Body Composition—Why You Ought to Ditch the Scale

A healthy weight is not always reflected by the bathroom scale. Knowing your body composition ratio of fat-to-lean body mass is a much more accurate and objective measure of your health and fitness.

Body weight is deceptive and unreliable because as we all know our body weight can change by a lot day-to-day, hour-by-hour, simply from the foods we eat. For example, a salty meal can leave you bloated and unable to button your favorite jeans, and a night of unhealthy foods can leave you constipated.

Beyond weight, we need a reliable way to measure the effectiveness of our fitness program—for example a starting a weight training program can make you gain weight, before you lose it.

Measure the Positive Changes in Muscle-to-Fat Ratio
A better indicator of your health and fitness is the amount of fat vs. lean body mass. You can be within the weight norms listed on height/weight charts, but in reality, be over-fat. And as we all know an overly high percentage of body fat can lead to an array of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer.


There are a number of methods to measure body composition. Here are four of the most popular methods:

Skinfold Calipers

Pro: Skinfold measurement is perhaps the most simple and inexpensive way to measure body fat. Many coaches and trainers use calipers at the health club because it’s quick and easy. The process involves taking anywhere from three to 7 site measurements on the body; for example, on men—chest, abdomen, thigh; on women—triceps, suprailium (hip area), and thigh.


Con: The simplicity comes at a price—accuracy. Accuracy is only “plus” or “minus” 5-6% and is only as good as the practitioner’s skill.


Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)

Pro: You’ve seen them in the form of high tech bathroom scales and handheld devices. BIA sends a electrical current through your body to find out how easily it can be read. The more easily it can be read, the less body fat you have.

Con: The problem with BIA is that it’s not all that accurate because the readings can be skewed by lack of hydration, obesity, and high muscle mass.

Hydrostatic Weighing

Pro: This is underwater weighing where you are completely submerged in a water tank.  The upside is that it’s pretty accurate, “plus” or “minus” 2%.

Con: The downside it that it requires you to get wet! Hydrostatic weighing can be costly; however, you can usually find bargain rates through University kinesiology labs.



Pro: DEXA is a Dual X-ray Absorbpiometry Scanner that has the capability to measure percentage body fat and lean body mass. This is accomplished by using the state of the art technology. DEXA is the most accurate and precise method of measuring body fat and is regarded by many as the new 'gold standard'.

Con: DEXA Scans are found in hospitals and clinical settings, and they can be quite costly and tough to find.

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