10 different ways to measure body composition

10 Different ways to measure body composition

Being overweight or obese raises your risk of many issues with your health. Fat around the abdomen (stomach) is associated with diabetes, heart and circulatory disease and cancer hazards.

Stepping on the scale may be frustrating and seeing no change. While it is natural to want objective feedback on your advancement, your focus should not be on body weight. Some individuals with overweight are healthy, while others are unhealthy with ordinary weight. Your proportion of body fat, however, informs you what your weight is. In particular, it informs you the fat percentage of your complete body weight. The reduced proportion of your body fat, the greater percentage you have on your frame of lean muscle mass.

How exactly do you measure body composition?

You need to know the structure of the body if you want to run quicker, cycle longer or see some of that hard-earned muscle show through. Learning about your

 is essential to your ideal results and appearance as it can assist you strategize an exercise plan in terms of fat loss, muscle building, or both.

Testing how much of your body is and is not fat determines how much of your body is. Your body’s non-fat portion is called lean tissue, including your muscle, water, bone, and organs. Lean tissue is known as metabolic tissue, the tissue that burns calories throughout the day. The greater your resting metabolic rate will be the leaner tissues you have. The fat portion is fat in the body. Body fat is a type of energy storage and therefore has a very small requirement for calories.

There are many distinct methods of measuring the structure of the body. There are benefits and disadvantages for each technique.

Skinfold Calipers

Skinfold measurements have been used for more than 50 years to estimate body fat Skinfold calipers measure the density of your subcutaneous fat under the skin at certain body places.

Measurements are done on the body at 3 or 7 distinct places in males and females. For women, triceps, above the hip bone and thigh or the abdomen are considered for the 3 site measurement. For a 7 site measurement, the chest and area below the shoulder blade are measured. For men, the chest, abdomen and thigh or triceps and scapula are measured for 3 site measurement. The areas near the arms and below the shoulder blade are measured for 7 site measurement.

Availability – Calipers can be affordable and easy to purchase online.

Accuracy – It is inexpensive and comparatively easy to estimate the proportion of body fat with skinfold calipers once you understand how to do it. However, the precision relies on the ability of the evaluator. Measurement might range from 3 – 5 % body fat.

Pros – They are very fairly cheap and can be measured rapidly. They can be used at home and they are portable as well.

Cons – The technique needs understanding of exercise and fundamental anatomy. Some people also don’t enjoy clenching their fat.

measure body composition

Body Circumference Measurements

Body shape differs from individual to individual and your body shape gives your body fat data measuring the circumference of certain body components is a easy technique of estimating body fat.

For example, the U.S. Army uses a calculation of body fat that simply requires the age, height and a few measurements of circumference of an individual.

For men, this equation uses their neck and waist circumferences. The hip circumference is also included for females.

Availability – There is a readily accessible flexible measuring tape and it is very inexpensive.

Accuracy – It is fast and simple to use body circumferences to estimate body fat. The precision of this technique, however, can differ extensively and is not regarded an optimal method to measure the proportion of body fat. The precision of the equations may differ extensively depending on your resemblance to the individuals used to create them. The error rate can be as small as 2.5–4.5% body fat, but it can be much greater as well.

Pros – This is a simple and inexpensive technique. All you need is a flexible measurement tape and calculator. These instruments are portable and can be used at home.

Cons – Due to variations in body form and fat distribution, body circumference equations may not be precise for all individuals.

Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA)

As the name suggests, DXA utilizes two distinct energy X-rays to measure your proportion of body fat during a DXA scan, while an X-ray scans over you for about 10 minutes.

A DXA scan’s quantity of radiation is very small. DXA is also used to evaluate bone density and gives comprehensive data about the bone, lean mass and fat in distinct body areas (arms, legs and torso) during three hours of your regular life.

 Availability – In medical or research environments, a DXA is typically only accessible.

Accuracy – DXA is more precise than many other body fat percentage assessment techniques. It is often inaccessible to the general population, however, for regular testing, relatively costly and not viable. A DXA delivers outcomes that are more compatible than some other techniques. The error rate varies between 2.5 and 3.5% body fat.

Pros – This technique offers precise and comprehensive data, including a breakdown of various body areas and measurements of bone density.

Cons – DXAs are often inaccessible to the general public, costly when available and provide very little radiation.

Hydrostatic Weighing

This method, also known as underwater weighing or hydro densitometry, estimates your body composition based on its density This technique weighs you down in the water after exhaling as much air from your lungs as possible.

You are also weighed while on dry soil and estimated or measured the quantity of air remaining in your lungs after exhale.

To determine your body’s density, all this data is entered in equations. The density of your body is then used to estimate the proportion of fat in your body.

Availability – Hydrostatic weighing is typically accessible only at universities, medical services or some fitness centers.

Accuracy – Hydrostatic weighing is a precise way of evaluating your body fat. It is only accessible at certain installations, however, and includes holding your breath while fully immersed in water. When testing is done, the error could be as low as 2% body fat.

