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Understanding your Body's Composition

You have probably heard that the human body is mostly made of water - and this partially correct. But all that water is held together using carbon and other atoms. Some fad diets even try to reduce a person's body weight by reducing their use of water, and thus reducing a person's water weight - which makes a person dehydrated, long term lack of water can cause mental illness and a host of other problems. So those fad diets do work in the sense that person does lose weight, but because it is mostly water they end up regaining the weight as soon as they go back to a normal diet and have normal amounts of water again.

Attacking your body's use of water however is not the solution however. While water is found in both fat cells and muscle, it is not the cause of a person being overweight.

We should note also that fell cells never actually disappear. They just get bigger as they store energy or smaller as they expend energy. Eating healthier foods, getting lots of exercise causes the fat cells to store less energy and to be expending more energy than they are storing.

Your body's composition comes down a number of factors:

Bones and Bone Density

The more you exercise the stronger your bone density becomes. Thus bodybuilders and athletes often have surprisingly strong bone density. Not unbreakable, but still amazingly strong. (Although the film "Unbreakable" starring Bruce Willis suggests that it would be theoretically possible for a person to have unusually strong bones.)

Bone density can fluctuate due to diet, amount of exercise a person is getting, and genetic factors.

Muscle Weight

Muscles weighs more than fat. Try weighing some lean meat sometime and note how much little space 1 lb of lean muscle actually takes up space. Now compare that to 1 lb of fat further below. A person who is very muscular might not look very big, but they might still weight quite a bit. So someone who weighs 250 lbs, but it is all muscle will still look pretty impressive with their shirt off - but might look like a proverbial Bruce Wayne when they are dressed in a suit and tie. For fun see my past article about Christian Bale's muscle gains and losses. When preparing for the role he once weighed 210 lbs, but had to back it down a bit because he ended up looking too beefy.

Muscle weight can also go up or down quite suddenly and rapidly. Being sick for a week, a person could easily lose 10 lbs of muscle. When "Spring Training" athletes can often gain back 20 lbs of muscle in the first 2 to 4 weeks because they have been slacking off during the winter. I myself have a tendency to take it too easy during the winter and often put on 20 lbs of muscle every Spring when I get back into exercising outdoors. This year I am planning to put on extra muscle this upcoming winter.

Body Fat

Fat takes up a lot of space in your body. By volume it actually does not weigh very much, it is light weight - but it is HUGE. A lb of fat is roughly the size of an adult fist. So 5 lbs of fat is about the size of fists. All that space however is basically just for storing energy - energy for exercise, energy for keeping the body warm, and also acting as insulation against the cold.

During the Autumn, as temperatures drop and humans start getting less Vitamin D from the sun we start storing more energy inside our fat cells. Around Christmas time we store lots of food, not just because of traditions, but because our bodies crave more food when we are low on Vitamin D. This storing of energy as fat is hard-wired into our DNA, part of our "caveman genes" and is used as a survival mechanism to keep you alive during the long cold winter. Learn more about Vitamin D by reading "Can Vitamin D help you lose weight?"


Speaking of caveman genes, lets talk about genetics in general. Your body's composition of fat, muscle, bone density, etc is effected by your body's genetics. The same thing that makes your hair black and your eyes green also effects how much fat you store, how easily you build muscle, your bone density, metabolism, etc. However it does not CONTROL it. Just because you might be genetically predisposed to having more muscle, does not mean you will automatically be muscular. It will still take years of exercising, weightlifting, helping friends move into new homes and carrying their furniture, working at the construction site, etc. In other words you still have to work at it. Nothing comes easily in the world of weightlifting.

The same thing goes for the reverse. You might have a genetic disorder that makes it difficult to lose weight. But that does not make it IMPOSSIBLE to do so. It simply means it harder than an average person trying to do the same thing. You might have to get it 150% effort compared to your peers in order to see changes, but you will see changes if you keep making the effort.

Organs and Metabolism

Some of your body's weight is made up of all your organs. Brain, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, digestive system, etc. These things are all necessary for life. Thus you can't really do anything about the weight of such things, and you shouldn't worry about them.

Sometimes people do get "fatty organs", such as a fatty liver which can lead to liver damage, cancer, fatty liver disease, etc. However such things can be prevented by exercising regularly and eating healthy. Your body's organs consume / produce chemicals that are used as building blocks to repair your body, and energy for both repair and for activities - all of which are necessities.

Definition of Metabolism: The chemical processes by which cells produce the substances and energy needed to sustain life.


There isn't much to worry about regarding your bones, organs and genetics. Those things will continue to do what they are meant to do. However the balance between muscle weight and body fat can be altered by the individual. How you choose to do so is up to you. You might choose to focus more on diet over exercise, or more exercise over diet, or some balance of the two - but in reality it is always a balancing act, because you have to eat and you have to move. How you choose to achieve your ideal balance might depend on whether your goals are to lose weight, build muscle or combinations of the two.

If you live in the Leaside area of Toronto and are looking for a personal trainer, you know who to call.

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