THE GOLD STANDARD OF BODY COMPOSITION ANALYSIS IS HYDROSTATIC OR HYDRODENSITOMETRY. Hydrostatic weighing is the most accurate way to measure body fat and is the method by which all other means of measurement compare their degree of error.
Body Composition: What does it mean, and how do I fit in?
Body Composition is the technical term used to describe the different components that, when taken together, makes up a person's body weight. Keep in mind that body composition and body weight are two entirely different concepts and they are not interchangeable. To get a better understanding of the difference between the two, you need to understand a bit about anatomy and physiology.
The human body is composed of a variety of different tissue types. The so-called 'lean' tissues, such as muscle, bone and organs are metabolically active, while adipose (fat tissue) is not. Adipose tissue can be classified into three different categories:
1. Essential fat - supports life and is extremely important to normal bodily function.
2. Storage fat - protects internal organs and supplies some energy requirements.
3. Non-essential fat - serves no real purpose and may in fact be detrimental to health.
The difference in these tissues is not readily distinguishable by stepping on a scale. A scale simply takes the sum of everything (fat, muscle, water, hair - you name it), and gives an absolute weight measurement. Scales can't determine the lean-to-fat ratio of that weight. An inividual can be "over-weight" and not "over-fat." A bodybuilder, for example, may be 8% body fat, yet at two hundred and fifty pounds may be considered "over-weight" by a typical height-weight chart. Therefore, these charts are not a good indication of a person's ideal body weight for optimal health, much less for athletic performance.
In order to identify these tissues, physiologists have developed several different methods of assessing the percentage of fat vs. lean mass of an individual. These methods are referred to as Body Composition Analysis. There are many methods of assessment. Please see our comparative methods section if you are interested in learning more.