Pros – It is fast and very accurate

Cons – To be completely submerged under water is hard or impossible for people. The technique needs as much water as necessary to breathe out and then hold your breath underwater.

Air Displacement Plethysmography (Bod Pod)

Air displacement Plethysmography (ADP) estimates your body fat percentage based on your body density, similar to hydrostatic weighing. However, ADP utilizes air rather than water. The connection between volume and air pressure enables this tool to predict your body density by sitting inside an egg-shaped room for several minutes while changing the air pressure inside the chamber.

During testing, you need to wear skin-tightened clothing or a bathing suit to get precise measurements.

Availability – Typically, ADP is only accessible at universities, medical services or some fitness centers.

Accuracy – The Bod Pod is presently used as the primary ADP device. Instead of water, it predicts your body fat with air. It has excellent precision, with an error rate of 2–4% body fat.

Pros – The technique is precise and comparatively fast, and there is no need to be submerged in water.

Cons – The accessibility of ADP is restricted and can be costly.

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)

BIA devices detect how tiny electrical currents are responding to your body. This is performed by putting your skin with electrodes. Some electrodes send currents into your body, while others receive the signal after your body tissues have passed through it. Due to the greater water content of the muscle, electrical currents pass through the muscle more easily than fat. The BIA system automatically enters the reaction of your body to electrical currents into an equation that predicts your body composition. The price, complexity and precision of many distinct BIA systems differ extensively.

Availability – While there are many units accessible to customers, they are often less precise than the costly instruments used in medical or research environments.

Accuracy – BIA devices function by sending tiny electrical currents through your body to see how readily they move through your tissues. There are many distinct devices available, although more precise outcomes are produced by sophisticated systems.

Pros – BIA is fast and easy, and consumers can buy many devices.

Cons – The accuracy varies widely and the intake of food and fluid can be significantly affected.

Bioimpedance Spectroscopy (BIS)

BIS is comparable to BIA because both techniques assess the reaction of the body to tiny electrical currents. Devices from BIS and BIA look comparable, but use distinct technologies.

In relation to elevated and low frequencies, BIS utilizes a much bigger number of electrical currents than BIA to mathematically estimate your body fluid quantity BIS also analyzes the data differently, and some scientists think BIS is more precise than BIA. However, similar to BIA, BIS utilizes the body fluid data it collects to predict your body composition based on equations.

The accuracy of these two methods depends on how similar you are to the people for who developed these equations.

Availability – Usually, BIS is only accessible in universities, medical facilities or some fitness equipment.

Accuracy – BIS measures the response of your body to small electrical currents, similar to BIA. BIS, however, utilizes more electrical currents and different procedures of data. It is pretty precise but used mostly in medical and research environments. BIS is more precise than BIA instruments of consumer quality but has a comparable error rate to more sophisticated BIA designs (3–5 percent fat).

Pros – BIS is both fast and easy.

Cons – Unlike BIA, there are currently no consumer-grade BIS devices available.

Electrical Impedance Myography (EIM)

Myography of electrical impedance is a third method that measures the response of your body to small electrical currents.

While BIA and BIS send currents through your entire body, however, EIM sends currents through your body. This technology has recently been used in low-cost devices available to consumers.

To estimate the body fat of these particular fields, these instruments are put on separate parts of the body.

Since this device is positioned straight on particular areas of the body, it has some similarities with skinfold calipers, although the techniques are very distinct.

Availability – The general public has access to cheap equipments.

Accuracy – EIM injects electric currents into small regions of the body. Portable devices are put directly on various areas of the body to assess the proportion of body fat at these places. More research is needed to determine this method’s accuracy. There is limited information available, although one study reported an error of 2.5–3% compared to DXA.

Pros – EIM is comparatively fast and easy.

Cons – There is very little data on the precision of these systems.

3-D Body Scanners

For a detailed look at the shape of your body, 3D body scanners use infrared sensors.

The sensors create your body’s 3-D model.

measure body composition
measure body composition

For some machines, you are standing for several minutes on a rotating platform while your body shape is detected by the sensors. Other devices rotate around your body using sensors.

The equations of the scanner then estimate the percentage of your body fat based on your body shape.

Thus, 3-D body scanners are comparable to measurements of circumference. However, a 3-D scanner provides a larger quantity of data.

Availability –

Accuracy – 3-D scanners are a relatively new way to evaluate the percentage of body fat. The technique utilizes your body shape data to predict the proportion of your body fat. More data on the precision of these techniques is required. There is limited information, but some 3-D scanners may be fairly accurate with body fat errors of around 4%.

Pros – It is comparatively fast and simple in scanning your body.

Cons –3D body scanners are not frequently accessible but are becoming more popular.

Multi-Compartment Models (the Gold Standard)

Multi-compartment models are regarded as the most precise technique for assessing body composition. These models divide the body into three or more components. The most popular evaluations are called model3-compartment andmodel4-compartment.

