For this blog post I have taken the common questions regarding body composition I receive daily and answered them below.
What is body composition?
Essentially body composition is a quantitative measure of your bodily tissues, this includes your bone mass, muscle mass, fat mass, water mass and organ mass. Body composition varies from person-to-person and you also see large differences between sports for example sumo wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts.
Why is understanding body composition important?
When you weigh yourself on a standard set of scales this will give you a figure, let’s say 80kg…which is great…but what does this mean? The 80kg on the scale is a reference to how much gravitational pull you are producing on the earth, but that’s about it. Body composition measurement lets you dig deeper into your mass, what is that 80kg of me made of? Your performance and general health also relies heavily on body composition, for general health you are looking at not being too high in body-fat but also not being too low. Both extremes can have a detrimental effect of your health over time.
How do I measure my body composition?
There are several ways to measure this, the table below highlights the various methods and a few of the pros and cons to these methods.
| Bodyweight Scales
|| Simple to use and easy to remember result
|| Bodyweight Scales Simple to use and easy to remember result Doesn’t tell you how much fat, water, muscle etc. you have
|| Quick measure, requires small amount of training
|| Can be inaccurate depending on the skill of the assessor
| BIA (Bio-Electrical Impedance Scales)
|| Inexpensive and portable
|| Error margins can be as high as +- 8% body fat in some individuals
| Bod-Pod (Air Displacement Plethysmography)
|| Simple, just requires you to sit there
|| The test is sensitive to things such as body temperature, water and food intake etc
| DEXA (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry)
|| Gold standard at measuring bone mineral mass/accurate within 3% (approx.)
|| Generally, only found in hospitals or universities
| Hydrostatic Weighing (hydrodensitometry)
|| Good accuracy over numerous measures
|| Not suitable for some younger or older patients as the testing can be uncomfortable
| MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
|| High capacity to measure regional body fat levels
|| Cost of MRI is around £500 per test on average
|| Applicable for testing in the field/portable
|| Requires an experienced technician to use properly
How do I improve my body composition?
Firstly, understanding where you are currently by using one of the above measures. This will help you contextualise what your current body composition is. Following this any improvement you make needs to be based on a sound goal which is specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART) to maximise your chances of success.
If you’re interested in understanding more about body composition, where you can access the different types of body measures and how I can help you maximise your training, contact me on email@example.com