10 Ways to Measure Weight Loss

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Muscle-Fat Ratio

If you are building muscle and burning fat, you'd get a much better indicator of your progress if you track your fat-muscle ratio. There are three basic techniques for measuring the ratio of muscle to fat.

  • Hydrostatic Weighing. Of all the techniques, this is the most scientific, the most accurate, and the most expensive. Under supervision of an expert, you expel all the air from your lungs and submerge yourself in a tank of water. Because fat is more buoyant than muscle tissue, the weight that is recorded during this process is of the denser body tissue. Your "wet" weight is then compared to your "dry" weight to determine what percentage of the overall weight is fat.

While this is a very accurate means for measuring body fat, the results can be affected by fluid intake or the consumption of foods high in water content (like fruits and certain vegetables) prior to the weighing, or by the patient's comfort with holding her breath for 20 seconds or more. Finally, this is a very expensive test and is usually conducted only at university-based weight management centers.

  • Bio-Electrical Impedance Analysis (BIA). This is the next best means for measuring fat after hydrostatic weighing. In this procedure, a low-level electrical current is run through the body. Water is a conductor of electricity and the more water in the body, the quicker the current will travel through. Since muscle is composed mostly of water, this reading gives a fairly accurate measure of fat-to-muscle ratio.

The best place to have this test taken is in a doctor's office. You can also get this done at your local gym by a personal trainer. However, the accuracy of this test can be affected by the skills of the person giving it, and by the amount of water retained by the body, which can fluctuate monthly for women, or even throughout the day.

  • Caliper Pinch Test. This is also known as the skin-fold pinch test, and it involves using a caliper to measure body fat by pinching the skin at various areas on the body. People store fat in different places, so multiple pinches are needed to get an accurate reading.

This is the least accurate of the three methods, but it can be good way to track month-to-month changes in body composition. Again, you can get this done at your local gym or fitness center.

 
Continued on page 3:  Body Mass Index (BMI)

 

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