If you’re in the market for a new set of bathroom scales and you’ve got between $60-$300 to spend, read on.
For the past six months I’ve been testing the new Tanita BC100 Body Composition Scales. Now on the surface they appear to be your normal digital bathroom scale, and that is precisely what I used them for during the first two months. Well, that was until I RTFM’d them (Read The F-ing Manual!) and set them up for what they are designed to do – to be a complete body composition analyser.
How a Body Composition Analyser works
You stand on the scales and a low electrical signal is sent through the body (called a Bio Impedance Analysis or BIA). Your different tissues create a resistance based on the water levels, e.g. muscle carries a lot of fluid in it whereas fat does not. This nifty machine is able to differentiate your tissues based on this, namely, bone, muscle, fat, and water, and thus determining your body composition.
It all takes less than one minute, doesn’t hurt and is surprisingly accurate (+/- 1% accuracy if measuring conditions remain constant).
What the scales will tell you:
Your weight: Tanita scales are seen as the leader in accuracy which we know is crucial to our sanity come our weekly weigh-ins!
Body fat: Too much or too little body fat can put your health at risk. This highly accurate monitoring technique shows you in seconds if you are in the healthy range based on your age, sex and height.
Body water: Helps you keep track of your hydration levels and understand how your body’s composition changes as your hydration levels change.
Bone weight/mass: Indicates the weight of bone mineral in the body. The
development of muscle tissue has been shown to encourage stronger, healthier bones.
Muscle Mass: Displays the amount of muscle in the body. For every extra
pound (600g) of muscle gained the body uses approximately 50 extra calories a day. Because muscle is denser than fat, monitoring muscle mass gives a more accurate understanding of your overall composition and changes in your total body weight.
Basal Metabolic Rate: Indicates the number of calories your body burns when at rest. Unlike other methods of calculating BMR, Innerscan Fitness takes the amount of muscle in your body into account, giving a more accurate picture.
Metabolic Age Rating: (my personal favourite because it says I’m 16 years old!) Your BMR starts to decrease after the age of 17 and the metabolic age rating indicates what age level your body is currently rated at.
Visceral Fat Rating: Visceral fat surrounds the internal organs in the
stomach/trunk area of your body. High levels of visceral fat increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
Physique Rating: Describes your overall physique or body shape by examining
the balance between the amounts of body fat and muscle in your body.
Who should use body composition scales
Weight loss candidates:
It’s important to understand that while weight loss is the aim, there are other drastic changes happening in the body. For example, a weight loss client of mine recently hit a plateau for two weeks whilst on holidays. They told me they were training every day, but doing more weights. Normally I’d be very concerned about this plateau but when he returned and we analysed his results, he had actually lost 6% body fat and gained 4kg of muscle. As soon as I increased his heart rate through interval training, the weight fell off and he lost 5kg the following week (he weighed over 100kg).
Healthy BMI/less than 5kg to lose:
These people I feel benefit the best from body composition scales because they are accurately able to track the more subtle effects, thus being able to refine what they are doing based on results. An individual may lose 5% body fat and gain a few kilos of muscle with very little change on the scales, even though they look very different. It is very encouraging for this group.
Serious exercisers (more than 10hr week training and resting heart rate below 60bpm):
There is a special ‘athlete’ setting for these people to make the readings more accurate (although they do suggest that bodybuilders and professional athletes may have a less accurate reading, but it still remains consistent, showing trends). I find the scales particularly useful to monitor my hydration levels, muscle mass (and loss due to marathon running) and of course body fat (I am a vain girl after all!).
Factors affecting its accuracy
The more varied your hydration levels the less accurate it is. A full bladder, diuretics (e.g. alcohol), dehydration, recent eating or menstrual cycle all affect its accuracy. Around 5pm is apparently the best time of the day as you are most likely to be correctly hydrated. They don’t recommend weighing first thing in the morning or after exercising. I however, always weigh myself first thing before I train due to point two below.
Weigh yourself at the same time of the day, in the same manner. Hence morning is best for me. There are some more tips for accuracy here, such as having clean feet and wearing as little clothing as possible.
It’s a winner! It’s a bit fiddly to set up initially, but once you’ve taken the time to RTFM it’s really easy. I recommend keeping a chart or a book handy to jot your results down, and I recommend measuring 2-4 times per month. If you are committed to changing the shape of your body, and you want some accurate, raw hard facts; then the BC1000 is for you.
You can buy the scales at Amazon