The Importance of Getting a Body Composition Test

The Importance of Getting a Body Composition Test

If you want to learn what you need to do to shed those extra pounds, build lean muscle, or even what nutrients your body may need more of, you’ll want to take a body composition test.

What is a Body Composition Test?

A body composition analysis is essential to completely understanding your health. It breaks down your body into four components: fat, lean body mass, minerals, and body water; and can provide insights into how to change your lifestyle, exercise plan, or healthcare practices.

With a body composition test, we can provide an individualized health plan that best fits your goals and personal needs. Not only will it help you become healthier, but it can reduce the risk of deadly diseases and health issues.

Health Benefits Associated with Measuring Body Composition

We all want the ability to burn more calories and build muscle to significantly reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues. When you have a plan, you can increase your range of motion, movement, and function, and have more energy.

Improve Your Overall Body Composition

With the results of the body scan, you can make simple changes in your daily lifestyle. Suggestions that might be made to you are: Increasing your physical activity by participating in resistance exercises that will help you improve your muscle to fat ratio, incorporating cardiovascular exercises combined with healthy eating, and we may suggest supplements to ensure you’re receiving all the nutrients your body needs to improve your overall body composition.

What to Expect from a Body Composition Scan?

Our evaluation only takes a few minutes. We’ll create a plan with you to make sure you meet your health goals.

Learning more about your body will help you make educated decisions when it comes to your physical fitness and nutritional health.

What is BMI and to Use it

What is BMI and to Use it

While it doesn’t calculate fat percentage, the Body Mass Index is an indicator if you are overweight and could be subject to health issues. Unless you are a muscular athlete or a child, the BMI is a standard tool for accessing health risks. Body mass index is a way of describing height and weight in one number that can help tell if someone’s weight is healthy or not.

Why it Matters

The higher your BMI, the higher the risk of developing a range of conditions linked with excess weight, including:

  • diabetes
  • arthritis

  • liver disease

  • several types of cancer (such as those of the breast, colon, and prostate)

  • high blood pressure (hypertension)

  • high cholesterol

  • sleep apnea

  • heart disease

  • stroke

  • high blood pressure

  • gallbladder disease

  • premature death

  • osteoarthritis and joint disease

Why it May Not Matter

It’s important to recognize that BMI itself does not measure your health or physiological state that indicates the presence (or absence) of disease. It simply measures your size. Plenty of people have a high or low BMI and are healthy and plenty of people with a normal BMI are unhealthy.

How Collagen Helps Your Body

How Collagen Helps Your Body

Taking a collagen supplement may have numerous health benefits, from relieving joint pain to improving skin health, along with many other benefits.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and is the major component of connective tissues, including tendons, ligaments, skin, and muscles.

What Damages Collagen?

  • High sugar consumption

  • Smoking

  • Sunlight

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Genetic changes

  • Aging


Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements

Can improve skin health

Collagen plays a role in strengthening skin and may assist its elasticity and hydration. Several studies have shown that collagen peptides or supplements containing collagen may help slow the aging of your skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness.

Helps relieve joint pain

Collagen helps maintain the integrity of your cartilage, which is the rubber-like tissue that protects your joints. Some studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain overall.

Scientists have theorized that supplementary collagen may accumulate in cartilage and stimulate your tissues to make collagen. This may lead to lower inflammation, better support of your joints, and reduced pain.

Could prevent bone loss

Your bones are made mostly of collagen, which gives them structure and helps keep them strong. Just as the collagen in your body deteriorates as you age, so does bone mass.

Consuming collagen supplements may help reduce the risk of bone disorders and have the potential to help increase bone mineral density.

Could boost muscle mass

A small percentage of muscle tissue is composed of collagen, but this protein is necessary to keep your muscles strong and functioning properly. Research has shown that consuming collagen supplements can increase muscle growth and strength in people with age-related muscle mass loss.

Promotes heart health

Researchers have theorized that taking collagen supplements may help reduce the risk of heart-related conditions. Collagen provides structure to your arteries, which are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Without enough collagen, arteries may become weak and fragile.

How to Calculate Macros

How To Calculate Macros

So how do I calculate my macros?

You can figure out your macros in a few simple steps. First, you must figure out your goal whether it is losing weight, bulking up, toning your body, or even building muscle. Once you have figured out what your goal is, we can move on to the next step. Remember that a healthy active lifestyle incorporates both exercise and diet. Here you can find many exercise plans that also help you find your macros if you are confused on how to do it. In addition, they provide healthy meal plans and videos on how to exercise.

Find your calorie requirements

The number of calories you need per day is a product of your age, gender, weight, muscle mass, and activity level. Eating more than this will cause you to gain weight while eating less will cause you to lose weight. To figure out the exact number, you can use a calorie calculator but be careful to remember that these tend to be very rough estimates that don’t take into account a multitude of other factors. There are many online calorie calculators, so see which works best for you. The number given to you is the amount of calories needed for main.

How Alcohol Can Affect Your Body Composition

How Alcohol Can Affect Your Body Composition

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on September 10, 2018 for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on July 26, 2017

If you begin a conversation about alcohol, you’re likely to get a chorus of varied opinions.

Your one friend swears that her daily glass of red wine will ward off cardiovascular disease, even if it’s at the expense of her six pack abs. Meanwhile, your gym buddy has a zero alcohol consumption policy in an effort to remain as lean as possible and avoid the dreaded “beer belly”.

Is it really possible to enjoy your social drinking and still maintain a healthy body weight and composition?

The answer is somewhat complicated and likely depends on your ultimate goals. Let’s delve a little deeper into the relationship between alcohol and body composition.

How the body metabolizes food

In order to understand how the body metabolizes alcohol, we must first take a look at how the body breaks down different macronutrients. There are three major macronutrients: lipids, carbohydrates, and protein. For example, what happens inside your digestive system when a person consumes a typical mixed meal made up of carbohydrates and fat.

During digestion, carbohydrates are generally metabolized first in what we call the “substrate hierarchy.” As the body breaks down carbohydrates, insulin levels rise and cause fat oxidation to be suppressed.

When insulin levels drop, fat is released from the fat cells for metabolism. Dietary fat is stored temporarily in these fat cells, and fat storage is an ongoing process in the body with fatty acids constantly entering and exiting fat cells through the day.

The temporary delay in fat oxidation is not what causes fat gain; rather, it’s the caloric input and output that determines how many calories will be stored as body fat.

A body composition analysis is essential to completely understanding your health. It breaks down your body into four components: fat, lean body mass, minerals, and body water; and can provide insights into how to change your lifestyle, exercise plan, or healthcare practices.

With a body composition test, we can provide an individualized health plan that best fits your goals and personal needs. Not only will it help you become healthier, but it can reduce the risk of deadly diseases and health issues.


