Body Fat…What’s the Best Way to Measure it?

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Loosing fat without losing muscle is imperative to most if not all of us, specially those in the athletic world?

Accurate, consistent methods of measurement are key in tracking your athletes to ensure training programmes are effective.  So, how do you accurately and consistently track if you are losing fat, muscle, or both?

The most common methods of how most people measure body fat percentage are explored below.

While these methods vary in accuracy, the key to assessing #bodyfat levels is consistent, recorded measurements over time (repeatability) so that you can effectively track your progress

1. Calipers

The “skin fold” method measures body fat percentage by pinching a fold of fat then measuring the thickness with a body fat calliper.  The reading is given in millimetres and  compared to a chart according to age and gender to arrive at a given body fat percentage. There are many t-types of caliper tests, which range from single to multi site tests.

Pros:

  • Fairly accurate
  • Cheap
  • Dependable (when skilled at measuring)
  • Repeatable

Cons:

  • Variability of measurement (the exact fat fold site needs to be used every time)
  • Multisite tests require an experienced administrator
  • For people who are 35+ pounds overweight, fat may not fit within caliper, thus reducing accuracy

 



2. Bioelectric Impedance Analysis

Bioelectric Impedance Analysis, or BIA, determines the electrical impedance, or opposition to the flow of an electric current through the body.   This is now a common feature on readily available bathroom scales.

Muscle has high water content, and is highly conductive, while fat has lower water content and is not highly conductive.  Based on the strength of the impedance calculated according to height and weight metrics, the BIA scale will estimate fat-free body mass and body fat percentage.  Because the BIA test is based on body water balance, your state of hydration can impact the level of accuracy.

Pros:

  • Very easy to administer
  • Inexpensive (most weight scales around $50 or even less have BIA)

Cons:

  • Questionable Accuracy
  • Variability of results dependent on hydration level

 

3. DEXA Scan

Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry a.k.a DEXA is commonly considered the gold standard of body fat measurement because it’s based on a three-compartment model that divides the body into total body mineral,  lean mass, and fat tissue mass.

DEXA also allows us to identify the distribution of body fat for analysis.  The procedure uses a body scanner with low dose x-rays, so it’s completely safe, and takes about 10-20 minutes.

Pros:

1  Very accurate

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not readily available/accessible to all

 

4. MuscleSound

Using images captured from 7 specific sites on the body by #ultrasound imaging the layer of #fat beneath the skin is measured from the images and analysed by cloud based software,  fed through a validated algorithm that has been honed to optimise validity and the results are available within minutes.  #Musclesound determines the percentage of fat at each of the sites measured and produces a report that illustrates the percentage of site specific fat content allowing fat distribution to be analysed in much like DEXA.  A study by Pineua at al (2009) found that ultrasound estimates of body fat percentage were correlated closely with those of DEXA in both females and males and that the use of a portable ultrasound device produced accurate body fat and body fat percentage estimates in relation to the fan-beam DEXA technique.

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Pros:

  • Non invasive
  • Minimal influence from external factors i.e hair/humidity
  • Quick
  • Affordable
  • Repeatable
  • Accurate
  • Easy to read reports generated automatically

Cons:

I’m struggling to find any if I’m honest!

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Conclusion:

All these methods rely on algorithms to convert a measured parameter into an estimate of #bodyfat percentage, so none of them are 100% perfect.  Algorithms have variation based on how the underlying assumptions and formulas apply to different populations.  The most accurate measure discussed here DEXA which is expensive and difficult to access for most.  MuscleSound has several advantages over and above other standard methods of measurement and offers the user a highly accurate measure, detailed readable report and repeatability which can be applied to the individual and team athlete.

 

If you are interested to learn more about #Musclesound and its application please get in touch. We are now offering #BodyFat scanning at Resolve Physiotherapy.  For your appointment you will need to be prepared to undress to a degree, please wear shorts and ladies a suitable sports bra.  The appointment will take no more than 15 minutes and provide you with a full printed report to show your site specific distribution of fat, the percentage fat at each site and your overall body fat percentage!

 

Please call us on 0121 293 0237 to book your 7 point #Bodyfat Scan!

 

 

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