We hear all the time whether it be in the gym or over hear someone in the locker room quoting their body fat percentage.
Is there anything wrong with this? Well yes, in my opinion there is.
Firstly, there are so many different techniques available today to measure your body fat and muscle mass that it makes comparison almost impossible. Those two people in the locker room arguing over their body fat percentage – one taken with skinfolds and one with bioelectrical impedance. Comparison is useless. But, if body fat percentage is not the answer then what is appropriate?
The answer is to review your absolute values of fat mass and lean mass.
Before ruling out body fat percentage altogether let me clarify that body fat percentage is acceptable if you want to compare yourself to someone else as its normalising your fat mass to your total mass (but only if it is completed on the same technology!). Here at MeasureUp we help many gyms runs their challenges this way and it’s the person with the greatest percentage change that wins the challenge. This makes it fair. But, let’s go back one step. You want to see exactly how you have changed, right? Okay, so firstly don’t compare yourself to someone else. Compare you to you.
What’s important is for you, as the individual, is to look at the change in your absolute fat mass and your absolute lean (muscle) mass. How do these tissues change over time as a result of your diet and exercise regimen? Not only this, but with the DEXA scan you can actually see where these changes have occurred by reviewing the regional changes in these tissues (Left Arm, Right Leg). We also have some unique regions of interest in the DEXA results like the android and gynoid measures. These add an additional two specific regions to allow you to see change over time and whether you lost fat across the abdomen and/or the hips. So, make the best use of your DEXA scan by reviewing absolute changes in body composition and give body fat percentage a miss.
DR JARROD D. MEERKIN PhD, FESSA, AEP