A body composition test is a great way to find out the proportion of muscles and fat in your body. You have a healthy body composition when your body fat percentage is lower than that of your fat-free mass percentage. Your fat-free mass is made up of your bones, muscles, and organs.

When it comes to determining your body fat percentage, an ordinary weighing scale won’t give you the numbers you need. For one, it doesn’t tell you how fit you are. It measures both your muscles and your fats.

How Do You Assess Body Composition?

To start a fitness plan, you need to know what your body fat percentage is, so you’ll know how much fat you need to lose.  Here are five ways you can find out your body fat percentage:

  1. Hydrostatic Weighing – It’s one of the oldest body composition assessment methods. In this process, you sit on top of a scale which is dropped in a pool of water. Hydrostatic weighing determines your weight before and after you’re submerged and the amount of displaced water. Then, using a formula, it provides an estimate of your body fat.
  2. DEXA Scan – A DEXA scan also provides an almost accurate measurement of your body composition. It’s most commonly used in osteoporosis patients because it detects weak or brittle bones. Apart from giving the correct body fat percentage, it can also tell you where your fats are located in the body. The problem is, it can cost about four times as much as a Bod Pod test.
  3. Bod Pod Test – What’s a Bod Pod? It’s a machine that uses air displacement technology to measure your body composition. You sit inside and breathe normally, so it’s comfortable, unlike hydrostatic weighing.
  4. Skinfold Test – The skinfold test provides an estimate of your body fat percentage by pinching specific parts of your body. Measuring the folds require the use of calipers. The average of these measurements is your body fat percentage.
  5. Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA) – As the name suggests, BIA uses electricity to get an estimate of your body fat percentage. Electricity moves through fat and muscle differently, and that’s how BIA figures out your body composition. However, it can’t detect small changes in your body, which means you’ll have to gain a significant amount of fat first before BIA can tell you the difference.

Which Body Composition Test is Considered the Gold Standard?

At present, hydrostatic weighing is believed to be the gold standard in body composition testing. However, hydrostatic weighing is often used by scientists for research purposes.

In a gym setting or for an individual like you who wants to start a fitness plan, hydrostatic weighing is impractical. It’s a lengthy, uncomfortable procedure. A more sophisticated body composition test, the Bod Pod, is more often used in gyms and fitness centers.

Is Bod Pod Accurate?

The Bod Pod uses the same displacement principle used in hydrostatic weighing. However, instead of water, it uses air displacement to measure body composition. The Bod Pod has a range of error of 1 to 2.7%.  Because it’s more convenient than hydrostatic weighing, researchers have started using it instead of the more traditional hydrostatic weighing.

You can read more about the Bod Pod basics so you can understand how it works.