Alcohol is made through the process of fermentation of starch, and traditionally has been classified as having 7.1 calories per gram. But once we take into account its rather high thermogenic effect (the amount of energy it takes to metabolize it), we find that it actually has closer to 5.6 calories per gram. This clocks in at a close second to protein.

However, you’ll often hear that calories from alcohol are defined as “empty”, which mean you do not receive any nutritional value.

Once we add alcohol to our meal, the metabolism of alcohol will take immediate priority. Essentially, fat, carbohydrate and protein oxidation is suppressed.

One study found that when participants were given four meals differing in carbohydrate, fat, protein and alcohol content, the alcohol-rich meal suppressed fat oxidation more than the carbohydrate-rich meal did. There was no difference in hunger or satiety sensations after the test meals.

So why does alcohol metabolism take priority?

The metabolic by-product of alcohol, a process known as microsomal ethanol-oxidizing system, is a compound known as acetate which is toxic to the body, thus your body prioritizes removing these toxins.

Once alcohol is converted into acetate in the liver, it enters circulation and only a very small portion can be converted to fatty acids. Basically, acetate is a poor precursor for fat synthesis. One study attempted to estimate fat synthesis after alcohol consumption and found that only ~3% of alcohol is converted into body fat. In this study what that found was that for every 24 grams of alcohol that was consumed, only 0.8 grams of fat was made in the liver.

It seems that alcohol and carbohydrates both suppress fat oxidation as the body works to first metabolize alcohol and remove it from the body and break down carbohydrate in the presence of elevated insulin. However, while carbohydrates eaten in excess of what the body can store as glycogen can be easily converted into fat, the same cannot be said for alcohol.

While alcohol is a toxin, it doesn’t seem that alcohol calories are converted at a higher rate to body fat than the calories from carbohydrates, fat or protein. Rather, excessive consumption of calories in ANY form is likely to cause fat gain.

Nutritional Differences between Different Types of Alcohol

We discussed the idea that alcohol calories are likely no different than calories from carbohydrates, fat or protein when it comes to weight gain. But what about when we look at different types of adult beverages. Are there nutritional differences between beer, wine, and spirits?

First, we need to take into account caloric content by volume but it’s also important to consider carbohydrate content as this will drastically influence the metabolism of your drink and whether it will be recognized by the body as “alcohol” or “carbohydrate”.


Light beers typically contain ~100 calories and 5 grams of carbs per 12 oz servingRegular beers typically contain ~150 calories and 10.5 grams of carbs per 12 oz servingIPA’s typically contain ~240 calories and 22 grams of carbs per serving


Dry red wines typically contain 150 calories and 4 grams of carbs per servingDry white wines typically contain 125 calories and 3 grams of carbs per servingDry Sparkling wine and champagne typically contains 110 calories and 2 grams of carbsFor sweeter wines, you can assume that the carbohydrate content will be slightly higher.


Spirits such as vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, and tequila will all contain close to 95 calories and 0 grams of carbs per fluid ounce

Keep in mind that when you mix alcohol with high calorie beverages and mixers, the caloric value and carbohydrate content changes. While 1.5 ounces of tequila may contain only 95 calories and 0 grams of carbohydrates, a margarita might contain somewhere closer to 400 calories and 65 grams of carbohydrates.

Aside from the potentially high number of empty calories alcohol can impair judgment and decrease inhibitions when it comes to making good food choices.

Indulging in alcohol prior to a meal (what is known as an aperitif) has been shown to increase caloric consumption. This is likely due to the increased activity in the brain’s pleasure centers, leading the drinker to over-consume appealing food.

Another factor is the restricted ability to monitor food intake and stay on your exercise routine when you have been under the influence the night prior. Calorie counting may very well fly out the window, and waking up with a hangover the day after a night of drinking is not always conducive to getting in an intense workout.

This all makes sense. But what about the drinker who consumes alcohol but does not then consume more calories from food and sticks with their regularly scheduled fitness routine?

One study of 19,220 women found that normal-weight women who consumed a light to moderate amount of alcohol actually gained less weight than non-drinkers and had a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese during 12.9 years of follow-up.

Moderate alcohol consumption can improve insulin sensitivity, although the mechanism behind this is still unclear. This would play a role in the way in which the body breaks down and stores carbohydrates.

Though this isn’t a reason to start drinking if you do not currently, it does seem to support the notion that alcohol calories might not be as bad as we once thought.

Side note: There is no strong research to suggest that excess alcohol is any more likely than excess protein, lipids or carbohydrates to cause weight gain independent of the fact that excessive alcohol consumption might also lead to increased food consumption.

Alcohol and Body Composition

It has been said that alcohol may decrease testosterone levels which may very well affect muscle growth, fitness performance and body composition, but research in this area is also not very strong.

A six-week study found that when men and women consumed 30-40 grams of alcohol per day, there was a mere 6.8% reduction in testosterone levels for the men and no change for the women. This means that even while drinking 3-4 adult beverages per day for three weeks, there was only a very small reduction in testosterone.

Thus, for moderate drinkers, testosterone reduction does not seem to pose a significant threat.

But what about consuming alcohol as a post-workout drink? After all, marathoners have been throwing back a pint or two at the finish line for decades.

One study looked at the hormonal response to alcohol consumption post-workout. Researchers gave participants the equivalent of an alcoholic drink after their resistance exercise and found that despite the significant alcohol consumption, there was no effect on testosterone and only a modest prolonged cortisol effect compared to the exercise-only group.

Another study looked at the effects of alcohol consumption before, during, 24 hours after, and 48 hours after a workout and found no significant changes in muscular performance nor any accelerated muscular damage.

Granted, some studies have found the opposite. For example, one study found that a moderate dose of alcohol may impair normal muscle recovery after exercise. However, this effect was found after very strenuous eccentric exercise that the average gym-goer is less likely to engage in. Another study found that when given very high doses of alcohol (1.5 g/kg of body weight) post-exercise, the ethanol acted as a depressant and was linked with prolonged secretion of testosterone.

In an alcoholic population, research has found that chronic drinkers suffered from reduced rates of muscle protein synthesis but the same cannot be said for a light to moderate drinking population.

So can you enjoy your martini and still reap the benefits of your workout?

The answer is yes!

As long as you keep your drinking to a moderate level which may mean a few times per week for most exercisers. Serious athlete may want to think twice about regular bouts of heavy drinking, as alcohol consumption been linked to higher incidence of sports-related injury and even small drops in testosterone or increases in cortisol  which may pose a threat to their high-level fitness goals.

What’s the bottom line?

Can alcohol be included as part of a healthy diet without considerably deterring the drinker from achieving the body they want and work so hard for?

The answer is yes!

