How is Body Composition Measured?

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Nowadays, we have advanced fitness programs, smartphone applications, and other devices that help us become healthier and fit. All of us know that the first step in solving a problem is to determine the problem, and this is the same with fitness.

Usually, we measure our body mass index to know if we are overweight or underweight or just right. The other aspect to know is body composition, but how is body composition measured?

The technology or processes behind determining body composition are still up for debate in terms of its accuracy. One thing is for sure though, even if they are not 100% accurate, you can still know the exact measurements when you consistently go through those procedures and they in turn, correctly records the results. All you have to do is to get the average of those results.

For you to better understand what we just talked about, we will answer the question “How is body composition measured?” At the same time, we will also talk about what body composition means as sometimes this term is used loosely. Further, we will learn why knowing your proper body composition is important as well as determine how it affects your fitness goals.

What is Body Composition?

Simply put, body composition is what your body is made of. These are the measurements that make up your total weight. We are talking about fat cells, bones, organs skeletal muscles, blood, water, and other minor components. Technically speaking, body composition is the ratio between the fat and fat-free mass in your body.

Having a healthy body composition means that you have a high level of fat-free mass and low level of fat. So, what are fat-free mass and body fat?

Fat-free mass or lean tissue refers to your bones, muscles, organs, and tissues. They are active metabolically and can burn calories for energy. On the other hand, body fat can be found under the skin, muscle tissue, or around organs. These are storage units for energy and can also regulate the production of hormones.

Now, let us talk about a specific measurement within the actual measure of body composition, and it is body fat percentage. This is important to note since body fat can accumulate through time and this results in too much unnecessary fat that adds to your weight and is generally bad for your health. Also, this tells how much of your body is just purely fat.

How is Body Composition Measured?

There are a lot of ways to determine your body composition but here are the six most common ways:

Taking Pictures and Looking at the Mirror

This is the easiest but obviously the least accurate way to get your body composition rating. You literally just have to take pictures of yourself as you go on a diet or exercise. It is just like keeping a photo journal to see if there are changes.

You should take note of the specific shape of your arms, shoulders, face, stomach, butt, hips, legs, and other parts that tend to fluctuate or deflate in shape when there are bodily changes.


This is just like an x-ray scan wherein your body will be exposed to radiation to differentiate fat from bone and muscle. The results are said to be 99% correct, or it has 0.5% for inconsistencies.

Whole Body Plethysmography or Bod Pod

This is the process that you will rarely encounter because professional athletes usually use this machine. The pod is egg-shaped, and you will go in using light clothing.

For it to measure your body composition, it calculates the displacement of your air volume. It will then go through a series of mathematical equations to determine your density. It can even go into specifics such as density of water inside your body, the thickness of fat, the density of bone, and so on.

Hydrostatic Weighing

A swimming pool or bathtub is needed for this since you have to be submerged in water. This can be hard to do as you need to dispel the air out of your body and then your body composition will be measured.

Another way of doing it is to expel all of the air under the water. You can then go out of the water and sit still for 10 seconds until the scales stabilize.

Skinfold Calipers

Calipers are used to measure how thick or how thin the two layers of skin are. Hence, this measures explicitly subcutaneous fat. The body parts that are usually measured are triceps, shoulder blades, love handles, abdomen, and calves. With that said, this measurement is not really accurate as the visceral (muscle) fat cannot be measured.

Bioelectrical Impedance

This can be done by using a body analyzer scale. What happens is that electric currents will flow through your body to arrive at a measurement. This is also not that accurate as this can be affected by a lot of factors that are as simple as drinking a lot of water.

This is one of those cases where you consistently need to weigh yourself in to manually compute the average. However, this process is the most attainable as almost everyone already has a body analyzer scale. At the same time, you do not need a professional to interpret the results.

Final Thoughts

Now that you already have an idea about the different ways to measure your body composition, it will be easier for you to adjust your fitness goals. At the same time, you will know which specific parts of your body you should work on more.

Further, you will understand the story behind your body shape as being a bit bloated does not necessarily mean that you are getting fat. The same goes for looking too lean or muscular.

Probably the fascinating thing about knowing your body composition is that you will have a clearer idea of how your body reacts to your activities. Knowing the specifics can really help you with how you carry on with your life. So a thing as simple as knowing a measurement can really affect how you look and feel, as well as how healthy you can be.

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