Top Five Methods of Testing Body Fat in 2022
It’s the start of the New Year and health-based resolutions are on everyone’s mind. One of the top recurring resolution themes every year is weight loss. However, losing weight can become a frustrating goal if you just started your fitness journey and are unsure where to begin. A great starting point is to understand where the weight is coming from. For that reason, knowing your overall body composition becomes essential and will help you create a customized training program. Re-testing your body composition every couple of months will help determine if your training program is working and how to make any necessary adjustments.
What is Body Composition?
Body composition refers to the breakdown of the human body; it gives you a snapshot of your body’s percentage of fat mass and lean mass. Fat mass includes both subcutaneous and visceral fat. Lean mass includes skeletal muscle mass, bone mass, connective, and organ tissue.
The health data you receive from the body composition analysis gives you a significant advantage that you won’t get with a basic scale. It is answering not only “How much?” but, more importantly, “Of what?” your body is made of. Understanding your body composition on a deeper level will help you strategize an exercise plan to achieve your goals. For example, it may provide insights into whether you need to gain lean muscle mass, lose body fat, or go through a recomposition phase. Working with a qualified nutritionist and personal trainer can help you determine the right approach for you.
Top Methods to Measure Body Composition
Various methods can be used to measure your body composition. Here are the five most common methods of determining your body composition.
Seca mBCA 525 (Bioelectrical Impedance):
This is a noninvasive assessment providing an in-depth analysis of precise health data by measuring fat mass, fat-free mass, total body water, intracellular water, extracellular water, and skeletal muscle mass. Additionally, the Seca mBCA is the best help for early detection of many diseases such as obesity, diabetes, or malnutrition.
Pros: Noninvasive, quick process and results.
Cons: Medical Grade bioelectrical impedance is not readily available at most testing locations
The margin of error: 1-2%
To determine your body composition, including the distribution and how much muscle mass and fat mass you have, the Dexa scan is one of the most accurate tests available. With a margin of error of 1.6%, the DEXA scan gives you precise insight into your health, from knowing your bone density to differentiating your subcutaneous and visceral fat.
Pros: Very accurate results
Cons: Uses X-rays which may be harmful with repeated exposure
The margin of error: 1.6%
This egg-shaped machine uses air displacement to measure your weight and volume to determine body fat and fat-free mass. The Bod Pod offers an accurate and straightforward way to determine your body composition.
Pros: Very accurate, easy process
Cons: Restricted in your movement to get accurate results, invasive (have to take your clothes off), need to repeat the test three times to get accurate results, not widely available to the public.
The margin of error: 1%-3%
This test uses Calipers in a couple of strategic locations (abdomen, triceps, calf, etc.) to assess the thickness of the skinfold and determine the amount of body fat you have. Since everyone stores the fat in their bodies differently and this test only measures subcutaneous fat, the chance of impacting the accuracy is higher.
Pros: Easy access to equipment, lower cost
Cons: Not as accurate
The margin of error: 8%-11%
Hydrostatic (Underwater) Weighing:
This test uses water displacement to estimate your body composition. It is the difference between the weight of your body on land and underwater that allows the administrators to calculate your bone density and body fat percentage. This hydrostatic weighing test takes about 15 minutes and is a safe procedure. Before DEXA, hydrostatic weighing was considered the gold standard of body composition assessment. To accurately assess your body composition, the user must get rid of all the reserve air volume in their lungs before pulling themselves underwater. This can be an extremely uncomfortable sensation for some people.
Pros: Accurate results
Cons: Invasive, time-consuming, not easily available. No visceral fat reading.
The margin of error: 1%-3% margin of error
Don’t be in the 92% of people who made health based New Year’s resolutions and were unsuccessful at achieving their goals. Instead, stop looking at the fixed number of the scale, and find a smarter way of measuring your starting weight and your progress.
To complete your metabolic health picture, you should also include Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) and VO2 max.