Measuring Body Composition

Ways to Measure Body Composition Progress…

The way clothes fit
What people say
Body Mass Index—height and weight formula that can’t take into account body composition.
Measuring body fat is only a measure of fat loss
The Metabolic Index

One of the easiest ways to measure progress as far as body composition (more muscle and less fat) is to look in the mirror and to honestly assess what you see. Couple that with the way your clothes fit and you get a pretty fair idea of whether or not you’re getting anywhere. On top of that remarks that people make about you may reflect changes as well.

Another way is by your workouts although that’s more a measure of the progress you’re making as far as strength and performance. However, it can also be a measure of body composition since increased strength usually translates into increased muscle mass and thus body composition.

If they’re progressing and you’re handling more weight and/or doing more reps on a more or less steady basis (a lot depends on how you’re cycling your training and/or getting ready for a weightlifting or powerlifting competition) you’re doing fine, as long as you’re not fooling yourself (you’ve got to be realistic).

Eventually you’re going to see the results as far as increased muscle mass and improved overall strength and body composition.

It’s important, however, that your measure of how well you’re progressing is a constant one and that you’re comparing apples to apples. For example if you’re handling more weight in the bench press but you’re cheating more by bouncing the bar off your chest, then you may not be making any progress at all as far as your strength gains.

The problem with all of the measures we’ve mentioned so far is that they are subjective and/or a measure of something else that may or may not translate into improved body composition. As such, they can steer you wrong.

Body Mass Index

The body mass index (BMI) is derived from the weight and height of an individual and is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height. It is commonly used as a measure of the amount of muscle and fat in an individual and thus whether an individual is underweight, of normal weight, overweight, or is mildly to morbidly obese depending on the value obtained.

While commonly used it actually tells you almost nothing about body composition. I’ve been stressing for decades that measuring BMI is a useless gesture but it’s taken a life of its own and still the most commonly used measure for assessing body composition.

The problem with the BMI is that it doesn’t differentiate between muscle mass and body fat. As such the BMI is inaccurate for anyone except a couch potato. Anyone who is at all serious about exercise and sports (participating, not just watching – the latter can easily put them into the couch potato category) could be classified as being overweight and even obese when in fact their lean body mass can be high and body fat low.

Over the years BMI has been criticized for various other reasons including using BMI as a measure for whether a person is considered healthy, and whether the BMI should be used as a factor in determining workers’ health care costs.

The latest study[i] (published online in February, 2016 in the International Journal of Obesity (see citation and abstract at the end of this article) found that using BMI to gauge health incorrectly labels more than 54 million Americans as “unhealthy,” even though they are not.

The scientists analyzed the link between BMI and several health markers, including blood pressure and glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, using data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The authors found that close to half of Americans who are considered “overweight” by virtue of their BMIs (47.4 percent, or 34.4 million people) are healthy, as are 19.8 million who are considered “obese.”

They also found that more than 30 percent of those with BMIs in the “normal” range — about 20.7 million people — are actually unhealthy based on their other health data. More than 2 million people who are considered “very obese” by virtue of having a BMI of 35 or higher are actually healthy. That’s about 15 percent of Americans who are classified as very obese.

One of the co-authors of this study said the research shows that BMI is a deeply flawed measure of health.

And I’ve said for decades that BMI is a deeply flawed measure of both health and body composition.

Measuring Body Fat

What’s needed for determining improvements in body composition are some objective measures of how well you’re doing. One of the best objective measures of your progress in that regard is to find out how much fat you’ve carrying as a percentage of your total weight. That will tell you just how much body fat and lean body mass you have and from that you can decide if you’re improving or whether you’re just fooling yourself.

For example if you’re gaining weight, look bigger but most of the weight you’ve gained is body fat, then you’re really getting nowhere as far as proportionally increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat.

The most accurate and scientific way to determine your body fat percentage is by hydrostatic weighing. This test is conducted in special tank and compares your weight completely under (with all air exhaled out of your lungs) and out of water. Without going into details suffice it to say that hydrostatic weighing is based on the concept that the density and gravity of lean tissue is greater than that of fat tissue.