For optimizing weight and body composition, research shows that it is more important and beneficial to keep overall caloric intake under control. When consuming alcohol, try to remember the following:

The metabolism of alcohol DOES affect fat metabolism but likely not more than other macronutrients like carbohydrates. That said, try to avoid consuming excessive calories to avoid fat storage and if drinking regularly, be sure to account for alcohol in your usual caloric intake.If you’re trying to maximize your time spent in the gym and minimize the effects that a six-pack might have on your six pack, you might want to limit sugary mixers and cocktails and when choosing beer, stick to lighter versions.Keep calories in check by opting for these lower calorie spirits but also being sure to consume ample amounts of lean protein to promote satiety (remember, alcohol does not have a satiating effect so to avoid overeating while drinking, fill up on protein!) Stay hydrated and get to sleep on time. This way, you won’t have to skip your workout in the morning!And last but not least, always remember to drink responsibly! Excessive levels of alcohol is never healthy!


Alix Turoff MS, RD, CDN, CPT is a Registered Dietitian and NASM Certified Personal Trainer. She sees patients privately and also works as a freelance consultant and writer.

Why You Need Carbs to Build Muscle

Why You Need Carbs to Build Muscle

When it comes to health and fitness, there is a lot of bad advice out there. There are two common misconceptions about body composition and diet:

  1. Decrease carbohydrates for weight loss
  2. Only increase protein for muscle growth
However, these two rules of thumb are not absolute truths. Carbohydrates and protein are nutrients that both play important roles in body composition, yet they both have stereotypes that aren’t 100% accurate.

If you want to gain muscle mass, then yes, you will need a lot of protein. But you’ll also need a fair amount of carbohydrates, and that shouldn’t be shocking or scary.

Protein automatically gets the credit for building strong muscles, but let’s not forget about your carb intake.

Depending on your body composition goals, you’ll need to adjust the amount and type of carbohydrates you consume.

When someone wants to lose excess weight, the first thing they do—or the first thing they’re told to do by their friend who acts as their personal trainer —is to adopt a low-carb diet. This can definitely lead to fat loss, but cutting carbs shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule in body composition, especially when it comes to gaining muscle.

Carbs usually aren’t restricted if muscle growth is the goal. It seems like weightlifters and athletes know some things about carbohydrates that the general public doesn’t: carbs aren’t the enemy to achieving your body composition goals.

Like a lot of things in life, there are carbs that will help you reach those goals and carbs that will prevent you from reaching those goals. Out of the various types of carbs, complex carbohydrates play a largely important role in building muscle mass.

Carbohydrates and Building Muscle Mass

Think about it: building anything takes a lot of time, energy and resources. Building muscle is no different. The body requires a lot of energy to power through workouts that result in bigger, stronger muscles. Where does the body get most of that energy? Usually from carbs.

Energy from Complex Carbohydrates

Out of all the energy sources for the human body, researchers have found that carbohydrates are the main source of energy in the human diet. This means that carbs aren’t just for athletes. Carbs are a great source of energy for anyone’s daily activities, including exercise.

You can think of carbohydrates as a source of fuel for the body, otherwise known as calories. As we’ve previously learned, there are two types of carbohydrates: simple carbs and complex carbs.  Simple carbs are a quick, sporadic source of energy, while complex carbs are a good source of steady energy. 

If you’ve ever heard of an athlete eat candy before a game or training session, that’s because simple carbs, like white sugar, are one of the fastest ways to spike energy. However, this energy kick cannot be maintained for long. Complex carbs may not be as readily available for immediate energy as simple carbs are, but they’re more efficient and healthier. Complex carbs provide sustainable energy, which means the energy is constant and there’s no “crash” like with simple carbs. 

One of the main reasons why complex carbs sustain energy throughout the day is because they take longer to digest. Simple carbs like fruit are easy for the body to break down and get rapidly digested, so they don’t provide energy for a long period of time. Complex carbs like starches are slow to digest and therefore slowly provide calories, giving you continuous energy for a longer period of time. 

Because of their slow-release properties, complex carbs should be the largest component of daily energy intake.

Isn’t Protein More Important Than Carbs for Building Muscle?

When you think of building muscle, you may think of a high-protein diet. Protein is extremely important in building muscle because the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) help repair and maintain muscle tissue. Essentially, protein helps you recover from workouts because muscles slightly tear during exercise.

If protein is so important, why put an emphasis on carbs? Well, complex carbohydrates don’t get enough credit when it comes to the important roles they play in muscle gains.

Some of the ways that complex carbs help to build muscle include:

1. Carbs help regulate muscle glycogen repletion

You may have heard of glycogen stores before. Glycogen is a form of glucose that is stored for later use. When the body needs energy, glycogen kicks into gear and acts as a ready fuel source. 

Carbohydrates and glycogen go hand in hand because carbs are stored as glycogen.

When carbs are low, glycogen stores are low. When carbs are consumed, glycogen stores are full.

Since glycogen is used for energy, it’s important to replenish those stores. This is why researchers recommend to consume carbohydrates immediately following exercise; it replenishes glycogen stores for future use.

2. Carbs prevent muscle degradation

One concern about low-carb diets is muscle loss.

A Netherlands study compared a low-carb diet to other diets and found that restricting carbs results in protein loss. This is because restricting carbs causes an increase in the amount of nitrogen that get excreted by the body. Nitrogen is a component of amino acids (the stuff that forms muscle proteins), therefore nitrogen loss indicates that the muscles are breaking down.

3. Carbs help muscles recover from exercise

The role that carbs play in recovery goes back to glycogen stores. Immediately after exercise, athletes need to replenish their glycogen stores in order to prevent glycogen depletion.

Glycogen depletion, when glycogen stores have run out, causes gluconeogenesis. This is when the body forms glucose from new sources to compensate for the lack of glucose from carbohydrates. When this happens, the body turns to sources like fat and protein to fill this need. Protein acts as the last line of defense when energy is required, meaning that energy accessibility is running very low. 

When the body breaks down protein to make more glucose, it takes from the muscle, causing them to waste away. 

Gluconeogenesis is more common in carbohydrate-free diets, so be sure to consume healthy carbs to prevent this. 

Replenishing glycogen stores with complex carbs is important to prevent protein breakdown and muscle wasting.

Why Athletes Consume a Lot of Carbs

There are many reasons why athletes don’t adopt low-carb or carb-free diets. They know those good carbs are a necessary nutrient to help them power through training sessions, resulting in muscle maintenance and growth.

Some of the reasons why athletes consume a fair amount of carbs include:

1. Carbs prevent muscle weakness

By now, you understand the importance of glycogen stores. Some glycogen is even stored in our muscles. 

When you use those muscles during exercise, you tap into the glycogen stores in that particular muscle. When you lift weights with your arms, for example, you’re accessing the glycogen in your biceps.

Some athletes take advantage of glycogen by loading up on carbohydrates (by consuming carbs a day or more before a workout) to maximize the muscle glycogen stores. This can delay fatigue and even improve athletic performance, making for a better workout and stronger muscles.

2. Carbs improve athletic performance

Out of the three macronutrients, carbs are the most efficiently metabolized

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports all share the position that high carbohydrate availability is associated with improving performance during high-intensity exercise

Why? Because carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that can be broken down quickly enough to provide sustained energy during high-intensity training. 

