Body Composition

In athletics today, athletes will often hear the question "What's your body fat?" It is in your best interest to understand the different techniques used to identify body fat percentage, what that numbers really means in reference to your documented history and future goals, and knowing the most appropriate ranges for your specific sport.

Body composition is simply the amount of fat free mass (FFM) and body fat that makes up total body weight described in a ratio and expressed as a percentage. The FFM includes the bones, muscles, water, connective, and organ tissues. All the properties of the body that are not fat. Body fat includes both essential and non-essential fat stores. Essential fat includes organs and tissues such as nerves, lungs, liver, brain, and mammary glands. The non-essential fat is primarily referred to as adipose tissue.

Body composition is a good indicator of your body's fitness level and a predictor of your ideal body weight. Height and weight charts are poor indicators of your correct body weight and should not be used. Unfortunately, these charts do not consider the uniqueness of each individual and their variations in bone size and body composition. Body fat can not be determined from an ordinary scale and you can not tell a person's body fat level from appearance as we store fat differently in the body and around internal organs.

Your body is made up of water, fat, protein, carbohydrate and various vitamins and minerals. If you have too much fat, performance decreases and over time you become a higher risk candidate for such health problems as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, arteriosclerosis, coronary disease, respiratory problems, kidney disorders, diabetes, and many more. Even higher incidence rates of these medical problems are seen with those individuals that store fat around their waist.

Equally as serious is the problem of having too little body fat since adipose tissue is vital for normal organ function. Individuals with extremely low body fat increase their risk of bacterial and viral infections, as well as, bruising and damaging vital organs. The dramatic increase in anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and a "fear of obesity" over the last decade demands an awareness of correct body composition.

Men'sWomen'sEssential Fat 3-5%10-13%In-Season Basketball 9-12%18-21%Off-Season Basketball 12-15%21-24%In-Season Lacrosse 8-11% 17-20%Off-Season Lacrosse 11-14% 20-23%In-Season Soccer 9-12% 17-20%Off-Season Soccer 12-15% 20-23%In-Season Volleyball 19-22%Off-Season Volleyball 22-25%

It is clear then that the total body weight does not provide an accurate reflection of an individual's state of health. A weight-lifter may be classified as seriously over-weight, according to standard height/weight tables but has perfect body composition. Conversely, a person may have a "normal" weight according to standard tables and yet be over-fat.

The exercise information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Consult your physician or health care professional before performing any of the exercises described on this website or any exercise technique or regimen, particularly if you have chronic or recurring medical conditions. Discontinue any exercise that causes you pain or severe discomfort and consult a medical expert. Loyola College makes no warranty of any kind with regard to the information presented and is not responsible for any injuries or damages arising out of the use or misuse of the information.