Yesterday I did an experiment! You see, I work with a lot of clients who want to know what their body composition is (i.e. the makeup of their body – how much bodyfat they have vs. muscle). And I wanted to know, for myself, too, during this current “lean bulking” phase of my nutrition/training plan!
Measuring body composition is a tricky area because it’s very difficult to ACCURATELY test your body composition. There are many methods, but none of them are 100 percent accurate (unless you’re cutting open a cadaver, which is NOT what we want to do, hah!).
Method #1: InBody (Bioelectrical Impedance)
One of the most popular measures of body composition is called bioelectrical impedance. This method determines the electrical impedance (or opposition to the flow of an electric current) through body tissues which can then be used to estimate total body water, which can be used to estimate fat-free body mass and, by difference with body weight, body fat.
Let’s cut to the chase: it’s not super accurate. There are so many variables that can skew the accuracy. If you want to learn more about this and other methods of bodyfat testing, check out this video.
Method #2: DEXA Scan
If you watch that video you will learn that DEXA is one of the MOST accurate tests for body composition testing. DEXA stands for Dual X-Ray Absorptiometry. This scan uses two X-ray beams to scan the body. Two beams run through your body and measure your bone density and body composition. It took me only 6 minutes.
I wanted to find out my own body composition, primarily because right now I am on a muscle-building journey. I signed up with my first powerlifting coach in November, and I have been interested to see how much muscle I can put on during this phase in my life. I have always been a person with long, lean limbs, so adding muscle for me is hard. But I am determined to do it!
How I Conducted This Experiment
Here was my plan: I took BOTH of these body composition tests on the same day, under the same conditions (about 2 hours apart). I took both tests fasted, and I had not worked out for about 24 hours beforehand. I wanted to know, once and for all, (a) what my body composition is, and (b) how inaccurate is the InBody?
Here is what I look like right now, for reference:
I have an InBody at the gym where I work out, and gym members can use it anytime. I have used it about once per month to check on my progress (always under the same conditions for testing accuracy). On this machine, my results on January 18 were:
- Weight: 146.1 lbs
- Body fat percentage: 17.7%
- Lean body mass: 120.4 lbs
My height is a little over 5’7”.
Part 2 of the experiment: I found a sports medicine institute in Scottsdale, Arizona, that does DEXA scans. The process was simple and easy. I just laid on a table while the technician did the scan, and then he explained the results to me afterwards. I’m going to be honest – initially, I did not love the DEXA results!
- Weight: 146.6 lbs
- Body fat percentage: 23.7%
- Lean body mass: 105.3 lbs
What the heck?! Why were the results SO dramatically different?
Upon talking to the technician, I found out that since DEXA is an actual x-ray of your body’s fat, it is usually 5-7% points higher than the estimating (i.e. InBody) technologies.
This means that DEXA is the least forgiving of all body fat tests!
So I chilled out after that.
Plus there was good news from the scan: visceral adipose tissue (VAT) is the dangerous/unhealthy fat in the abdomen. We want this number to be as LOW as possible. Mine was ZERO! The tech said he’d never seen someone who was zero before, so I was proud :). He said it was so low for me because VAT responds very well to a healthy diet and exercise (and lord knows I do plenty of both, hah!).
Another cool thing: DEXA can measure your bone mineral content (BMC) which tells you how much your skeleton weighs! My skeleton weighs 5.6 lbs. An average woman’s skeleton weighs between 3.3 – 5.5 lbs. So even though I am a smaller-framed person, my skeleton is strong, due to all the resistance training I do! Neat 🙂
So in conclusion, InBody is not super accurate, so be careful when relying on the results. You can use it to watch trends, but try not to get attached to its results.
And the conclusion for ME, personally: I am dying to see my lean mass number (105.3 lbs according to DEXA) go up during these coming months as I work hard to get stronger! So I will likely begin taking this test every 3-4 months to check on my progress, and I will update it here!
Powerlifting Meet: March 10
Oh and speaking of progress – I haven’t updated you guys with my powerlifting meet progress lately! So my official meet date is March 10, 2018! I am super excited AND nervous!
I have been training really hard, lifting really heavy, and continuing to follow my lifting plan from my coach Ben Pollack. I am noticeably stronger but I don’t know what my new 1-rep-max numbers are yet because we haven’t tested them. When I first started with Ben, here were my maxes:
- Squat: 200 lbs
- Bench press: 115 lbs
- Deadlift: 265 lbs
I have a feeling each lift is a lot higher already, but we’ll find out soon!
Thanks for reading guys! 🙂