While hydrostatic weighing is the best measurement, it’s costly, inconvenient and time-consuming. Other methods of determining body fat levels, such as such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and even the Bod Pod, a device that uses air displacement instead of water, while more convenient are also costly and unavailable to most of us.

The cheapest and easiest ways to measure body fat percentage is with anthropometric measurements. Measurements are taken with a measuring tape at sites where fat is usually distributed, such as the waist and thigh.

Specific equations are used to calculate the body fat percentage. These measurements while less costly and easier to do are not very accurate.

Overall, body fat percentage can best be measured with skin fold calipers. If done correctly calipers are an accurate, inexpensive and convenient way to measure the thickness of subcutaneous fat. This technique involves measuring fat levels in the body by assessing levels at certain key fat depots with the skin calipers. You can have the skin fold test performed by a professional, or you can do it yourself by purchasing a set of calipers.

Although skin fold thickness measurements using calipers can be taken at multiple locations and then entered into a formula to give you a more accurate body fat assessment, for the sake of convenience, and to measure progress, one site can be used as a relative measure over time.

For example if you use the Accu-Measureä Calipers you can get a pretty good idea of your body fat level by taking skin density measurements of the suprailliac area.

The Metabolic Index

While knowing your body fat level is a step forward, it tells you nothing about your level of lean body mass. To get the complete picture and accurately measure your present status and progress we need to find out more. Specifically how much lean body mass you have in proportion to your height, weight and body fat levels.

For this purpose I’ve devised the Metabolic Index (MIDx).

Metabolic IndexTM

1995-2016 Mauro Di Pasquale, M.D.

What is the MIDx and what does it measure? The MIDx is a ratio I derived by considering not only weight and height but also your percentage of body fat. As a result it takes into account the amount of lean body mass you’re carrying, and even more important it tracks whether or not you’re improving as far as your body composition.

The MIDx is much more advanced than the commonly used and accepted body mass index (BMI). The trouble with the BMI is that it can’t tell if you are overweight because you’re fat or if you’re heavier than they figure you should be because you’ve got more muscle mass than the average couch potato. And it also tells you a lot more than just a body fat measurement since measuring your level of body fat tells you nothing about how much muscle mass you have.

The Metabolic IndexTM (MIDx)

The Metabolic Index (MIDx) is the best way to measure your progress as far as body composition. The MIDx takes into account all the variables that other methods can’t. Not only does it address the height/weight issue but also the degree of muscle mass and body fat.

With the MIDx you get a snap shot of your body composition and progress.

The MIDx is a ratio derived by considering not only weight and height but your percentage of body fat. Just plug your information into formula, using the Metric System or the English Imperial System.

Figuring it out. The formula for MIDx.

Figuring Out the MIDx
Body weight in pounds, divided by the height in inches squared, that result multiplied by 7,250, and the total results divided by the percent body fat.

{(body weight in pounds) / (height in inches)2 x 7,250} / % body fat.

Or if you are using the Metric system:

{(body weight in kilograms) / (height in meters)2 x 10.3} / % body fat.

In my case, using pounds and inches, my MIDx is 185 / (66)2 x 7,250 divided by 10%

(185 / 4356) x 7,250 / 10
MIDx = 30.8

An easier way to figure out your MIDx will soon be on my new mega-master site where you will be able to plug in your weight, height and percentage body fat and get your current MIDx. Since it will be so easy to do you can check your MIDx often and use it as a measure of your progress and a guide to further improvements.

The important thing about the MIDx is that it will give you a starting point and from there an indication of how you’re progressing every step of the way. Once you’ve established your baseline MIDx it’s easy to objectively see if you’re making progress, for example if you’re losing body fat but not at the expense of important muscle mass. If the MIDx is going up, even minimally, you’re making progress.

The higher the Metabolic Index, up to a point, the better your improvement and the closer you are to your goals. The lower the Metabolic Index is, the more room for improvement there is and a determination of just how much more you have to go to reach your goals.

