July 2015

A Look at Body Composition Analysis

bcascale

Over the years, two key indicators have measured a person’s health risk due to weight: pounds (or kilograms) and body mass index (BMI). While that still holds true today, research has determined that these factors alone do not tell the whole story. In order to accurately assess your true health risk, you need to know your body’s composition. That is, a reading of fat, muscle and water percentage will give you critical information for creating an effective strategy for safe, long-lasting weight loss.

The ultimate goal in losing weight is to know that the right type of weight is coming off, which means reducing fat and increasing or maintaining muscle mass.

So what is used to measure a body’s composition? Up until the 1990’s, the closest we could get to determine body fat percentage was through the use of calipers. Calipers work by pinching a fold of skin on various parts of the body. They may be effective in reading the fat percentage of specific body sections, but they do not provide the most accurate total body fat percentage.

Then through medical technological advancements, the DEXA scan was introduced, which is known as the gold standard of body composition measurement. The DEXA machine works by having a patient lie down motionless on a table while the scanner moves over each part of the body. After five to ten minutes, results are generated showing the detailed percentages of fat, muscle and water in the entire body as well as compartments of the body (e.g., left arm, right arm, torso). The procedure is a breakthrough in body composition analysis (BCA), but it remains generally inaccessible due to its high costs, ranging from $100 to $300 per session.

Luckily today, there is a much lower cost analysis option with measurement capabilities that are close to those of the DEXA. It comes in the form of a scale that is just like the one you see in our office, but with features that make the critical difference in measuring your health risk profile.

The BCA scale utilizes bioelectrical impedance to determine a person’s water weight, fat mass, and predicted muscle mass for the body and each major body component This non-invasive method sends a low-level electric current through the body,. Body composition is calculated from the resistance to the flow of the electrical current. Don’t let this scare you! It’s safe and you don’t feel a thing.

Body composition analysis is fast and simple. The BCA scale reads results within seconds. Regular BCA scale readings make it easy for medical providers to fine-tune your weight loss program based on how you are progressing. For instance, if you’re exercising and the traditional scale shows that you’ve gained pounds, you may feel discouraged. However, the BCA scale may show that you’ve lost body fat, an indicator that the added weight may be muscle produced from your fitness activities. This is exactly the direction you want to go! Higher muscle percentage beats higher fat percentage any day of the week.

If you haven’t measured your body composition and feel that your weight may be the source of your health issues, go ahead and make an appointment with our office. The earlier you know your body’s breakdown, the sooner you can take steps to improve your health and well-being.

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Why Losing Weight Gets Harder as You Age (And What You Can Do About It)

older-adult-fitnessThe saying “youth is wasted on the young” might just hold the most meaning when talking about weight loss. In our early years, we rarely give a second thought to the consequences of splurging on late night milkshake and fries. It may create temporary uncomfortable feelings, but we can bounce back the next day with fairly little effort. And then we do it again and again, because our young, energy-efficient bodies give us the runway to do so. How wonderful, right?!

But then life plays a cruel joke on us as we creep up in age. At first the changes are subtle. Recovery time from splurges lengthens and we notice that it’s not as easy as it used to be to shed unwanted pounds. Then before we know it, we feel stuck in a place we really don’t want to be. The weight either won’t come off (or stay off) and the cycle of discouragement sets in. Should we just surrender to the ravages of time and suffer the consequences of the natural aging process?

No! And we’ll tell you why and how.

In order to beat Father Time at his aging game, we need to take a look at the main culprits that make it harder to lose weight as we move on in years.

Muscle Loss – You may not realize it, but your body begins to lose muscle mass after the age of 30. Muscle is the body’s best calorie burner, and the more muscle your body has, the higher your metabolism will be. Losing muscle tissue lowers your metabolism, so even though you may be eating the same amount as when you were younger, you will begin to store excess calories in the form of body fat.

Calorie Needs – As you age and naturally lose muscle mass, your body requires fewer calories in order to maintain your current weight. If your calorie intake stays the same as your metabolic rate slows, and you don’t increase your physical activity, weight gain becomes unavoidable.

Stress– As we age, we often take on new life responsibilities, such as building a career, raising a family, and keeping up with mortgage payments. All of these responsibilities can create high levels of stress, which has a very real impact on health and well-being. What you may not know is that the stress you’re dealing with may be a contributor to overeating and weight gain. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is associated with fat accumulation along the midsection of the body. The more cortisol produced, the more stubborn belly fat to battle. Even more discouraging, higher cortisol levels also result in increased calorie consumption. In a British study, researchers found that people with high cortisol levels were more likely to snack in order to cope with the daily hassles in their lives than low-cortisol producers.

