When it comes to figuring out your unique body composition, there are so many terms and measurements out there that it can be easy to mix them all up. Lean body mass, fat-free mass, body fat, and body mass index are just some of the ways to understand and measure your body, yet they are each quite different from one another.
For starters, if you’re on a weight loss journey, it’s particularly helpful to know the difference between body mass and body fat. Here’s an overview of their distinctions as well as the types of calculators you can use to figure out yours.
What is Lean Body Mass?
“Lean body mass” is often used interchangeably with the term “fat-free mass” although there is a slight difference. Lean body mass is the weight of everything in your body minus your nonessential fat. This includes your skin, bones, muscles, organs, ligaments, tendons, and body water. The reason it’s important to say “nonessential” is because there is some fat found in your organs and marrow that’s essential for metabolism.
To calculate lean body mass, some people use specialized methods like underwater/hydrostatic weighing or skin calipers. But, there’s a much simpler way to estimate your lean body mass index. Just use a lean body mass calculator.
Using this free online calculator, you can plug in your age, gender, weight, and height along with your neck and waist measurements in order to learn your lean body mass, otherwise known as a fat-free body mass measurement.
What is Body Fat Percentage?
Body fat percentage is the proportion of fat that a body has compared to its total weight. Many people use this percentage as a marker for how fit they are. Compared to body mass index or BMI, body fat percentage factors in how much things like your muscles, bones, and tissue weigh (in other words, your lean body mass)—all of which can vary depending on the person.
Similar to your lean body mass, there are a number of different ways to go about determining your body fat percentage like getting a DEXA scan and using a fat caliper. But, the easiest way to calculate body fat percentage is to use a body fat calculator.
For this calculator, all you have to do is input the same measurements (age, gender, weight, height, neck, and waist) to see your body fat as a percentage as well as a mass measurement. The calculator will also let you know the category of your body fat based on averages and what the ideal body fat percentage is for your age.
Common Misconceptions About Body Mass and Body Fat
Many people think that the healthier they are, the lower body mass or weight they’ll have. This is false, because there are different standards for what’s considered healthy depending on your body size. For example, if you’re a foot taller than someone, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to have the same target weight to look “good” and be healthy because you have longer bones, which means more mass.
Additionally, you might have heard that muscle weighs more than fat. This is a common misconception. While a pound of muscle weighs just as much as a pound of fat, the difference is that muscle is actually denser than fat, which means it doesn’t take up as much space as the fat does in your body. That’s why if you’re working out more, losing weight, and building muscle, you may look slimmer and more fit but still weigh the same amount.
Common Misconceptions About Body Fat
Regarding body fat, people who want to lose weight often strive to have the lowest body fat percentage possible. One thing that’s important to keep in mind, though, is that your body still needs a certain amount of fat in order to function. This number depends on gender as well as the amount of physical activity. Therefore, having a goal of 0% body fat is not just unrealistic, it’s also dangerous for your health.
Another widespread misconception about body fat is that if you stop working out, your muscle will turn into fat. This isn’t true! Fat and muscle are two entirely different things. Just like how your muscle won’t suddenly transform into fat, you can’t go the other route and change your fat into muscle. It may just seem like this is possible because you’re burning fat at the same time you’re building muscle.
Lean body mass and body fat are two different components that both come into play when figuring out your body composition. It’s important to understand and separate the two when examining your health and planning any weight loss goals. While there are other more involved methods available, you can easily figure out your unique body composition with a lean body mass calculator and a body fat calculator.
Cindy is a freelance writer and editor with previous experience in marketing as well as book publishing. Along with her content writing for a diverse portfolio of clients, Cindy’s work has been featured in Thrillist, The Points Guy, Forbes, and more.