Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Study Spotlight: The Accuracy of Body Composition Assessment Strategies

By: Andrew Jagim

The identification of one's body composition is a valuable tool for classification of health status, monitoring changes in training adaptations and providing individualized nutritional recommendations. We firmly believe that BODY COMPOSITION is far more beneficial than simply one's body weight, even when that body weight is expressed as a ratio of their weight which is how the body mass index (BMI) is calculated. For more on this topic check out our previous post HERE.  With that being said, it's important to understand HOW you assess body composition also matters. There are several different tools and techniques available to measure body composition (i.e. Underwaterweighing, Dual X-ray Absorptiometry [DEXA], BODPOD, Skinfold, Bioelectrical Impedance [BIA]), each having their own pros and cons.

For a long time it was generally accepted that Underwater-weighing was considered the gold-standard when it came to the most reliable and accurate way to assess body composition. Later, DEXA was developed and also offered the advantage of being able to measure not only Body Fat % but also bone mineral density. It is also a very reliable and accurate tool for measuring body composition.  Within the last twenty years, several other techniques have become available, with air-displacement plethysmography (using the BODPOD) offering a cheaper (I use this term loosely) way to assess body composition (only $50,000 compared to $120,000). The Bod Pod has been shown to be a valid and reliable tool for measuring body composition, particularly when compared to other field-based measures such as skin-fold testing or BIA.  Again, it's important to select an assessment technique that gives you the most accurate reading when it comes to measuring your body composition, particularly if you are using to detect changes in body composition over time.  Otherwise you will likely soon become discouraged or frustrated as your "progress," regarding your body fat %, may not be reflecting the progress that the mirror or the clothes test is actually telling you; and that's because the error rate on some of these techniques can be as high as +/- 13%!!!! You may as well just blindly guess at that point.  On the other hand, the Bod Pod typically sees an error range of +/- 1-3%. Therefore I highly recommend spending some extra money for an accurate body composition analysis if you ever have the opportunity to do so and not rely on your bathroom scale and also doubles as an impedance analyzer as you are likely being mislead.

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