You may weight the same as you were in college but are you thin yet obese? Not all weight is created equal. As we age our body composition changes, we begin to lose muscle mass in our mid thirties and become softer around the middle replacing lost mass with fat that weighs less than muscle. Even if we remain the same weight through diet and aerobic exercise, we may still be at risk of disease related to fat. Fat is a source of inflammation; it’s also a storage depot for heavy metals and other toxins. While we need fat to cushion our feet, add fullness to our face, insulate against cold and store energy, too much fat is a risk factor for many diseases such as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders, allergies, asthma and more.
Look at the example of 2 men who are the same height, weight and body mass index or BMI. If you stayed at the same weight and your body composition changed, the less muscle mass you have, the less calories you burn and the less calories you need to maintain that weight. It’s no wonder why, no matter how much you cut back on calories, you still gain weight. You also cannot get enough nutrients to maintain health, as your calories are restricted unless you eat only nutrient dense food.
It’s important to measure your body composition. While the most accurate way is submersion in water, it’s not very practical. Having a skilled health or fitness practitioner measure with body fat calipers or using a body fat analyzer or body composition analyzer, can give you a measure of your body composition. Weigh yourself at the same time of day and on the same scale to track trends. The amount of water you drink, exercise and general state of hydration can affect the readings so measure under the same conditions.
Strength training can build muscle and restore muscle mass, which burns more calories and changes your body composition more readily than aerobic exercise alone. To build your muscle mass, train at 65% of the maximum weight you can lift. Some may have to build up to this slowly to avoid injury.
Get your body composition and strength measured by an expert as well as other physical parameters such a blood pressure, waist to hip ratio, reaction time and balance which are indicators of premature aging, risk for disease or injury.
There was an excellent article in The Wall Street Journal discussing the Mayo Clinic study that found 30 million Americans fall into the normal weight obesity category and are at risk of obesity related disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. WSJ BMI article
Knowledge is power, so know your numbers so you can change your body composition and enjoy greater strength, while reducing your waistline and risk factors for disease.
Dr. Lorraine Maita has expertise in detecting thr biomarkers of aging, performs a functional physical performance evaluation inclusive of cardiovascular risk factors and is a Diplomate in The American Academy of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine and Internal Medicine. She specializes in lifestyle, stress management, exercise, nutrition, supplements, bioidentical hormone replacement, neurocognitive function and executive physicals in Short Hills, NJ