Wondering how to identify your healthiest body composition? Vision PT master trainer Daniel Tramontana shares his insights.

Effective ways to measure your body composition

 

I believe wholeheartedly in the consistent and accurate measurement of progress and results when working with clients. I personally don’t prescribe to one single isolated method: in most cases, I’ll elect to use a combination of methods and analysis depending on the client and their specific goal. However, once initiated, these methods will be consistently applied.

 

In most cases, I’ll use a body weight scale paired with either a seven site skinfold test, waist to hip ratio measurement and/or progress photos. A lot of trainers are critical of the standard scale and I agree that, if using the scale, it’s important to simultaneously track your body composition – your body fat percentage and lean muscle mass.

Factors that can affect our body composition and need to be considered when determining an ‘ideal’ include:

Age: people lose muscle mass as they age, particularly if they aren’t partaking insufficient weight training. This can potentially result in a slower metabolism.

Gender: women have more body fat than men naturally.

Body type: or genes play a major role in whether you are naturally lean or have a tendency to retain fat, including where you store it. Without first identifying your body type, you’re on a one-way trip to NO Resultsville. Many people use a generic plan or follow along with someone else’s program, and then wonder why they don’t get the same results. This will generally come down to differences in body type.

Hormones: can influence water retention and body composition, so may at some point need to be considered.

If your body fat percentage is too high, decreasing it will improve your health and athletic performance, and decrease your risk of disease. If your body fat percentage is below the level of essential fat, you may want to initiate changes to reduce your health risks. I initially recommend women sit at about 20–25 per cent body fat or a waist measurement under 80cm.

Skinfold callipers are now a commonly used method for measuring body fat: a device is used to ‘pinch’ the skin and fatty tissue at different sites of the body, estimating body fat percentage based on one of many algorithms available. Results of this test can vary widely and depend on the quality of the callipers and the skill and experience of the person performing the test. The key is to ensure the same operator is using the same technique under the same conditions each and every time.

Body fat scales (Tanita is a leading brand) are also readily available and are a great test for those not comfortable with measurements or skinfold testing. These work by sending a small, harmless electrical current through the body to detect fat and lean tissue. Because these measurements can change according to the time of day, fluid and food intake, and current internal environment of the client, the results are most accurate if performed at the same time each day, in the same settings. The devices vary in accuracy, but they can be good for tracking changes over time.

Our body composition and body fat are important measurements when on a weight loss program. It’s very common that a client could be successful in losing fat and gaining muscle, without seeing scale weight change too much. This could prove to be a barrier to motivation, especially if body composition is not being tracked and understood effectively.

 

Photography: Do You Even activewear