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Name: Kris

question: Where in Winnipeg do they offer hydrostatic weighing?

Hydrostatic weighing is quite inaccurate as well as cumbersome and as such is not widely available anymore. Many research centers in North America have dismantled their hydrostatic weighing tanks.

I don't believe hydrostatic weighing is available in Winnipeg anymore; the University of Manitoba no longer offers this service and I believe they may have been one of the last Universities to dismantle their tank.

A more reliable body fat testing method is electrical impedance. A minor electrical current is passed through the body, typically through both feet (standing on an electrostatic scale) or from toe to finger tip or ear lobe while seated or lying.

Muscle and fat are of different densities thus effecting the speed at which current flows through them. The electrical impedance device measures the time it takes for the current to travel between electrodes as well as considering variables such as age, sex, weight, and exercise activity level that are entered into the device.

Electrical impedance body fat testing is not without its problems. How much food is in your digestive system, and how hydrated you are effects accuracy. To control for this, some manufacturers of bioelectrical impedance scales suggest you use the scale several times over one or two weeks to establish an average body fat estimate. For females a four to six week period is required to consider changes occurring with the menstrual cycle.

In my personal use with a high end electrical impedance scale, there is variance between morning (higher percentage) and evening (lower percentage) measurements. This variance needs to be ignored with only significant changes in long term trends having relevance.

The electrical impedance as well as all other body fat estimating methods have a degree of error, some greater than others, and with consumer body fat estimating products generally being less accurate than medical or clinical versions of the same product.

Overall, body fat testing is not very useful as there is no practical outcome of knowing your body fat percentage, especially since any number you get will be from an indirect measurement and will be an estimate only.

To track change in your body fat it is much simpler to measure your waist girth.

If your waist increases you are gaining fat.
If your waist decreases you are losing fat.

You will know you are lean or overweight by visual observation; it is redundant to measure your body fat percentage.

A scale alone is not a reliable method of tracking fat loss or gain, or muscle loss or gain.

Using a scale in combination with measuring waist girth is a reliable method of tracking fat loss/ gain. If your weight changes but your waist does not, it is most likely that no significant fat loss or gain has occurred. If your weight reduces AND waist girth decreases, you are losing fat.

If you lose more than 2 pounds in one week, you are most likely losing water and possibly muscle mass as well as some fat mass. Since losing water and muscle mass is undesirable, it is best to lose fat slowly over many months rather than risking dehydration and loss of lean muscle mass through rapid weight loss.

I don't test body fat percentage on any of my champion athletes unless they absolutely insist out of plain interest. Knowing an athletes body fat percentage is of no use to me as a coach, I can tell if an athlete is over or underweight (body fat) by visual observation - an estimated body fat percentage is not required to verify the initial visual observation as it is apparent. However, tracking change through measurement is necessary. I have found the waist girth measurement and at times skin fold measurements to be a simple and reliable method of tracking change in body fat.

Overall I view estimating body fat percentage as a diversion from paying attention to more meaningful variables such as waist girth, calories consumed and measuring exercise intensity via heart rate and blood lactate.

- Cris LaBossiere

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This page was last updated on August 6, 2007