Measuring one’s weight on a scale may be misleading as a lower weight doesn’t necessarily mean a healthier body. Whether you’re interested in weight loss, gaining muscle or both the number on the scale isn’t a good indicator of progress. For example a 140 pound woman with more lean body mass (i.e. muscle) will be smaller in size than a woman of the same weight with a greater proportion of body fat. Muscle does not weigh more than body fat, it just takes up less space.
For a good indicator of body composition that is objective, non-invasive and informative I highly recommend a Bioimpedance Analysis (BIA). BIA provides a wealth of information about the current state of your body, it is very easy to do and takes just a few minutes to complete.
BIA is a method of assessing your “body composition” (the measurement of body fat in relation to lean body mass). Body composition analysis is the clinical assessment of tissue and fluid compartments in the human body. A normal distribution of tissue and fluid in the body is associated with immunity, high function, and longevity. An abnormal distribution of tissue and fluid in the body is associated with susceptibility, decreased function and the effects of aging and disease.
Why Is Body Composition Important to My Health?
Research has shown that body composition is directly related to health. A normal balance of body fat is associated with good health and longevity. Excess fat in relation to lean body mass (an altered body composition) can greatly increase your risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other preventable diseases. BIA can help with early detection of an altered body composition, for earlier intervention and disease prevention. BIA provides an objective measurement of fluid and body mass that acts as an assessment tool for your current state of health.
BIA also measures your progress as you improve your health over time. Improving or maintaining a healthy BIA measurement can help keep your body functioning properly for healthy aging. Your BIA results can help guide your health practitioner or nutritionist in creating a personalized dietary plan and exercise program to help you maintain optimal health and well-being for life.
What Happens During a Bioimpedance Analysis?
BIA is performed using sophisticated, computerized analysis. This analyzer “calculates” and estimates your tissue and fluid compartments – using an imperceptible electrical current passed through pads placed on your hand and foot as you lie comfortably clothed on a flat surface (exam table or floor). In a few minutes, you receive a report with detailed measurements and results.
Understanding the Bioimpedance Report
Any report can be confusing if you don’t know what each of the items mean. The following items are included in a BIA report.
Body Fat: Body Fat Mass is the body’s less metabolically active storage tissue, technically known as ”adipose tissue.”
Lean Body Mass (LBM): Lean Body Mass consists of muscle, bone and other vital organ tissues of the body (essentially everything that is not fat). LBM is one of the most crucial components of the body to maintain and build. Protein provides the building blocks for the maintenance and growth of LBM, which makes up approximately 90 percent of a person’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): Basal Metabolic Rate is the rate of our body’s chemical processes when it is at rest.
Body Mass Index (BMI): Body Mass Index is a ratio between a person’s body weight and their height. It is a mathematical formula that correlates to some degree to a person’s body fat. Generally, if your BMI is high, you may have an increased risk of developing certain diseases including hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. BMI is a better predictor of one’s risk for disease than body weight alone.
Total Body Water (TBW): Total Body Water reflects the amount of water in your body. This number illustrates the level of hydration (or dehydration) in the body.
Intra-Cellular Water (ICW): Intra-Cellular Water is that portion of the Total Body Water that is found inside metabolically active tissue cells (i.e. muscle cells).
Extra-Cellular Water (ECW): Extra-Cellular Water is that portion of the Total Body Water that is found outside metabolically active tissue cells (i.e. muscle cells).
Phase Angle: Phase Angle is based on total body resistance and reactance and is independent of height, weight and body fat. A lower phase angle reading appears to be consistent with either cell death or a breakdown of the cell membrane. A higher phase angle reading appears to be consistent with large quantities of intact cell membranes and lean body mass. Phase Angle is a predictor of outcome and usually increases as the result of optimal health (i.e. good nutrition and consistent exercise).
BIA is a service offered at some fitness clubs or personal training studios, at various wellness centers and as a service offering by Nutritionists and Dietitians.