Now, let’s talk about how we can turn back the hands of time, at least physically:

Build Lean Muscle Mass – A proven way to build and maintain lean muscle mass is to eat greater amounts of protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts, and seeds. Protein provides the building blocks for healthy muscle and generally increases satiety levels, which results in less hunger and therefore less calorie consumption. If you don’t consume the excess calories, they have no chance for your body to store them as fat.  But remember, don’t overdo it on the protein. Too much protein can backfire on you in the form of unwanted stress on your organs’ ability to successfully metabolize it. Balance it with foods with high fiber and healthy fats.

Exercise is another important tool in fighting muscle loss that comes with age. According to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine, after an average of 18 to 20 weeks of progressive resistance training, adults can gain over two pounds of lean muscle mass, and increase their overall strength by over 25 percent. To ensure safety and success, speak with your medical provider before starting any exercise program.

Reduce Calorie Consumption– This always sounds like a major downer, but many people confuse cutting back on calories with having to eat less. The best thing to do is choose foods that have high nutrient density. This means you can eat more, but without all the extra calories your body doesn’t need. Next time you’re at the market, choose high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water to help you feel full.

Reduce Stress– The path to stress reduction might not be as clear as that for building muscle mass or cutting back on calories, but it is critical to reduce stress if you are trying to lose weight. There are actually many different proven ways to do this. One popular way is through increasing activity levels.. A simple 20-minute workout can reduce stress, clear your mind, and burn extra calories. Many people today are also enjoying the stress-busting effects of meditation. There are several different forms of meditation, so explore them to see which might suit your preferences and lifestyle. And if you are unsure about which action to take to reduce stress, at a minimum, just talk to someone. Let them know about your pressures and desire to more effectively manage them. The process of revealing your thoughts to an empathetic supporter provides stress relief on its own.!

If you can identify the specific weight loss challenges in your life, you can take the necessary actions to achieve healthy weight loss, which has the high probability of reviving some of that same energy you felt when you were younger. The end result of effective weight loss could mean that we can live with the wisdom and grace that only age can give us, but in a younger-feeling, healthier body. Now that sounds pretty wonderful to us.

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Does Your Weight Increase Your Risk of Injury?

knee_painObesity can hurt us, and not just with greater risks of serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. It affects our bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, which we need for optimal mobility in our busy daily lives. When our skeletal and muscular systems are compromised, physical injuries are more likely to occur.

About one in five people suffer an injury that requires medical attention, and research shows a link between obesity and higher injury risks in adults.. According to a study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, the odds of sustaining an injury are 48 percent greater for those who are living with obesity. Obesity may limit what a person can do physically (like climbing up a flight of stairs), making it easier to get hurt.

Let’s examine areas of the body that are more prone to injury due to increased pressure on them by excess weight.

Knee joints. Obesity can increase wear-and tear on knee joints and cause osteoarthritis (OA). When you walk across a flat surface, the force exerted on your knees is about one-and-a-half times your body weight. That means a 200-pound person puts 300 pounds worth of pressure on their knees with every step. Obese men and women are five times more likely to suffer from OA. OA can lead to torn ligaments and other serious knee injuries that may require surgery.

Back. Disc degeneration occurs naturally as you age, but excess weight may speed up the process and lead to injury. A study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism found that men and women suffering from disc degeneration had significantly higher body mass indexes (BMI). In some cases, pain from disc degeneration can lead to disability from work. Excess weight, particularly in the abdomen, can shift your center of gravity, putting more stress on your back muscles.

Where are you most likely to injure yourself? According to the Center for Disease Control, the leading cause for injury is falls in or around the home. This is likely from a lack of peripheral sensation, general physical weakness, and instability while walking or standing. According to a study from Ohio State University, individuals living with obesity were twice as likely to suffer an at home injury compared to those at healthy weights.

Obesity also presents dangers at work. An eight-year study published in PLOS ONE found that obesity increased the risk of work-related injury by 20 percent. The list of occupational injuries is staggering- broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, concussions, internal injuries, slips, trips, stumbles, falls.

Workplace injuries can also become a financial nightmare for people suffering from obesity. A study by Duke University found that medical costs for morbidly obese employees were seven times higher than for employees with recommended weights.