Both carbohydrates and protein will both provide 4 calories per gram. But it is much easier for your body to digest and use the calories from a gram of carbohydrate than it is a gram of protein. 

Research has shown the link between nutrition and athletic performance is greater than initially believed.

3. Carbs repair muscles

During exercise, muscles slightly tear. Muscles feel sore after intense exercise because of this minor damage that allowed the muscles to exert more force than during regular activity.

After exercise or during rest, the muscles need to be repaired and rebuilt. Just like for building muscle, protein and glycogen is needed for that muscle repair

The importance of glycogen for muscles can’t be over-emphasized, and in order to maintain glycogen stores, carbohydrates are needed.

What Happens to Muscle When Carbs are Low

With the popularity of low-carb diets, it’s important to discuss the major concern that muscle mass is at risk of deterioration when carbs are low. 

Now that we know how important carbs are to build muscle, let’s discuss some of the possibilities when carbs are restricted.

Muscle is Broken Down For Fuel

The body looks to complex carbs as its main energy source. When carbs aren’t available, the body breaks down protein, i.e muscle, for fuel. 

Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen, which is a readily available source of energy for when it’s needed. Dietary protein, however, isn’t really meant to be stored in the body specifically as an energy source.

When the body breaks down muscle tissue for energy, it does so to access the amino acids (the building blocks of protein). The amino acids are then broken down into glucose and used for energy.

Carbs help to prevent this process encouraging protein sparing, which means they conserve muscle tissue by providing energy instead. When carbs are present, the body will use carbs first and foremost for energy. When carbs aren’t available, muscle gains that you have worked so hard to achieve can be lost.

Replenishing glycogen stores by consuming complex carbs prevents this muscle loss.

Decreased Athletic Performance

Decreased energy due to low-carb consumption may affect athletic performance. When glycogen stores are low, athletic performance is decreased.

Muscle strength can be compromised and fatigue increases when glycogen stores are low.

It’s widely accepted that athletic performance is somewhat dependent on carbohydrate consumption. Therefore, consuming carbs before the workout for energy and after to replenish glycogen stores are important contributors to improved exercise performance.

Complex Carbs for Muscle Gains

Everyone knows that protein is important for building muscle, but without carbs, the gains just aren’t the same. Complex carbs are vital for sustained energy, athletic performance, and overall muscle building.

However, the type of carbs and when they’re consumed are also vital to experience these benefits.

When to Consume Complex Carbs for Muscle Building

The time of carb consumption also impacts athletic performance and muscle building. 

It’s important to consume complex carbs before an intense workout so that glycogen stores are full enough to fuel the training. Consuming complex carbs immediately before a workout could lead to digestive distress, so try to limit complex carb consumption to up to a few hours before an intense workout. If you’re short for energy before an event, lean towards simple carbs.

After exercise, it’s important to consume complex carbs to replenish those glycogen stores for later use.

Balancing Carb Consumption

The amount of complex carbs you eat depends on your body composition goals. Generally, very low carb consumption (<5%) is used for weight loss, while adequate carb consumption (55-60%) is used for muscle gain. 

Athletes may pile on the carbs as they are required to train day-in and day-out. So it makes sense that they should consume a higher carb diet than the average person because they have higher energy needs. For non-athletes, it’s generally suggested to adopt a more balanced diet. Even if you’re mostly sedentary, you should still consume some carbs to fuel your daily activities. 

If the goal is to build muscle, we now know to eat all three macronutrients, including a fair amount of carbs.

Take Away

Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for humans. The body uses this nutrient for energy and stores them as glycogen for later use.Athletes rely on carbs for sustained energy, preventing fatigue, and enhancing athletic performance.Carbs are important for muscle building because they’re protein sparing, which means the body looks to glycogen for energy instead of breaking down muscle tissue for energy.Consuming carbs post-workout can prevent muscle loss and help repair muscles.

The moral of this story is that carbs, just like every other macronutrient, have a place in improving your body composition. In the end, it takes a well-rounded diet and a smart routine to build muscle.


Lacey Bourassa is a health and wellness writer in Southern California. Her areas of expertise include weight loss, nutrition, and skin health. She attributes her passion for healthy living to her plant-based diet. You can find out more about Lacey at

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Why Is A Rest Day Important for Exercise?

Why Is A Rest Day Important for Exercise?

Positively changing your body composition requires increasing Lean Body Mass. And in order to do that, you need to prioritize rest days during the week as much as you do working out. 

When you’re in the gym, your muscles are working hard and breaking down, preparing to rebuild and get stronger. That rebuilding phase is key, and it primarily happens in recovery. 

No, we’re not talking about just completing a shorter workout, we mean taking a rest day. Taking a full day off, or two, or three to let your muscles recover, recharge, and rebuild. Not only will your workouts improve, but your body composition will too.

A lot of people take training seriously—always giving it their all during intense workouts day after day—but fail to have the same sentiment towards recovery days. What they don’t realize is that muscle recovery is just as, if not more important than a sweat session alone. Why? Let’s dive in.

Means and Why it Matters

When you work out, you cause microscopic damage to your muscle cells. Because of the stress and fatigue your body is under during exercise, hormone and enzyme levels fluctuate, and inflammation increases. 

Those things might sound bad, but they’re not. In fact, they can lead to fat loss, an increased metabolism, increased strength, and muscle growth—but only if you properly recover. 

There are a few different types of recovery: immediate, short-term, and training recovery. Think of immediate recovery as the snippets of time between movements. For instance, when you’re on a jog, immediate recovery is the time between each stride. 

Short-term recovery can be thought of as the time between sets of exercises. For example, the rest periods between sprint intervals. 

Training recovery is the type you should care about most, and it’s the period of time between when one workout ends and the next begins. But, suggestions on how much time that should entail is widely varied.

Research has shown that rest time isn’t one size fits all—everyone’s body is different, and you should experiment with what feels right to you. For some people, 24 hours is the sweet spot. For others, it might take 48 or even 72 hours to feel fully recovered. It depends on your age, fitness level, exercise intensity, diet, sleep, and much more.

What happens during recovery?

In simplest terms, your body goes back to normal. But it’s a little more complicated than that. 

Think of homeostasis as your body’s resting rate or “normal”. Your body is always trying to return to homeostasis—keeping your core temperature regulated, blood pressure stable, and muscles nice and refreshed. During exercise, homeostasis is disturbed, meaning your body requires a period of rest to return to normal.

The process of homeostasis uses up a lot of energy, resulting in loads of calories burned. So not only is your body getting back to normal while you rest up, it’s catapulting you closer to your body composition goals. 

After exercise, there is an increase in “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or EPOC. Essentially, our body uses up more oxygen during recovery than it does before or during exercise in an effort to replace all the oxygen used up while working out. This increase in oxygen use results in torched calories and happy muscles.

