Body Composition testing can be very uncomfortable. If you struggle with the idea of stepping on a scale, or struggle with an attachment to your scale, scans that tell you how much fat you have can be a tough pill to swallow. But, I want to change your perspective on this. So let's break this down into: What, How, Why, When, Where.
WHAT is the InBody?
The InBody scan measures how much of your weight is made up of muscle, fat, water, bone and organ. Not only does it measure how much, but it measures the distribution of your fat and muscle, and it breaks it down into numbers that have significance in estimating your risk for different health issues.
HOW does the InBody work?
The InBody scans you using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). When you step on the scale you will be barefoot, and you will hold a handle in each hand. The pads under your feet and on your thumbs will be used to conduct an electric current - that you DO NOT feel. This current is conducted by water in the body, and the scan is considered about 98% accurate.
WHY might I do an InBody Scan?
Try your best to approach a body composition test with the mindset that this is for HEALTH, and for improvement if necessary. If you go into a scan focusing solely on body fat, you will always be disappointed, as you will ALWAYS have fat! The goal is NEVER ZERO BODY FAT! You would not be alive if that were the case. We all have fat, and we all should have fat.
Some reasons an InBody Scan might be a good tool for you:
- to measure progress if you have a health or fitness goal; as the InBody can give you far more information, and more accurate information, than your bathroom scale or even a measuring tape and pictures
- to see if your weight plateau is actually a change in body composition (losing fat and gaining muscle) or a true plateau
- to learn your risk for certain illness/diseases based on your results
- to find out if you have any muscle imbalances
- to learn where you might be genetically inclined to hold your weight gain/fat mass
This is the way I encourage my clients to view their Muscle & Fat portion of the scan...
Rather than focusing on and even expecting to see certain numbers, look for these curve shapes (the letters C, I, and D) instead.
If you see the C shape in your Muscle-Fat Analysis, your goal should be to work on closing that gap overtime, trying to create a straight line or an I-shape. Focus less on where the "I" starts to form on the spectrum (what exact numbers), and focus more on seeing them line up over each other. This way, you are still losing fat and gaining muscle, but you're allowing it to happen at the rate and the weight your body is happiest at, rather than looking for it to happen at exact numbers.
If you see an I shape (a straight line) on your Muscle-Fat Analysis, and if you are happy at that composition and don't have any present health issues, there is no urgent reason you need to push for substantial change. But, if you'd like to gain muscle and lose fat, or just increase your general fitness, your goal would be to move that "I" in the direction of a D-shaped curve. Again, letting that happen at whatever point on the spectrum your body chooses. Don't go into it thinking I need to be at ______ lbs of muscle or fat or total weight, as your body won't likely respond by moving to the exact numerical amount you have in your head.
If you see a D-shaped curve on your Muscle-Fat Analysis, that is awesome! You are most likely generally healthy and fit, and have no urgent reason to do anything other than maintain your health and fitness. You can aim to increase the curve of the D, and/or move the D-shape to a different point on the spectrum, which a health professional can help you decide on.
Hopefully looking at this tough-to-swallow section of the scan in this manner will give you some renewed hope and a different perspective. Your goal should never have to be a certain weight, or a certain number of any kind. Instead, think about your general health and fitness level, and making shapes/letters your goal!
WHEN should I do an InBody Scan?
It's never a bad time to do a scan! There's always something you can learn about yourself, if you go into it with the mindset that this is not just about fat.
If you are on a workout and/or diet regimen and tracking progress of changes in muscle and/or fat, it's beneficial to do repeat InBody Scans as soon as 2 weeks apart, or as far as 6 weeks apart. Doing them weekly could be costly and will not show substantial changes in such a short period. If you are really looking for progress, waiting more than 6 weeks could cause you to miss out on the motivation of seeing progress, and could have allowed for changes in your workout/diet regimen sooner had you seen that after a month you had no progress at all. I recommend my clients who have access to the InBody do it every 3-4 weeks while they are looking for specific results.
On the actual day of the scan, "when" still matters.
You want to make sure, prior to the scan:
- you don't eat within 2 hours.
- you used the bathroom.
- you did not workout, or take a hot shower/sauna that could cause you to sweat.
- you are regularly hydrated (if you have a water goal and drink about the same amount daily, you will be fine in this category)
- (females) you are not having your menstrual cycle.
And lastly, doing the InBody about the same time of day each repeat scan is also helpful to ensure consistency/accuracy.
WHERE can you do a scan?
Call your local gym, supplement store, dietician/nutritionist office, and in some cases, even your family physician may have one. Be sure that it is an InBody Scan, and not a handheld or other BIA device as those are far less accurate and less informative.
A few things that are not shown clearly in the above link:
- Under Muscle-Fat Analysis, if you add Skeletal Muscle Mass and Body Fat Mass together, and then subtract that number from your total body weight, you'll learn how much of your body weight is bone and organ, which may give you a new perspective on your weight!
- If your ECW/TBW Analysis does not fall in the normal range (locate that number and read its meaning with the link above) ask yourself if you did one of the things not recommended prior to your scan. BIA depends on the water in your body, to be accurate scan. If that number is out of range, you should probably test on a different day and remind yourself of what not to do prior to a scan.