Fat loss, maintenance or gaining muscle mass – our end goals may vary but ultimately we all aim for results. A decrease or increase in the respective desired number can go a long way in uplifting our spirits. However, all the information overload regarding measurement and the different devices, techniques and opinions can get a little overwhelming and you end up trusting nothing but the mirror. But it’s always nice to have a numerical result so your muscles can do a little happy dance because numbers represent milestones, and we humans love that. Although there is only one ‘direct’ method of measuring body composition that is close to 100% accurate, and that is an autopsy – performed Post Mortem. All other current methods for measuring body composition rely on ‘indirect’ measurements techniques and are called In Vivo methods – meaning they are performed on a living body. Of course giving up our lives would be too much to ask, so a little error here and there is something we can come to terms with.
So are you pursuing the right numbers?
Although the weighing scale is a convenient method to keep track of progress, we all know that it only measures our body’s density and does not give a breakdown of water weight, body fat mass, lean muscle mass etc. Enter the fancy one size fits all shortcut, BMI (Body mass index). However, the BMI is flawed too because it only adds the height factor to your body’s density and doesn’t take into account the real deal, actual body fat content or muscle mass, making it a skewed metric. For instance, a bodybuilder whose weight is higher than normal due to increased muscle mass will appear obese according to his BMI number. In comparison, an elderly person’s BMI number may appear in the healthy range (<27) even though they’ve had significant muscle loss.
Body composition – What are you made of?
A body composition analysis allows you to approach your fitness goals more mindfully, with evidence that saves you the guess-work. If you don’t know what you are actually built of, you will only be assuming how much muscle mass and fat you have, which can make your journey towards health and fitness more ambiguous rather than accurate.
Here are a few common ways to measure body composition:
- Seinfeld calipers – simple to use and portable; works by pinching external body fat in several places around your body and measuring how much skin can be grasped by the caliper’s arms. These results are taken and used in mathematical calculations, which determine the fat content in your entire body. However, they fail to measure your visceral fat content.
- Hydrostatic weighing – (also known as underwater weighing) involves submersing yourself in a pool and being weighed on a special scale. However, just like calipers, hydrostatic weighing cannot report anything beyond body fat, like skeletal muscle mass or body water.
- Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry or DEXA – (also sometimes abbreviated as DXA), is a medical test that was originally designed to measure bone density, it is now also used to measure bo
dy fat and body composition, and it can give results such as body fat percentage and soft lean mass. Unlike calipers and underwater weighing, DEXA scans are able to measure the body segmentally, scanning each arm and the trunk separately in order to accurately measure body fat percentage, soft lean mass, and other body composition elements.
- Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA) – works by sending a small electrical current into a person and measuring the opposition of that current (impedance) as it travels throughout the body’s water. Once impedance is measured, your complete body composition is determined. Unlike other methods, a technician does not always need to be present at a BIA test, and you can use BIA devices with just by following the directions on the device.
BIA is by far the quickest, most convenient and widespread method of attaining an in depth body composition analysis. BIA machines can be expensive but there are different kinds of portable and affordable variables coming up in the market.
The TomTom Touch fitness tracker is the first of its kind that has a Body Composition Analysis (BCA) capability incorporated by using BIA technology. It can calculate your body fat% and muscle mass % at the touch of a button as often as you like. The ease in accessibility of regularly tracking these parameters certainly is every fitness enthusiast’s dream come true!
Baseline is, progress tracking can help you stick on your path to transform yourself of maintain your fitness goals. While the equipment or technology you choose to use to track your progress can be of some help, but what matters the most is, your consistency in your efforts and your determination to achieve your goals!