The most important part of recovery, and the one you’ll hear talked about most often, is the rebuilding of muscle. When you workout, and especially when you resistance train, tiny tears are made in your muscle fibers. In order for those tiny tears to turn into big gains, they need to repair themselves—growing even larger. This happens during—you guessed it—rest.

Beyond the basic physiological benefits, it can also help prevent injury resulting from overuse and assist in healing when injuries do happen. 

And let’s not forget what some time off can do for your mental health. Taking a few days or even a week to rest can help you find the motivation you need to reach your goals and give you back that surge of energy needed to lean out, get stronger, and keep getting better.

Let’s quickly summarize what rest and recovery can do for your body:

Torch caloriesBuild muscleRe-fuel musclesHelp prevent injuryImprove mental clarity and motivation

What Happens When You Don’t Rest?

So what happens when you don’t listen to your body and give it the time off it craves? 

Maybe you’re really close to your goals and are scared a rest day will set you back. Or maybe you don’t feel tired or sore and think that resting would be pointless. Whatever the reason, not taking time to recover (overtraining) can have some pretty serious consequences. 

Remember that inflammation we talked about earlier? When you don’t rest up, that inflammation never has time to heal, leading to potential injuries, a weakened immune system, and the potential for muscle mass loss.

Studies show that during periods of intense stress, like a really tough workout, the body’s immune system isn’t able to function fully. This means that your body will have a tougher time fighting off germs and viruses, and you might end up under a pile of tissues and cold medicines. The same studies have found that one of the best ways to prevent this is to—you guessed it—prioritize rest.

Another side effect of overtraining is burnout. Burnout is that feeling that anything (watching grass grow, cleaning out the closet) would be better than going to the gym. And it happens when you forget to take time for life outside of fitness. It happens when you don’t rest. 

Not to mention how moody overtraining can make you. Constantly being on the go and under intense physical stress can really take a toll on your mood. And nobody likes being around someone who’s worn out, sore, and grumpy. Take your rest days. 

Focus On Recovery: Here’s How

Everyone has different recovery needs. Some people find that going for a light cardio helps speed up their recovery, some prefer a massage, and others might opt for ice baths. There are lots of ways to exercise, and an equal amount of ways to recover.

But are all recovery techniques created equal? Let’s take a look.

Passive rest s simply taking time off and relaxing. With passive rest, you don’t actively try to recover—you simply let your body do its thing. Research shows that this type of recovery may be the best option for most people. Active recovery can be thought of as an easier workout than usual. If you’re an avid long-distance runner, active recovery may consist of a shorter run at a more leisurely pace. If you prefer to lift weights, you might opt for a 30-minute yoga session. Active recovery has been shown to be especially effective for runners, clearing out blood lactate faster than passive recovery. But like previously mentioned, this depends on personal factors and intensity. Hydration is important before, during, and after exercise. Water is recovery’s best friend because it helps flush toxins from the body and prevent dehydration, which can make soreness even worse. While there’s no official consensus on how much water you should drink daily, a good place to start is ½ your body weight in ounces. Ice baths and cold-water immersion therapy use the therapeutic effect of ice or cold water to help soothe sore muscles. Research has shown that cold-water immersion may reduce soreness and DOMS more effectively than passive rest. If you don’t have a cold-water immersion tank readily available, you may get similar relief by targeting sore areas with ice packs. Supplements such as amino acid drinks and protein shakes are garnering more and more popularity. Most people drink these intra- or post-workout, but new research has shown that consuming a high-quality protein shake pre-workout creates the largest increase of protein synthesis rates in recovery. In layman’s terms: drinking high-quality protein before a workout increases the amount of protein building (muscle repairing) that happens after a workout. If you’re considering trying other supplements, we suggest starting with the basics and then giving some of these a try.  Sleep is the ultimate recovery tool—blasting fat, building muscle, and improving your body composition. When you snooze, your body goes to work making major repairs and preparing you for another day of crushing your goals. If you’re trying to change your body composition, you need to get your sleep. 

Recovery Foods

Proper nutrition plays a vital role in helping you reach your body composition goals and it also helps recovery. If you want to speed up recovery and feel better faster, snack on these foods:

Chocolate milkTart cherry juiceHigh-Quality Whey protein (containing 6 grams of essential amino acids)

Focus On Recovery: Here’s How

Improving your body composition, by increasing Lean Body Mass and decreasing Body Fat Mass, requires more than just a few hours in the gym and sticking to a diet. If you want to look better, feel better, and perform better, you need to take rest days!

Incorporating rest days into your exercise program ensures your muscles have time to rebuild, your body can find its “normal,” injuries will be few and far between, and your body remains a fat-burning machine. 

Sweat a lot, move a lot, and rest a lot—you will be able to reach your fitness goals faster and your body will thank you.


Kaili Meyer is a health and travel writer based in the Midwest. If she’s not writing, you can find her cuddled up with a good book, in the gym, or on a plane headed somewhere warm. 

Clean Eating vs. If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM): What You Need to Know

Clean Eating vs. If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM):
What You Need to Know

There has been a lot of discussions both in the media and in doctors’ offices about the obesity epidemic this country is facing. While everyone has heard that diet and exercise is the way to fix this, there is an overwhelming number of diets to choose from. Is a meat based high protein diet better than plant-based? Do you need to go dairy-free or gluten-free? With the sheer number of options, people often jump from diet to diet when they don’t see continuous weight loss. The result? People to become frustrated over time as they don’t reach their health goals or struggle to stick to their program. 

One school of thought you may be familiar with touts that counting “calories in versus calories out” is the answer; indicating that it is energy balance and not the type of calorie that matters. However, it can be argued that not all calories are created equal. Every diet requires you to consume a balance of nutrients like protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, but there are different types of carbohydrates, fats, and even proteins that can make “the right” decision difficult. 

Two diets that bring the age-old question of quantity versus quality into the light are “Clean Eating” and “If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM).” Even though many people have been frustrated by past failures with diets, it is important not to give up! In this article, we are going to explain a bit more on what these two diets are, how they’re different from other diets, and how these diets impact body composition.

Body Composition: What Is It?

Body composition is more descriptive than overall weight because it reports what is really making up that body weight. Weight is comprised of lots of different components including protein, water, minerals, and fat. Combining all these components determines someone’s body composition.

When dividing the body into different components, usually the most focused upon is body fat. Clearly, there is cause to be concerned about fat mass, which is why fat loss is the selling point for many diets; however understanding the balance between lean mass, fat mass, and water is just as important when it comes to maintaining a healthy body composition. 

Diet is a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy, balanced body composition.

The Clean Eating Diet

Clean eating is less of a diet and more of a lifestyle. There are a few important points when it comes to clean eating, such as:

Eating more nutrient-dense whole foods and fewer processed foods or “refined” foodsFocusing on eating full, balanced meals and fewer snacks Eating more at home where people can control what goes into their meals Sleeping more at night and exercising regularly.

