Body Measurements & InBody Scanning

What is it? Why do we use it and how can you make the best of your measures 

This time last year I went on a three day training course which was solely dedicated to body measurements (also known as anthropometrics, if you’re feeling fancy). In these three days we were taught about the various methods of collecting anthropometric data, how to interpret it and which are the best types of measures to use. Not to spoil the rest of this article, but there is no best method and understanding that is going to be key to getting more from your measures and help you to be more neutral and less stressed about your progress data. 

It's also worth noting that this is a really complex subject, three days barely scratched the surface of what there is to know about how we gather body data and how to interpret results. This is a good thing though, and understanding that there are so many nuances can be quite freeing. It can also make those singular numbers on singular occasions much less emotive. 

Common measurement methods 

Physical methods

Circumference measures: a tape measure is used to measure the circumference of the body at various locations. Common measure include hip, waist, thigh and bicep. 

Skin-fold measures: Also know as calliper measures. Callipers are used to measure the thickness of the subcutaneous fat layer at several points across the body. A calculation is then used to determine total body fat. 

Non-physical methods 

Body weight & BMI 

Bio-electrical impedance (inBody scanning): the subject makes contact with electrodes which allows a low level electrical current to pass through the body. Different body tissues offer a different level of resistance against the electrical current and this allows an estimation of your body composition to be made. This method measures water (conducts electricity so has no resistance), muscle, bone and body fat (offers the most resistance). 

This is the type of method that we use within FITISM gyms and is also known as the InBody scanners. 

We love this method of measuring because it's convenient, it doesn’t require the user to have any specialist skills, its non-intrusive and no one has to be poked and pinched with callipers, you can keep a normal levels of clothing on to do the scan and its also super quick. 

However there are limitations, and understanding these is crucial to getting the best out of your body scans. 

Time of day 

Consistency is key. It doesn’t matter what time of day you do your body scans but you have to keep it the same, changing times each time you scan will give you very erratic results and won’t allow you to see meaningful trends in data. (More about this below.)

Hydration levels

InBody scanners measure water. Water offers no resistance against an electrical current so water in the body is one of the most accurate elements that is measured. The actual amount of water in your body (in litres of kgs) isn’t especially important but it does influence how body fat is expressed as a percentage of your total weight. Put simply the more water in the body the lower your body fat % will read and the less hydrated you are the higher your body fat %. This doesn’t mean that better hydration means you have less body fat it just means that if more of your body weight is occupied by water than as a percentage, less is occupied by fat. This is why it's important to look at both the body fat % and the body fat in kg on your InBody scans. 

This is also why keeping to the same time of day when you scan is so important. The later in the day, the more water and the lower your baseline body fat %. Earlier in the day, the less water and a higher baseline body fat %. 

Food consumed 

Recently consumed food will scan as muscle mass. This is one of the major downfalls of this technology however knowing this means that you can better interpret your results. Similarly to body water, you are likely to have more food in the digestive system later in the day. This means muscle mass reads a little higher, body fat % reads a little lower and total weight may be higher. You can improve the accuracy of your body scans by waiting 2 - 3 hours between eating and scanning and again keeping to the same time of day. 

Body temperature and exercise 

Being very warm can reduce the accuracy of the inBody scans therefore it's important to not jump on the scanner after a hot shower, bath or sauna. Plus, you should always do your body scans before exercise, never after. Because of increased blood flow to muscles during exercise you will also always have a higher muscle mass if scanning after exercise and therefore a lower body fat %; this will look great on paper but unfortunately might not be entirely accurate. Body weight also tends to be higher after strength style training or may be lower after endurance training due to fluid loss. 

It’s because of all of these factors that we have to focus on trends in data and not individual results. This can be hard when you have just got started as you don’t have multiple data points to see trends and therefore every measures feels incredible important, but do try to see the bigger picture and look longer term. 

Also use this as a guide to check through should you ever get a measure which doesn’t seem quite right. Could it be time of day that’s different or the food or drinks you’ve consumed, and if so, you can start to make better sense of your results and not jump to conclusions. 

Anymore questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with myself or your coach and happy measuring. 


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