Analysing Body Composition
Body composition analysis allows you to segregate and examine the percentage of different components making up an individuals body composition.
Often individuals do lose weight following weight loss programs by losing muscle or total body water and not their percentage fat mass. Body composition examines the percentage of fat free mass (lean tissue, muscle, organs etc.), percentage fat mass and total body water in both percentage and kilograms.
We can then determine the weight of each component to see how they contribute to your overall weight. Following weight loss or gain programs you can then analysis if the losses or gains are from fat mass or muscle mass.
Body composition can be measured through a variety of direct and non-direct methods including the following:
Skin callipers are used to take measurements in millimetres from several different sites in the body. The sum of all sites is calculated and then following an equation we can calculate percentage body fat and percentage fat free mass.
Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)
This method involves small, alternating currents flowing through the body. The body contains a high percentage of water containing electrolytes which act as an excellent conductor for the current.
As lean tissue is primarily made up of water it can calculate the amount of lean body mass. Fat contains very little water and is therefore a poor conductor. The resistance to flow is then calculated to measure fat mass.
Both technqiues are fairly accurate ways to measure the percentage fat mass and percentage fat free mass.
Hydrostatic Weighing Methods
Hydrostatic weighing is widely used to measure body density. The process involves an individual attaining their dry weight and then entering a stainless steel tank filled with water. They then sit on a chair within the tank with a weight belt and their full body immersed in the tank.
All movement is avoided until the weight is recorded. Several recordings are done to make sure the recording is accurate. Before the individual immerses themselves into the tank they must exhale all air out of the lungs.
Once the recordings are complete, the individual can leave the tank. Calculations are then made using dry weight, weight in water, residual volume etc. to attain the fat mass percentage.
Hydrostatic weighing is thought to be one of the most accurate ways to measure body density and body fat. However, the tank is extremely expensive and not easily accessed. They are predominantly found in universities.
Athletes may have denser bones and muscle mass than non athletes which need to be considered with using this method. Also, individuals with osteoporosis may appear to have greater fat mass. Both of these factors need to be considered when using hydrostatic weighing.
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Terminology of Body Composition Analysis
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