These points show that focusing on healthy eating habits and getting the right food groups places fewer restrictions on your diet, giving you some freedom; plus, there are also scientific studies to back up the claims. 

A study published in the British Medical Journal followed over 10,000 people and collected their dietary information. This list included more than 3,000 different foods and they were categorized by their degree of processing. 

What the researchers found was that ultra-processed foods were associated with dramatically higher cancer risk, specifically breast cancer. The researchers also attempted to adjust the results to account for sodium, lipid, and carbohydrates. However, no matter how they interpreted the data, processed foods led to higher chances of developing cancer.

Another research study looked at the impact of processed foods in pregnant women on the gestational weight gain and size of the baby. The research data was collected from St. Louis, MO and analyzed the links between the mother’s diet and the body composition of the baby. The researchers found that:

On average, more than 50 percent of the daily calories in these women came from processed foodsA 1 percent increase in the percentage of processed foods resulted in an additional 1.33 kg (close to 3 pounds) of weight gain during pregnancyThis same percentage increase led to a 0.62 percent increase in the body adiposity of the baby

This is important because excess gestational weight gain can lead to maternal hypertension, gestational diabetes, and possible pre-eclampsia. 

By eating clean and avoiding processed foods, people can improve their body composition and overall health. Many people have trouble eating clean because of the “convenience” factor. It is important to remember that foods can be both convenient and healthy. Just reach for foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and nuts before you succumb to junk food.

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition echoed this sentiment. Researchers studied a few dozen adults who increased their intake of fruits or vegetables. The researchers found that not only did this lead to decreased food intake (measured in energy) but it also led to a reduced waist circumference and weight loss. 

The Takeaways: Clean Eating

Clearly, clean eating not only leads to weight loss but improves body composition as well. By improving body composition, individuals can improve their overall health and reduce their chances of developing dangerous complications of obesity down the road. 

For people who embrace “clean eating,” they focus on a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, and protein without getting caught up in counting the number of calories. This diet might be right for people who get frustrated by counting calories and would like an overall “big picture” to which they can adhere.

“If It Fits Your Macros”

Another diet that people may have heard about is the “If It Fits Your Macros” diet, also called IIFYM. For those who have trouble counting calories, the IIFYM diet could provide more structure. The macronutrients or “macros” include:


All of these components impact overall health and body composition in a different way. The diet isn’t “low carb”. Nor does it make specific recommendations like eating lots of healthy fats or whole grains. Instead of focusing on a “one-size fits all approach,” you calculate your macros to tailor the diet to your specific metabolic demands. Then, people are allowed to eat whatever foods they would like as long as it fits their individual macronutrients. 

An interesting research study included hundreds of thousands of people and, over a period of several years, swapped the percentages of their dietary macros. Then, they tracked their weight at follow-up visits. 

Some of their results showed that swapping fat for protein led to weight gain, swapping carbohydrates for protein led to weight gain, and diets with 14 percent protein were associated with less weight gain than diets with 20-25 percent protein.

While these individuals may have been building lean muscle mass with this increased protein intake, the results still show that diets with excess protein can cause someone to become overweight and obese. Too much of a good thing is possible. Everyone needs to ingest all macros in the right amounts, which can be different from person to person. Some people need more healthy fats or whole grains depending on their lifestyle. Swapping the amount of each macro that you eat on a regular basis impacts both lean muscle mass and fat mass.

Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition took a similar approach. In the study, participants around the age of 45 were randomly placed into two different energy-restricted diets which were either moderate in protein or high in carbohydrates. The individuals had their body composition measured at four months and then again at 12 months.

At the four month mark, the protein group had lost 22 percent more fat mass than the carbohydrate group, but the overall weight loss did not differ. At 12 months, the protein group had higher adherence to the study with a greater improvement in body composition, but weight loss still did not differ much. Finally, the protein diet provided an overall greater improvement in body composition along with a greater reduction in triglyceride levels and a more significant increase in HDL.

This study shows that, while either diet can help someone lose weight, each macro impacts body composition differently. Diets that have a significant amount of protein in them might not help someone lose more weight than a high carbohydrate diet, but it can help someone build more lean body mass. Importantly, it can also help someone lose fat mass and might be easier to adhere to.

Furthermore, strict one-size fits all diets often do not work because people cannot stick to them. In fact, for some people, indulging a little bit can actually help them stick to a diet while still remaining within their macros. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology highlighted that:

On occasion, indulging while on a diet can help someone regain their ability to self-regulatory their intakeIndulging can also help people maintain their motivation to stick to their dietThis also has a positive impact on their mood, which helps them stick to their goals

With this in mind, if people can indulge while still adhering to their macronutrients, it could help them stick to their diet. If they are able to adhere to their diet, they are more likely to attain their goals. The point of this is that the “right” diet for someone ultimately needs to be one with which they can stick to.

The goal of the IIFYM diet is to provide everyone with an individualized dietary structure that allows for more to hit the plate than just chicken and veggies. However, the IIFYM diet goes beyond basic calorie reduction or counting and acknowledges that every macro impacts body composition in a different way. 

With this in mind, the IIFYM diet provides everyone with a plan that is tailored for them and their goals. The IIFYM still asks people to count calories and to calculate and track their macros, but it provides comfort to those who like to have structure and also allows them to eat foods that they like.

Adhering to a Diet

There are many different diets that people have heard about and everyone talks about finding the “right” one. Ultimately, many people become frustrated because they have trouble sticking to a diet or feel like they aren’t seeing results. For this reason, the “right” diet is the one that you can stick to.

Clean eating and IIFYM diets each have their merits and can be successful for different people. But remember, a diet can be successful even if people aren’t losing weight. The goal isn’t just to lose weight but to reach a healthy balance of fat mass and lean body mass. It is vital to focus on body composition as a marker of overall health instead of just the number on the scale. If the weight stays the same but there is body fat loss and lean body mass gain, this should still be viewed as progress. 

A diet will not work if people are not fully invested and if the individual does not feel like they can stick to the eating plan. In the end, remember that diet is a slow but proven process and the approach to improving body composition needs to be well-rounded and easy to maintain. Aim to discuss your dietary plans with a nutrition professional to ensure that you are losing weight in a healthy manner and choosing the diet that works best for you.


David Randolph graduated from medical school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He is currently completing his Residency in Pediatrics at the University of South Carolina.


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5 Ways Sitting All Day Wrecks Your Body Composition

5 Ways Sitting All Day Wrecks Your Body Composition

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on October 14, 2018, for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on August 5, 2016.

Think about how long you sit in a day. It’s probably something you have never tracked, but on average Americans spend more than half their waking hours sitting! Between sitting in traffic, attending class or work, or relaxing on the sofa the number of hours you spend sitting can add up quickly. Even if you exercise three times a week, you may still suffer from a sedentary lifestyle because its hard to counteract the total number of hours that you sit in a week. Why does this matter? How much harm can sitting most of the day actually do to your health? Quite a lot actually. According to recent studies, your inactive, sedentary lifestyle may be shortening your lifespan!

