You’ve been eating well and training hard for weeks. It’s time to step on the scale, and you can’t wait to update your weight-loss chart.
Your face falls as you stare at the monitor. Not a single pound lost. In fact, you’ve put on half a pound.
What’s the problem?
The scale, that’s what.
The scale doesn’t care whether you’ve gained muscle or fat or if you’re retaining water. You need a better tool—you need something to measure body fat.
Body-Fat Testing: Various Methods, Varying Accuracy
There are many ways to measure body fat, each varying in effectiveness.
There’s the old-school caliper method (pinch an inch, anyone?). Though relatively effective, this test’s accuracy depends on having an extremely competent tester.
“If you don’t have the same person doing it every single time, and if they’re not consistent, then it can show varied results,” said Brian Bender, founder of Ideal Collaborative and CutThroat CrossFit in Lafayette, Colorado.
There are also a number of bioimpedance testing devices. These tools send a light electrical current through the body, measuring body fat and lean mass based on the level of resistance the current meets. However, results vary between machines and require absolute testing-condition consistency.
“So if I don’t eat exactly the same thing at exactly the same time for 48 hours leading up to a bioimpedance test, I can have inaccurate results,” Bender said.
Where does that leave us? Hydrostatic testing, considered the gold standard when it comes to measuring body fat.
“With hydrostatic (testing) you don’t have to use any of those controls—and it’s going to be accurate,” Bender continued.
And Ideal Collaborative’s got the only testing system in the state.
Measuring Body Fat: The Gold Standard
A hydrostatic test, also known as underwater weighing, is based on Archimedes’ principle, which states that the “buoyant force on a submerged object is equal to the weight of the fluid that is displaced by the object.”
Translation: The volume of water you displace when submerged is equal to your weight, and because fat is less dense than muscle and therefore “weighs” less by volume, special calculations can determine how much of your total body weight is actual fat mass.
The procedure is simple. At Ideal Collaborative, you’ll simply don your favorite bathing suit, sit in a small tank of water about three feet deep, lie back and exhale, remaining submerged for two to three seconds.
By the time you come up for air, you’ll have a nearly 100 percent accurate assessment of your body-fat percentage, lean mass and resting metabolic rate.
How to Change the Numbers on Your Body-Fat Test
Why should you care about precision?
Even if you don’t mind what the scale says, you care about progress—and the more accurately and objectively you measure the success of your efforts, the better you can assess and modify your program to get the results you want.
Would you follow a strength cycle that never tested your lifts? Or train for a marathon without knowing your mile time?
Of course, data is meaningless unless you do something with it. That’s why hydrostatic testing pairs so well with the one-on-one nutrition coaching program at Ideal Collaborative. As part of the program, your personal nutrition coach will help you interpret your test results and design a nutrition plan based on those results to help you reach your goals.
“So instead of trying to figure it out and beating your head against the wall … we have a system to get you there faster, because we have a coach that’s gonna tell you exactly what to do,” Bender said.
Using Data to Accomplish Goals
Ideal Collaborative client Nathan Moorman reduced his body-fat percentage from 33 to 25 percent after a year of nutrition coaching, and he appreciates the fuller picture hydrostatic testing provided during that time.
“(Hydrostatic testing) gives you so much more information than just getting on the scale,” he said. “Having all that information really helps you make better decisions … and gives you a lot more feedback that’s objective, so you don’t lose your mind.”
So if you’re ready to stop flying blind and start seeing progress, book a body fat test today.
“Measure, rinse and repeat,” Bender said.