To obtain estimates of body mass, body quantity, body water and bone content, these models involve numerous trials. This data is derived from some of the techniques already discussed in this paper.

Hydrostatic weighing, for example, or ADP can provide body volume, BIS or BIA can supply body water, and DXA can measure bone content.

Information from each of these methods is combined to create a more complete image of the body and to obtain the most accurate percentage of body fat.

Availability – Multi-compartment modeling is typically available only in select medical and research facilities.

Accuracy – Multi-compartment models are very precise and regarded the body fat evaluation “gold standard.” They involve multiple tests, however, and are generally not available to the general public. This is the best accuracy method. Error levels may be less than 1% body fat

Pros – This is the most precise technique.

Cons – It is often unavailable to the general public and requires multiple evaluations. It’s more complicated than most other techniques.

Which technique is the Best?

It’s not simple to decide which technique to evaluate body fat percentage is best for you. Several questions can help you decide:

• What is the purpose of your body fat percentage assessment?

 • What is the importance of high precision?

• How often do you want to check the proportion of your body fat?

• Would you like a technique that you can use at home?

 • How huge is the price?

Some techniques, such as skinfold measurement, circumference calculations and mobile BIA devices, are cheap and enable you to measure as often as you like in your own home. The devices can also be easily purchased on online.

Although these methods are not as accurate as possible, they may be the best choice for you.

Most of the greatest accuracy techniques are not accessible for use at home. What’s more, they may be costly if they are accessible at a testing facility.

If you want a more accurate evaluation and are willing to pay for it, you may be able to follow a method with good accuracy such as hydrostatic weighing, ADP or DXA.

Whatever technique you use, using the same technique continuously is essential.

For almost all techniques, after an overnight fast, after going to the toilet and before you eat anything or start your daily operations, it is best to conduct your readings in the morning.

Ideally, before you have anything to drink; you should do the experiment, particularly for techniques that depend on electrical signals such as BIA, BIS and EIM.

Every time you assess yourself the same way, it will decrease error rates and make it simpler to tell if you are making progress.

You should, however, always interpret your results with caution from any method. Even the best methods aren’t ideal and just offer your real body fat estimate.

Other Methods


This is your general body mass measurement including bones, blood, organs, and fat. You need reliable scales to be accurate.

If you track your weight over time, weigh yourself, under the same circumstances and on the same scales, at the same moment of the day. It’s a good time in the morning after your bladder has been emptied.

Pros – cost – effective, fast and easy

Cons – It only measures total body weight – it does not consider changes in body fat or muscle, nor does it tell you where the fat is. You need to use other techniques of body structure such as skin folds or intelligent scales for body fat.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

If you are a healthy weight, BMI is used to work out. It is calculated by taking the weight of a person in kg and dividing it by squared height. The higher your figure is the higher your overweight and the higher your health risks too.

Pros – It’s fast, easy and cost-effective. And it counts: a clear correlation exists between greater BMI and adverse health effects for most adolescents. You need credible scales, as with any weight measurement, plus a tape measure for height.

Cons – It cannot distinguish between the weight of the fat and the lean muscle. For the elderly, pregnant, or very muscular, it’s not very accurate.

Waist circumference

This is your waist measurement to check if you carry too much fat around your abdomen (belly). You may have a good BMI and abdominal fat is still excessive, which means you are still at danger for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.

Pros – All you need is a measure of tape and it is a good way to Measure the fat around your abdomen.

Usually, when correctly measured, its precision is within 5% of the body fat value measured using underwater weighing, which is one of the most precise methods of evaluating body structure.

Cons – These are extra body fat measurements, not an accurate body composition measurement. You need to know where to place the measurement tape for accurate reading.

Wrap a tape measure between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips around the waist midpoint. This is just above the stomach button for most individuals.

Waist: hip ratio

This is the circumference of the hips to the circumference of the hip. The greater the ratio, the greater the amount of fat stored around the waist or abdomen.

Pros – All you need is a tape and a straightforward calculation: measurement of the waist separated by measurement of the hip. You can use any units because the only important thing is the ratio. High risk for males and females is defined as a waist-hip ratio above 0.90.

Cons – You need to understand where the measuring tape should be placed. You need to measure around the waist, between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips for your waist circumference.

Weight to height ratio

This is another way to look at your abdominal (stomach) fat. Measure your height with a string piece, and then fold in half the string length that suits your height to see if it fits around your waist. If not, it means that you are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiac and circulatory disease.

Pros – You only need a string piece (this will also work with a tape measure). It works for every race, age, or sex.

 Related Questions:

1. What are the benefits of body composition?

·        Decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and         hypertension

·        Increased functional ability

·        Enabling people to burn more calories

·        A well-toned body

2. What is the perfect body fat percentage?

For a healthy body, fat percentage ranges based on one’s fitness level, for athletes: 15 to 20%, Fit women: 21 to 24%, Healthy/acceptable: 25 to 32%.



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