You May Want to Stand Up for This

Headlines like “Sitting is the new smoking” might seem like the type of clickbait health article you can dismiss because everyone else is sitting all day too so … how can it harm you right?

Not so fast. In 2009, over 17,000 Canadians participated in a study that sought to find a connection between sitting and mortality. Participants ranged in age, body type, and activity level. At the end of the study, researchers found an association between sitting time and mortality from all causes and concluded extended periods of sitting should be discouraged. A sedentary lifestyle where you sit all day harms your health by encouraging muscle loss and fat gain and increasing your risk factor for multiple diseases.

In this article, we will cover the five ways your body composition is negatively affected by too much sitting. But don’t worry, it’s not all doom-and-gloom: we have tips on how you can break up long periods of sitting, even if you work a desk job.

#1: Insulin Resistance

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death among Americans. Those who sit for extended periods of time, don’t exercise, and don’t take care of their nutrition can experience insulin resistance, which happens when insulin isn’t able to transport excess blood sugar out of your blood and into your muscles. When insulin resistance because significant, that’s type-2 diabetes.

One study of 3,757 women found that women who sat for eight hours a day had a 56 percent higher chance of developing diabetes. Diabetics tend to have more fat within their bodies, particularly visceral fat, which can further encourage insulin resistance and keep them from being healthy.

In addition, diabetics experience quicker loss of muscle mass as they age compared to healthy individuals. The loss of muscle intensifies symptoms further deteriorates body composition.

#2: Risk for Heart Disease

Enzymes that burn body fat decrease by 90% when sitting for an hour or longer. The enzyme involved with body fat burning is called lipoprotein lipase, or LPL. LPL’s role is to produce good cholesterol, or HDL, which helps with triglyceride levels and protects against heart disease by keeping bad cholesterol from building up in the arteries. A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to decrease HDL Levels. A low HDL level is a common metabolic syndrome risk factor and is associated with increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressures) and cardiovascular disease.

In a 2003 animal study, rodents were forced to stay lying down for most of the day – to simulate a sedentary lifestyle – and the researchers found that the LPL levels in their leg muscles decreased immensely. When they stood up, the enzyme was ten times more active! Although these studies with humans are still underway, its still a convincing reason to take short breaks with moderate physical activity.

#3: Muscles become weaker

When you sit, your gluteal muscles, abdominal muscles, and legs lay dormant. If you sit for extended periods of time day after day, these muscles can degenerate. Because the size of your metabolism is linked with your body composition – more muscle increases metabolism and helps your burn more calories – any muscle loss, especially from the lower body which is your largest muscle group, can lead to consistent fat gain if the diet is not changed.

In the future, gradual muscle loss from your lower body can hurt your functional strength and as you become older increase your fall risk and affect your ability to live independently.

#4: Circulation Becomes

Not only does blood flow to your brain slow down when you sit for too long, but the blood flow to your legs also becomes sluggish. Sitting for an excessive period of time without standing can increase the risk of developing blood clots. Most of the time blood clots are harmless and will dissolve on its own. But there is the possibility that the blood clot breaks off and cause blockage in the lungs, which can be fatal.

One study showed a profound reduction in the vascular flow after sitting for just three hours. But the researchers found that those who took breaks and got up to walk around for two minutes, every hour, increased their lifespan by 33 percent.

#5: Bones Become Brittle

Long-term sitting and inactivity can lead to weakened bones. The Mayo Clinic has stated that “People who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do those who are more active.” The reason is that bone is live tissue that is constantly in a state of forming new bone material and absorbing the old bone material. As we age the rate that bone is reabsorbed is faster than new bone that is formed. One of the factors that lead to rapid bone loss is a lack of physical activity.

Like muscles, bones become stronger when they are used. Engaging in walking and movement which includes weight-bearing can increase the durability of bones.

Tips to Get Moving!

How can you increase your physical activity, even if you work all day? You have to get creative. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Transportation – Do you drive to work? If so, park as far away as possible to get in extra steps throughout the day. If you can, bike or walk to the office. Take the steps up to your office if you are not on the first floor. If you can work from home, work from your home office. When at home, get up, do some walking, and even walk to the library to do more work. Think about your day before it starts to get those extra steps in each and every day. Layout makeover –  Have you taken a look at your office? Sometimes moving your office objects may make it easier for you to get your steps in. Take a look, is your printer close to your computer? Try to move it across the room to make yourself get up and move. Most of us live with our cell phones very close to us. Move your cell phone’s charger by the printer; it will help you get up to move and keep you less distracted. Make coffee in your break room, come back and do some work, and get up again to get your coffee. Anything to get yourself moving counts towards your health. Change up the way you sit –  If you are allowed, sit on an exercise ball at your desk for short periods, or take it a step further and try a standing desk. There are unique ways of moving at work nowadays with standing desks, treadmill desks, and even bicycle desks. Imagine getting through one of your long meetings with an hour-long bike ride, instead of a large latte. If none of these are viable options, or if an exercise ball isn’t your thing, there are exercises you can do in your desk chair that engage the muscles of your core. Trade out your comfy chair – If you are not allowed to use a ball or cool new desk, try just an old fashioned wooden, uncomfortable chair. It will make you sit up straight if you must remain sitting, attempt good posture. Alarm clock – Set a timer every hour for two minutes of constant movement. Try to keep moving with different exercises, sometimes called deskercises, stretches, or take a lap or two around the building. Step Tracker – Motivate yourself by purchasing a step tracker. It is an eye opener to many individuals to see how much you are sitting around. Many trackers you can wear as a bracelet and challenge friends to different goals.

Now It’s Your Turn: Be a Role

If you work an office job or you have a full course load, it can be easy to become inactive and lead a sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that recent studies found that just one hour of physical activity can potentially offsetthe 8-hour sitting marathon many people perform in their offices. That doesn’t mean that getting all your activity for the day in your one-hour gym session is enough because you can’t forget the time you spend driving and relaxing at home! The idea is to find opportunities to get moving.

Now that you’re at the end of the article, stand up and start moving! Your body will thank you for it.


Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB is a Registered Nurse certified in Obstetrics. She has been practicing in labor and delivery for over a decade. She developed her writing career in 2012, specializing in health topics. She, her husband, Adam, and two children Zachary and James reside in Cleveland, OH


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How Does Sleep Impact Body Composition in Children?

How Does Sleep Impact Body Composition in Children?

Sleep deprivation is a serious problem in this country, impacting people of all ages. With the advent of cell phones and laptop computers, children are glued to screens almost at all times. This merging of the school and home environment makes it hard for children to stick to a regular bedtime routine. Some kids may even find it hard to fall asleep once they are actually in bed with the blue light that screens put off keeping them awake.

