It’s a fact – You lose your muscle mass when you start losing weight.
Why should it matter? Well, the loss of muscle mass is problematic for a number of reasons:
- Metabolism slows down
- More fatigue
- Higher risk of injury
- Regain in fat mass!
Hence, when embarking on any weight loss program, it is important to prevent the loss of muscle mass while shedding the excess weight. But no one really tells you why it is important to preserve your lean muscle mass.
Research has made a very strong case that losing weight and looking lean has health benefits far beyond aesthetics. Sufficient amounts of lean body mass are actually critical for building a healthy life over the long-term.
The greater amount of lean body mass you have, the greater your basal metabolic rate will be, meaning the more calories you burn throughout the day. People with greater amounts of lean body mass will have a greater energy expenditure while doing nothing! This helps to avoid calorie imbalances, and ultimately weight regain in the long-run.
The most successful weight loss diet is one that reduce body fat and maintain lean body mass.
The question is, how do you measure your body fat or lean body mass if you are embarking on some form of weight loss regimen?
Here comes bioelectrical impedance analysis.
Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) is a commonly used method for estimating body composition, in particular body fat and muscle mass. In BIA, a weak electric current flows through the body and the voltage is measured in order to calculate impedance (resistance) of the body.
Really? Yes, really.
WHY BIA has A BAD NAME
Many early BIA devices had serious design flaws. Even today, many people immediately dismiss BIA technology as technology that can only give ballpark estimations with questionable accuracy.
Many of the concerns people have about BIA technology stem from outdated, older technology. However, BIA has come a very long way over the past few decades. In recent years, some bioelectrical impedance devices are now producing results that nearly mirror results generated by DEXA, an industry-regarded gold standard.
If you’re concerned about the accuracy of some BIA devices, you probably have very legitimate reasons. Two commonly used devices are:
- BIA Scales
- Handheld BIA Devices
Let’s deep-dive at each one to see what the concerns are.
- BIA Scales
When people think about BIA devices that measure body fat, many of them think about something that looks similar to this:
This is a conventional digital scale that uses BIA technology to determine body fat percentage. To use it, you must enter your age, height, and gender. Then, you stand on the scale while it measures your weight. Once the scale has all the required data, it computes your body fat percentage using BIA technology.
However, the accuracy of such a device has some serious flaws.
First of all, what many people may not realize is BIA scales such as these only send a current up one leg and down the other. This means that impedance (the metric that all BIA devices use to compute results) is only directly measured in the legs.
What about your upper body and arms? It will be estimated based on the results for your legs. This means that roughly 40% of your Lean Body Mass is used to determine a body fat percentage that is supposed to account for 100% of your body.
If you feel skeptical about trusting your results from a BIA scale, you’re absolutely correct to do so.
- Handheld BIA Devices
Handheld BIA devices are no better. Due to the relatively smaller size of the arms compared to the legs, the results may actually be even more unreliable! Handheld BIA devices send the current from one arm to the other and then estimate everything from your chest down.
This means that these devices are guessing what your overall body composition is based on the composition of your arms. This can lead to inaccurate results. If your arms are the most muscular part of your body but you carry the majority of your fat in your midsection, a handheld BIA device will not be able to account for that.
Because handheld BIA devices don’t just report muscle and fat for the arms and give results for the entire body, these results are not trustworthy.
What is the problem with these devices?
The core problem with these devices is that they treat the entire body as a single “cylinder.” This means that the device treats your arms in the same way it treats your trunk/torso; never mind that the trunk’s composition is significantly different than an arm.
This is a problem when measuring fat and muscle. Although similarities among genders exist, everybody and every body is different.
Men tend to collect the majority of their fat around their abdomen (android obesity), whereas women tend to collect in the arms and legs in addition to their midsections (gynoid obesity).
What would happen if a particular person didn’t conform to these assumptions? False readings and inaccurate results.
AN EASIER, BETTER, MORE ACCURATE WAY
For many people, the devices described above are the only BIA devices they are familiar with. That’s why people have very good reasons for dismissing BIA technology.
Direct Segmental Multi-Frequency Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (DSM-BIA) is a new, modern approach to BIA technology that, for the first time, directly measures the entire body.
Devices that employ DSM-BIA divides the body into 5 segments and the impedance for each segment is measured independently. Once the impedance values for each segment are known, the device interprets the raw data and translates it into useful values such as:
- Body Fat Percentage
- Total Body Water
- Lean Body Mass
Because all 5 segments are measured independently of each other, this allows for more advanced analyses. The below example shows the amount of Lean Body Mass in pounds in each segment of the body:
DSM-BIA technology allows each segment of the body to be measured independently, paints a more complete picture of your body composition with the convenience and ease-of-use, with a precision of the gold standard device (DEXA).
How Pinnacle Nutrition sets itself apart
At Pinnacle Nutrition, where we employ the latest evidence-based treatments, we realize that it’s important to use a device that actually measures your body composition (body fat and lean muscle mass) accurately, not estimating the values of what it could be.
We use an InBody body composition equipment, which uses the DSM-BIA, which in simpler terms, means that each segment of your body (right arm, left arm, torso, right leg, left leg) are all measured separately at multiple frequencies.
Because of its technology, InBody has become one of the most accurate BIA devices on the market and has been found to have a high correlation of 0.99 to DEXA for lean body mass in a population of adults.
Combined with our personalized nutrition and diet advice, we are best positioned to help you achieve your ideal weight, lose the fat and keep your muscle mass – best of both worlds!
Simply contact us at email@example.com or visit our website www.pinnaclenutrition.com.sg to find out more.
We have a very special trial offer that combines body composition analysis with a mini nutrition consultation! Simply make an appointment to find out for yourself!
Ling CH, de Craen AJ, Slagboom PE Accuracy of direct segmental multi-frequency bioimpedance analysis in the assessment of total body and segmental body composition in middle-aged adult population. Clin Nutr. 2011 Oct;30(5):610-5. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2011.04.001
Wiloughby D, Hewlings S, Kalman D. Body composition changes in weight loss: strategies and supplementation for maintaining lean body mass, a brief review. Nutrients, 2018, 10: 1876; doi:10.3390/nu10121876