What is a body composition scan?

A body composition scan measures the amount of body fat, lean muscle mass and bone, and where they are distributed within the body. DEXA technology…

What is a body composition scan?

A body composition scan measures the amount of body fat, lean muscle mass and bone, and where they are distributed within the body. DEXA technology is the gold standard for measuring body composition. The term DEXA stands for Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry, a technology which uses two low-energy X-ray beams for assessing body composition and bone density.

I’ve recently lost some weight- about 10kg according to my scales, but traditional home scales don’t give a complete picture of your body composition. Knowing how much of my body is made up of fat and lean tissue would help me with the areas I need to focus on, so I booked on for a DEXA scan at My Vital Metrics in London.

I’ve had a DEXA scan before to measure my bone mineral density, after suffering a stress fracture, so I was familiar with the procedure. It’s very quick and painless, you simply lay on still on the table while the imaging arm moves over slowly passing two low-dose X-rays through your body. The results are then instantly translated into images, graphs and data for analysis.

Body Composition Scan with DEXA technology

A DEXA scan has a very low error rate of 1-2%, compared to 5-15% for most methods. It has been found to be more accurate than density-based methods for estimating total body fat.

What were my results from the body composition scan?

Owen at My Vital Metrics went through my results in detail, helping me to understand and interpret the data. Here are some of the key points I took away from the results:

  • My body fat is 28% which is in the normal range.
  • Most fat is around my hips/thighs, and least is around my torso.
  • My lean mass (muscle) is above the normal range. Normal for my height would be 16.8kg/m2, but mine is 18.3kg/m2 so that’s very good!
  • Most of my lean muscle is in my torso (25kg), and my legs (8kg each leg). The least is in my arms, but he expects to see that in runners/triathletes as we don’t use our arms as much as our legs!
  • My total lean mass is 50kg, so the majority of my body weight is made up of muscle, blood and organs.
  • My right leg has a little bit more muscle than my left, but again that’s normal because everyone has a more dominant side. He just said to make sure I’m pedalling evenly on both sides.
  • My visceral fat (fat around internal organs) is low. Normal is anything below 100cm2, mine is 65.9cm2.
  • My bone density is in the healthy range. It’s improved since a previous DEXA scan in 2015.
Body Composition Scan results at My Vital Metrics

Owen’s only suggestion was to continue losing body fat without losing lean muscle, aiming for 20% body fat. His calculations say that my daily calorie target should be 1679kcal to achieve this, my nutritionist has currently got me on 1605kcal so it’s pretty spot on.

It was very reassuring that all of my metrics were well within the healthy range. I fed back my results to my triathlon coach and nutritionist to help inform their plans for me going forwards. It’s really helpful to have accurate data to confirm that my training and nutrition have been working for me.

I do tend to get hung up on the fact that I am overweight according to my BMI, but Owen said to completely ignore BMI as it isn’t designed for athletes or someone with my level of muscle. Again, it put my mind at ease to know that I’m not actually carrying excess body fat, I’m just quite muscular!

I really found the data valuable and interesting. I believe that knowledge is power and information like this can only help anyone on a weight loss or fitness journey.

What is a 3D body map?

Whilst at My Vital Metrics, I also had a 3D body map. This scan uses Infrared and a series of cameras, all positioned within the inside of a photo booth, to take photos of you from every angle. Then a full 3D model of your body is created and key measurements and predictions are given.

Using the Body Gee app on my phone, I can look at the 3D model, rotate and zoom in. The benefits will really come when I have another scan in future and can compare the two models side-by-side to see exactly where I’ve lost weight.

Of course, you can take photos and use a tape measure to monitor weight loss progress, but seeing a 3D model allows you to take this to the next level. Being able to view your progress from every angle is a huge plus.

My DEXA body composition scan and 3D Body Maps were provided free of charge, but I intend on returning to My Vital Metrics later this year for another (paid for) set of scans.

Have you ever had a body composition scan? Would you find it useful?

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