When I counsel people in health or wellness, I'm always the first to encourage them to lose body fat and gain muscle. The benefits are enormous. Having lean body mass (muscles) helps our metabolisms stay in high gear, keeps our bones strong, prevents injuries, and wards off disease, including osteoporosis, diabetes, arthritis, back pain and high blood pressure. And lets face it, toned and strong muscles look a heck of a lot better than fat and flab.
But, what if I were to tell you that having body fat is ALSO important? Yep...if you are obsessed with losing every ounce of body fat, you might want to think twice. Essential body fat is needed for the body to function normally and healthily, while storage fat is the fat that lies just under the skin. Both types, however, are important to your health.
Here are reasons why you should aim to maintain healthy levels of body fat:
- Insulation: Okay, you may have already guessed this one: Fat is important in insulating our bodies. It is vital in helping regulate our body temperature, protecting us from extreme cold and heat.
- Body Function: Body fat is crucial to your body functioning normally and healthy.
- Vitamin Absorption: Fat is a transporter of fat soluble vitamins A-D-E-K. Without some body fat, you can end up with vitamin deficiencies which can cause disease.
- Personal Shock Absorbers: Fat is your body's natural cushioning mechanism. It surrounds and protects vital organs and keeps joints cushioned as well. Even athletes need body fat to protect their bodies from potential injury while competing and training.
- Cell Structure, Beauty and Aging: Fat is part of the structure of our cells. It is also crucial in maintaining skin, hair and nail health. Further, although I'm the first to admit that having lean, toned muscles is beautiful, having NO softness to those muscles can be just as unattractive as flabby arms. A healthy body fat will keep you from looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger during his body building era.
- Fertility: Body fat helps to ensure the production of hormones, including sex hormones. Women, specifically, who have very low body fat tend to have low estrogen levels and as a result, stop mentsruating.
- Energy and Sickness: Having a healthy level of body fat is important in warding off illness or chronic fatigue. Further, energy levels can be disrupted or lowered as a result of too low body fat.
There are different ways to measure your body fat. Some methods are more accurate than others. And, each individual is different, so falling into certain ranges is a better way of knowing if you are at a healthy body fat percentage than paying attention to very specific numbers. If you are a woman and have stopped menstruating or if you are either a man or a woman and you notice you are easily susceptible to colds and fatigue, you might want to have your body fat checked by a doctor to ensure it is at a healthy level.
Do you know your body fat? Is it in a healthy range?
- Calculate Your Body Fat
Body Fat Percentage Ranges and What they Mean
- 3 Things You Need to Know about Burning Fat
- 8 Ways to Measure Your Health
3 Reasons Not to Use a Scale