What is lean body mass?

Lean body mass

Arno Smit

Lean body mass is an important metric in the sports and fitness world. However, few realize it is also crucial for general health and well-being. Lean body mass refers to all your mass, excluding your fat mass.  Thus, it includes the mass of your bones, organs, connective tissue, blood, muscles and other tissues. Your muscles make up most of your lean body mass and are responsible for most of the interpersonal variability. 

For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, a high lean body mass is essential for optimal performance and physical appearance. A greater proportion of muscle mass can improve athletic performance, increase metabolism, and contribute to a toned and defined physique.

For non-athletes, muscle mass is important as it aids in weight management and is associated with overall health and quality of life, especially as one ages. 

While diet and exercise play a significant role in determining muscle mass, genetics also plays a part. Certain genes have been linked to an individual's ability to build and maintain muscle mass, affecting their overall lean body mass.

Individuals that naturally have a greater lean body mass may also be taller or larger in overall body size, even though they are not overweight at all. These individuals will not typically be your naturally-born jockeys, for example. Thus, knowing your genetic predisposition for lean body mass could aid in selecting the most suited sporting activities for optimal performance or fitness results. 

Regardless of genetic makeup, resistance exercise and a healthy diet remain crucial for long-term health and well-being. Maintaining muscle mass is important to counter age-related muscle mass that occurs with age. 

In conclusion, lean body mass is crucial for fitness, performance, and health. While genetics plays a role and could determine sports performance potential, it should not be seen as an excuse for a lack of muscle mass for the purpose of health. Proper nutrition and exercise can help anyone increase their LBM and reach their fitness goals.

 Written by: Jonine Möller, M.Sc. in Sport Science

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