Is Body Composition Analysis reliable?
Balivada Sravan Kumar
We often see people getting Body composition analysis (BCA) to check their body fat percentages, muscle mass and many times they feel happy/get worried when they compare their own previous BCA report. Are Body composition analysis really reliable for tracking the progress? How does Body Composition Analysis work? Bioelectrical impedance is the common method used for BCA. The low-level electric signals are sent through the body through electrodes to determine the fat mass and muscle mass based on the electrical waves. Tissues that have a large amount of fluid like muscles, blood has high conductivity and electric signals can pass easily them and fats are resistant to electric signals. Based on the current flow and certain equations BCA machines determines the person’s fat mass and muscle mass. Body Composition Analysis to track the progress? As described in the BCA working, these machines calculate the muscle mass based on fluid levels. We all know that carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the muscles. So, if you deplete the carbohydrates it will be seen as muscle loss hence high body fat and if you reload the carbs the glycogen levels get replenished and hence low body fat percentage and high muscle mass. The intake of water changes the muscle mass and body fat. The more dehydrated you are, the high the fat percentage will be shown and drinking a few glasses of water before the BCA test will peak up the muscle mass and low down the fat percentage. Also, workout depleted the glycogen levels so if you get the BCA test after a workout again the values are inappropriate. Hence, one cannot rely on BCA report solely to track the progress and if one wants to get BCA test with some good approximation then they can follow these: • Get tested on empty stomach at the morning after an overnight fast. • Always wear the same clothes when going for the test for maintaining the same measurements. • Avoid workout before the test. • Be hydrated (just like every day and not too much). • Don’t deplete the carbs for the sake of weight loss. What is the best way to track progress? The best way to track the progress is to track weight(every day), measurements(weekly) and pictures (every 2-3weeks). If you are able to see changes in any of these, it means you are making progress. You can also use body fat callipers which are very cheap to track the progress. Even though the initial values that you get may be wrong but you can use those numbers to check whether you are making progress or not. Conclusion: ============================== Food, water and exercise can change the numbers in Body Composition Analysis and hence they are not reliable to track the ones progress. Use weight, measurements and pictures to track the progress in the best way.