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The Best Way to Change Your Body Composition

Lose Fat And Build Muscle With The Right Workout Plan

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Updated May 22, 2014

The Best Way to Change Your Body Composition

Change your body composition with the right combination of exercises.

James Brey/Getty Images

Do you want to lose weight or do you want to lose fat? Most people who diet and exercise want to get rid of flab, but keep lean, tight muscles. That is, they want to change their body composition. To do that you've got to create a workout plan with the right combination of exercises.

What is Body Composition?

Body composition is your body's ratio of fat to lean mass, including muscle, bones and organs. Body composition is evaluated using body fat percent. A fit woman's percent body fat is generally between 21-24%. A fit man's body fat generally falls between 14-17%.

There are many ways to measure body fat percent. Many health clubs and doctor's offices can perform simple tests to get the number. There are also body fat scales that measure the percent. Before you start an exercise program, it's a good idea to know your number so that you can measure your progress along the way.

Keep in mind that when you exercise to change your body's shape it is possible to see your weight increase or stay the same, even though your body is getting smaller. The reason for this is that muscle weighs more than fat. As you lose fat and gain muscle, the net result may be a small increase on the scale.

How to Exercise to Lose Fat

All forms of exercise burn calories. You can even burn calories without exercise. But what is the best way to burn fat? Aerobic exercise will do the trick. Aerobic activity, sometimes called cardio, is exercise that gets your heart pumping. During an aerobic workout you'll breathe heavier and begin to sweat.

It is not necessary, however, to exercise to the point of breathlessness every day. For most people, the most efficient fat burning occurs at a moderate exercise intensity.  There are different ways to measure exercise intensity, but if you use perceived exertion, moderate intensity would rank as a 7 on a scale of 1-10.

As your fitness level improves, however, you want to include harder workouts in your exercise schedule. Higher intensity workouts burn more calories, but a smaller ratio of fat. To maximize fat loss, combine high intensity, moderate intensity and low intensity workouts into a complete and balanced fitness program.

Build Muscle With Strength Training

For many people, the real change to their body comes when they begin strength training. While strength training might make your heart pump faster, it is not considered an aerobic activity. The purpose of strength training is to build and shape the muscles.

A common misconception among women is that strength training will cause them to bulk up. This is rarely the case. Women don't make enough of the hormone testosterone to build the muscles that a man might build doing the same workout. So grab those weights, ladies, and get pumping!

Starting a strength-training program requires no special equipment and doesn't mean that you have to join a gym. Simple body weight exercises are effective. For example, combine push-ups with variations of the lunge and abdominal plank exercises, and you will build strength in all of the major muscle groups of your body.

Change Your Body Composition in Less Time

The best way to lose fat and shape your body in a short period of time is to combine aerobic activity with strength training. You can do this in a single workout with circuit training or alternate workouts from day to day.

  • Circuit training. Combine your favorite cardio activity with strength training and alternate each activity within a single workout. For example, if you like to walk you might get on a treadmill and climb a hill for 7 minutes then follow up with 3 minutes of push-ups, lunges, and abdominal curls. Repeat that pattern three to six times for a complete circuit workout.
  • Alternate days. You can also burn fat and build muscle by alternating workouts on different days. For example, you might choose to take an aerobics class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and complete your strength-training workout on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Try not to schedule strength-training days on consecutive days as your muscles need time to recover.
Don't forget that changing your body composition takes time and the most important element of your workout program is consistency. And of course, a good diet is essential.  Make sure you monitor your energy balance to get the deficit you need for fat loss to occur.

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