So what can you do to lower your risk of injury?

You guessed it- weight loss! A study published by the Journal American Medical Association found that obese men and women who participated in a diet and exercise program were able to lose 10 percent of their body weight were able to improve mobility, knee function, and quality of life. We know it’s easier said than done, but the effort will be well worth it in the long run.

There are times when injuries are out of our control. But managing weight is one thing we can do to lower our risk of injury and improve our overall health. Talk to your medical provider about your weight loss options.

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Exercise or Diet: Which is More Important For Weight Loss?

diet-and-exerciseIf you are exercising regularly, but don’t see the numbers going down on the scale, you might be misguided about the best way to lose weight. Many people fall into the trap that exercise alone will make the pounds come off. The training montages in action movies, extreme weight loss programs on TV, and fitness success stories can motivate us, but they paint an unrealistic picture about the role of exercise in losing weight. How has this idea gained so much credit?

The human body contains fat mass and lean mass, which includes muscle. It’s scientifically proven that muscle is the body’s best fat burner, and that having more muscle will lead to weight loss. And how do you get more muscle? Because it is most associated with muscle development, the most popular answer is through exercise. This probably explains why it is widely accepted as a primary weight loss solution.

The truth is, it is extremely difficult to lose weight from exercise alone. A pound of fat is 3500 calories. In order to burn off that pound, you would need to bike ride for about seven hours. But wait, we haven’t even counted the calories you’re consuming from food. If you are consuming 2000 calories a day, you would we need to work out for four hours a day just to maintain the same weight. You would end up working out over 40 hours a week to lose weight, and that’s if everything is perfect.

It is much easier to cut calories out of your diet than burn them through exercise. Let’s go back to the example of the pound of fat. If you regularly eat two small bags of potato chips a day, you’re consuming about 500 calories from these snacks. If you cut this treat out for one week, the calories you save will add up to a pound of fat.

Increasing physical activity has many health benefits, but the part it plays in weight loss isn’t as large as the public may think. Let’s take a look at the role of exercise in the different stages of weight loss:

Weight Loss Beginner

You are now on the road to weight loss, and like any journey, you must choose a path. The key to losing weight is consuming fewer calories than you burn, and developing healthy eating habits is your ticket to long-term success. First you need to know how many calories you’re eating. This sounds easy enough, but more often than not we eat a lot more than we think. A study by Cornell University found that overweight people tend to underestimate the calories they are consuming by 40 percent. The best way to count calories is to record your meals in a food journal.

As a weight loss beginner, you will need to increase your knowledge of your calorie sources- proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and sugars. Each of these sources can have vastly different effects on hunger, metabolism, and regions of the brain that control food intake. Protein-rich foods will boost your metabolism and curb your appetite while sugary foods may reduce your brain’s ability to release signals of fullness, causing you to eat more. As you increase your nutrition knowledge, you will find foods that both facilitate weight loss and you enjoy eating.

Now that you’re eating healthier, you will begin to notice the number on the scale going down. Weight loss will bring about changes to your body mass composition. As you shed pounds, your ratio of lean mass to fat mass will improve. This means you will start having more muscle tissue than fat from dieting alone. And as we all know, muscle is our body’s best calorie burner!

Continuing to Lose Weight

You have lost weight and noticed differences in how you look and feel.  But after your initial weight loss, you may struggle to lose more weight and hit a plateau. As you weigh less, your body will require fewer calories or more physical activity to sustain your lower body weight. This is a time when you can start to consider exercise as part of your weight loss program. The added exercise will help build muscle and burn more calories to help break the plateau. Hitting a plateau should also encourage you to reexamine your eating habits. You may be have grown comfortable with your food plan and begun overestimating your portion sizes.

Maintaining Your Weight Loss Success

Now that you’ve reached your weight loss goal, this isn’t a time to revert to old unhealthy habits. Managing weight is a lifelong process. Exercise is a marker for long-term weight loss. In a study published in the journal Obesity, more than half of all participants that were successful at losing weight were able to keep it off through diet and exercise alone after 8 years. Find an exercise program that works for you, and keep that weight off!

Bottom line: What you consume is most important for achieving weight loss. Exercise has many health benefits but shouldn’t be viewed as a be-all end-all weight loss solution. However, as you develop your nutritional knowledge and healthy eating habits, exercise plays an important component in long term weight maintenance.

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