The ideal for the average woman is different than the ideal for average man. For women the ideal is around 13 to 20 while for men it’s between 22 to 32. In reality the final point doesn’t really matter since it’s the improvement that counts. As long as the index keeps going up then there is some improvement being made. Once the index gets above 18 for women and 32 for men you’ve looking at muscle mass and body fat levels that are more extreme than the norm and mostly meant for competitive bodybuilders.

In reality, the MIDx is an indicator that when you’re losing weight you’re close to maintaining or even increasing lean body mass as you lose body fat. In fact, the more lean body mass you have and the less fat the better the index. If someone loses even a lot of weight but loses too much lean body mass the index won’t improve all that much. What that means is that even though the person has lost weight they will likely look pretty flabby as they’ve lost the weight by sacrificing muscle mass.

The ideal for the average woman is different than the ideal for average man. For women the ideal is around 13 to 20 while for men it’s between 22 to 32. In reality the final point doesn’t really matter since it’s the improvement that counts. As long as the index keeps going up then there is some improvement being made. Once the index gets above 18 for women and 32 for men you’ve looking at muscle mass and body fat levels that are bodybuilding aspirations. Competitive bodybuilders will be looking to get their MIDx well over 40. Olympia level bodybuilders will have a MIDx over the 100 mark.

To show you how the MIDx works, I’ll use my stats as an example. Even though I’m heavy for my height, I have a fair amount of muscle mass and a low body fat level. So rather than looking fat I look trim and muscular. A couch potato with the same height and weight would definitely be fat. The big difference, besides the obvious aesthetics, is that while the couch potato has to carry his fat, my muscles carry me. If I use the MIDx, not only do I get a more realistic look at my body composition, but I can also track my progress to improving even further.

Right now I weight 185 lbs with 10% body fat. My MDIx is 30.8. Let’s say that I diet and get down to a minimal 175 lbs and 8% body fat. My MIDx would then be 36. The increase in the MIDx shows that at 175 lbs. and 8 % body fat I’m carrying less fat in proportion to my muscle mass than at 185 lbs. and 10% body fat.

If I was able to increase lean body mass while losing body fat to the point of maintaining my weight, then the MIDx would increase even more. At 185 lbs and 8% body fat my MIDx would be 38.5. When the MIDx increases, regardless of the starting point, it shows that you are making progress because you are increasing the ratio between muscle mass and body fat by decreasing body fat and/or increasing muscle mass.

The Anabolic Solution

My Anabolic Solution shows you the best way to maximize muscle mass and minimize body fat.

The Anabolic Solution, which represents the evolution of my original Anabolic Diet, is all about manipulating lean body mass and body fat. And it does this by affecting metabolic changes and altering the body’s anabolic and the catabolic hormones and growth factors. By following the training, diet and nutritional supplement guidelines you’ll pack on incredible amounts of muscle mass and get your body fat down to the low single digits.

But the Anabolic Solution is more than just the best natural way to reach your bodybuilding goals. By duplicating much of what people get from the use of ergogenic and body composition changing drugs the Anabolic Solution is a safe, effective, and natural alternative to the use of these drugs.

The Anabolic Solution is available in two versions:

  1. The Anabolic Solution for Bodybuilders
  2. The Anabolic Solution for Powerlifters

The Anabolic Solution will

Maximize Muscle Mass
Improve Definition
Minimize Body Fat
Increase Energy
Improve Health

While the Anabolic Solution works well on its own, the effects on body composition are enhanced by my line of nutritional supplements, which I formulated specifically to work with with my phase shift diets, including the earlier Anabolic Diet, and the newer Metabolic Diet and Anabolic Solution books, and my Radical Diet.

For example LipoFlush, Metabolic, GHboost and MRP LoCarb work with my diets to dramatically lower body fat levels while maintaining or even increasing muscle mass.

[i] A J Tomiyama, J M Hunger, J Nguyen-Cuu, C Wells. Misclassification of cardiometabolic health when using body mass index categories in NHANES 2005–2012. International Journal of Obesity, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2016.17.