Low carb. High protein. Caloric restriction. High fat. Intermittent fasting. New or old, diets have emerged, been proven, disproven, and resurrected for as long as they have been known. With all this information, it’s no wonder that people struggle with knowing what truly is right for them and will achieve the best results. As such, we can look at one simple term to define this – “Yo-Yo Dieting”. But how can you truly know what works best for you? By knowing the specifics of your body composition through a DEXA scan you can determine specific recommendations to both caloric intake and macro-nutrient breakdown, and can help formulate an optimal plan based on your results. You can also assess any changes in nutrition through your results, helping discover what the most effective approach may be for you.
First thing’s first – let’s discuss the term “Diet”. A diet is generally not an effective way to both reach and sustain goals. Any changes you make to your nutritional intake should be changes you are able maintain for the long term. Rather than diet, use the term “Lifestyle Change”. Diets are generally considered short term changes to maximise changes in scale weight and are not designed to be sustainable in the long term. As such, many people struggle to maintain “losses” and end up right back at square one (or in some cases a worse position than they started). Lifestyle and/or behavioural change enables you to not only make healthy choices, but educates you on how to sustain those choices and incorporate them into everyday life for the long term.
So where does body composition analysis tie in? Body composition analysis can shed light on recommended caloric intake and specific macro-nutrient breakdown can be adjusted according to the results you’re looking to achieve. There is no more effective or accurate way to measure changes in body composition than through a DEXA scan. By analysing your scan results and changes over time, you can effectively assess the impact your total calorie and/or macro-nutrient intake has on the body. As such, specific changes can be made and assessed, therefore helping you achieve the results you want.
Let’s look at fat loss as an example. One of the classic strategies to reduce fat is through a “Low Carb Diet”, or the removal of carbohydrates all together. While this may help reduce your scale weight quite rapidly, it may not necessarily result in fat loss. Carbohydrates are stored within the muscle and liver as glycogen. Generally, on a lower carbohydrate diet the body utilizes the energy stored within these areas without replenishing what has been used. As a result, total body weight tends to drop quite rapidly. However, this weight loss is both lean mass and fat mass. By assessing your DEXA scan results, you can determine whether any weight loss on the scale is translated to fat loss or muscle loss (or both), and provides insight into whether your eating approach is correct.
A DEXA scan can also provide an accurate estimation of your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), which can be defined as the minimum amount of energy required by the body to sustain life at rest. Determining RMT allows specific recommendation to be made for total caloric intake, and therefore macro-nutrient breakdown. Based on your results, physical activity levels, and goals, you can gain insight into what might suit you best.
No diet is a “one size fits all” approach. Individuals will always require different approaches to reach their goals. The more you know about your starting point, the more you can discover about what works best for you. By analysing your body composition through DEXA scanning, you can tailor your dietary approach to match your goals, helping you achieve the results you want.
B.exphys, ESSAM, AES, AEP
Accredited Exercise Physiologist