With children taking home large amounts of homework, being kept up by their phones, and having an unprecedented number of extracurricular activities, many children are not getting the proper amount of sleep. When children do not get the right amount of sleep, this can have a negative impact on their growth, development, and overall health.

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released an updated statement discussing the proper amounts of sleep for children by age.

Their guidelines indicate that:

  • Babies under 1 year of age should sleep between 12 and 16 hours per day, including naps

  • Infants between 1 and 2 years of age should sleep between 11 and 14 hours per day, including naps

  • Toddlers between the ages of 3 and 5 years need to sleep between 10 and 13 hours per day, including naps

  • Children between the ages of 6 and 12 years should sleep at least 9 hours per night

  • Teenagers need to be getting at least 8 hours of sleep


Even though parents have decent control of when their children go to sleep, their alarms are frequently determined by their school’s starting time. This, plus all of the many distractions in the world today, can lead to children failing to get the recommended amount of sleep. This can cause problems in their school performance but also their physical health.

What is Body Composition?

Body composition is a description of how the different substances in the body are divided. A few examples of the different components that come together to make a human body include:

  • Water

  • Protein

  • Minerals

  • Fat

While some people think of fat as a “negative,” all of these components play an important role in someone’s overall health. Therefore, instead of focusing on pounds gained or lost, focus should be shifted to where change is occurring in terms of body composition, specifically muscle gain or fat loss.

While most people assume that their body composition will only change based on their diet and exercise habits, sleep is a key contributor to maintaining a healthy body composition. The body’s metabolic processes do not stop just because someone is asleep. Therefore, it is important for people of all ages to understand the impact of sleep.

Sleep and Growth Hormone: Important in Children

Growth, in all ages, is primarily controlled by growth hormone. This hormone is regulated by the relationship between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, in which sleep plays an important role.

A review article that was published in Comprehensive Physiology showed that:

  • Growth hormone levels peak during the onset of deep sleep

  • Multiple smaller peaks were observed during other stages of sleep

  • who have a delay in the onset of deep sleep have delayed peaks in their growth hormone levels

It has long been known that growth hormone levels peak during sleep. For children to grow, they need to have proper levels of growth hormone. This means that children need to have the proper amounts of sleep.

Even in preschool-aged children, sleep is vital for proper body composition. A research study that was published in Obesity measured the body composition of preschool-aged children at the onset of the study and at follow-up one year later. The researchers found that increased levels of sleep resulted in less overall fat mass and therefore a reduced percentage of body fat.

Even though some people associate sleep with laziness and increased adiposity, sleep in children is necessary for a healthy body composition. Children need to make sure that they are getting the proper amounts of sleep to allow their bodies to grow.

Sleep and Muscle Strength in Children

Sleep also plays an important role in muscle building in children. Even though children will build muscle as they run and play, most overlook the importance that sleep plays on muscle hypertrophy and strength.

A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research performed a cross-sectional study examining the sleep habits of close to 1,000 adolescents through a questionnaire. The researchers found that sleep was inversely related to markers of obesity, such as waist circumference, and positively related to skeletal muscle mass in boys.

Interestingly, the adolescents that had the most sleep were affected similarly to those with the least sleep. Both groups showed that waist circumference significantly increased, indicating that both too little and too much sleep can negatively impact body composition.

These results were echoed by another study that was published investigating the sleep habits of college students. While some university students view pulling the “all-nighter” as a rite of passage, researchers found that it can impact their muscle strength significantly.

This study looked at over 10,000 university students and found that males with a short sleep duration (defined as under 6 hours), when compared to those who had a good night’s sleep (more than 7 hours), had reduced muscle strength.

There are lots of reasons why this decrease in muscular strength occurs. For one, as people sleep, protein synthesis increases, allowing people to rebuild the muscle that is broken down over the course of the day. Therefore, it is vital for everyone to get enough sleep to help rebuild their muscle fibers.

Sleep Plays a Direct Role

There are more children in the United States who are overweight or obese than ever before. This excess fat tissue leads to the development of numerous health problems including high blood pressure and diabetes. While proper diet and exercise are critical for maintaining a healthy body composition, sleep plays a vital role in the management of obesity as well.

The importance of sleep begins even in the toddler years, based on a study that was published in BMC Public Health. The researchers combined data from close to 70 research articles, totaling close to 150,000 people from almost two dozen different countries. The researchers assessed the sleep of children via parental report or measured the sleep habits directly.

The researchers found that shorter sleep duration led to higher rates of body adiposity in addition to impaired growth, increased screen time, and poor emotional regulation. This means that children who sleep more, even during the toddler years, are more likely to have a favorable body composition, marked by a lower body fat percentage.

These results were backed up by a similar study carried out on children between the ages of 7 and 9, which was published in the American Journal of Human Biology. The researchers performed a cross-sectional study on more than 4,500 children. The height, weight, and skin folds of the children were measured and sleep data were collected via a parent survey. The researchers found that:

  • Children who slept fewer than 9 hours per night was more than three times as likely to be overweight or obese when compared to children who slept greater than 9 hours per night

  • Children who slept more than 11 hours had a body fat percentage of 20.9 when compared to children who slept less than 9 hours, who had a body fat percentage of 23.4 (p < 0.001)

Even though parents might associate more sleep with more sedentary activity, sleep is actually important for children to maintain a healthy body composition. The body needs time to rest and recharge as it gets ready for the next day. Furthermore, the body needs sleep to carry out the growth and development that is critically important to young children.

So, what do all of these studies mean? An article published in Obesity Reviews sought to tie a lot of these results together. The researchers indicated that regular lack of sleep can lead to:

  • Higher levels of insulin resistance, leading to higher cortisol levels, that may eventually lead to the development of diabetes

  • Higher blood pressures and salt retention, linked to cardiac problems

  • The development of diabetes can increase appetite and alter metabolism, leading to changes in body composition and the development of obesity

All of this demonstrates that proper amounts of sleep are vital in the treatment of obesity and excess adiposity. Therefore, any obesity treatment plan should address sleep as a cornerstone to the intervention.

Proper Amounts of Sleep are Crucial to Overall Health

It can be hard for children to get the proper amount of sleep at night. Because of how connected children are today, it is difficult for kids to separate the school environment from home. This leads to challenges in establishing a consistent bedtime routine.

For children, it is vital to make sure that they get to bed at night. Sleep plays a critical role in school performance, social development, growth, and overall health. Even though homework and sports can make it hard for children to get to bed on time, it is important for parents to work hard to keep the bedtime consistent. This means avoiding electronics and exercise prior to bed and staying away from caffeinated drinks such as soda, to keep the body in a regular rhythm. Teaching good sleep habits early can help children to develop properly and maintain health (and a good body composition) into adulthood.


David Randolph graduated from medical school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He is currently completing his Residency in Pediatrics at the University of South Carolina.

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