. When fat folds at several locations are quantified, a clearer picture of body composition emerges. These are mostly used in academic research and studies.
  • Hydrodensitometry, often known as underwater weighing, evaluates body density and can be used to assess body composition.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging scans can help assess skeletal muscle mass and fat mass. It can even differentiate between visceral and subcutaneous fat.

Body fat percentage, weight, body mass index, and waist circumference are all used as health markers.

What are the benefits of improving body composition?

If you have low energy or are carrying more weight than you want, adjusting your body composition is an important way to look and feel better. Improving your body composition can have the following benefits:

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Medically Reviewed on 8/24/2022
Image Source: iStock image

What Is Body Composition?