This article is a continuation of the body fat percentage guide here. However, in this piece, we will focus on DEXA Scans and how they can be super useful to track your progress and improve your health. Let’s go!
Before you proceed, make sure you check out the Most Accurate Body Fat Percentage Pictures as well.
What is a DEXA Scan?
DEXA stands for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. A DEXA scan is a type of X-ray that is used to measure bone density and/or body composition. The machine looks similar to a CT or MRI machine, but uses X-rays instead of magnetic waves.
What Exactly Does the DEXA Scan Measure?
The DEXA scan can measure both bone density and body composition. Bone density is a measure of how much calcium and other minerals are in your bones. Body composition is the amount of fat, muscle, and water in your body. Even though DEXA scans are used almost exclusively to measure bone density, bodybuilders soon realized that they can use it to get an estimate of their body fat percentages! Interesting, huh?
Does a DEXA Scan Show Body Fat?
Yes, a DEXA scan can give you an estimate of your body fat percentage. The machine uses X-rays to measure the amount of fat in your body and tell you how that fat is distributed over your body.
Are DEXA Scans Accurate?
Aside from hydrostatic weight, DEXA scans are considered to be the most accurate way to measure body fat. The machine is able to show a very detailed picture of your body composition. Because of their accuracy, convenience, cost effectiveness, and accessibility, DEXA scans are considered the gold standard when it comes to measuring body fat percentage. Their accuracy ranges from =/- 3% if you prepare correctly.
What Are the Risks of a DEXA Scan?
While DEXA scans are generally considered to be safe, there are some potential risks associated with them. These include:
- Exposure to radiation: Although the amount of radiation exposure from a DEXA scan is relatively low, there is still a small risk of developing cancer from this exposure.
- False results: In some cases, DEXA scans can give false results, either overestimating or underestimating body fat percentage. This can lead to incorrect treatment decisions.
Overall, the benefits of DEXA scans outweigh the risks for most people. However, it is important to discuss all potential risks with your doctor before having this test done.
Is a DEXA Scan Worth it?
I know you’re going to hate this answer, but honestly, it depends on what you’re looking to get out of it!
If you’re trying to lose weight or simply want to know how much fat you’re carrying around, a DEXA scan can give you valuable insights. And, because it’s so accurate, it can be a helpful tool for tracking your progress over time.
However, DEXA scans are not cheap. They typically cost between $50 and $100, depending on the facility. So, if cost isn’t of concern to you, I think it’s a great way to keep track of your progress!
Where Can I Get One?
You can get a DEXA scan at any radiology center that offers body composition scans. Make sure you call them ahead of time to double check the cost AND the fact that they can do it solely for body composition purposes. Your local university may be a good start.
The test is quick and painless, and you will usually get your results within 24 hours. The scan will also take pictures of your body fat distribution. This can be helpful in designing a weight loss or exercise plan that is tailored to your specific needs.
There are some things that can affect the accuracy of a DEXA scan, such as having metal implants in your body or being pregnant. Be sure to talk to your doctor before getting one.
During a DEXA scan, you will lie on a table while an X-ray machine passed over your body. The machine takes shoots x-Rays through your body and measures your entire body composition including your bone density, muscle mass, and body fat percentage.
The pictures are then analyzed by a computer software, which generates a report of your body composition. This report will show your total body fat percentage as well as your regional body fat percentages (e.g., upper body, lower body, etc.).
You can see your body fat percentage in the form of a picture, which can be helpful in seeing where you may need to lose fat or build muscle. For example, if you have a high body fat percentage in your upper body, you may want to focus on losing fat in that area. Not that you can any way because you cannot spot-reduce fat. However, if you lack muscle mass in your upper body, you can then adjust your training program to focus more on that area. Capiche?
How Do I Prepare for a DEXA Scan?
Have your last meal/drink 12 hours before the test. This is EXTREMELY important. Not doing so can and will skew the results.
You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, and metal objects such as hair clips or body piercings that might interfere with the scan. You may be given a hospital gown to wear during the procedure.The technologist will position you on the scanning table. A small, plastic device called a pedicle clamp will be placed on your hip.
The pedicle clamp is attached to the scanning table and helps keep you still during the procedure.Next, the x-ray arm will be positioned over your body. The technologist will leave the room and go into another room where they can operate the machine. They will watch you at all times through a window.
You will be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds while the x-ray arm rotates around your body and takes pictures. The procedure is painless and takes about 15 minutes. You’ll be fine, don’t worry!
Additionally, here’s a video by MattDoesFitness where you can watch what the process looks like and get visual references for body fat percentages.
What is a good DEXA scan body fat percentage?
The answer depends on multiple factors such as preference, age, gender, activity level, and athleticism level. For instance, a soccer player will most likely perform better at a lower body fat percentage because carrying the extra fat is counterproductive to their sport.
The average person has a body fat percentage of around 20-30%. However, this varies depending on age, gender, and body type. Athletes and bodybuilders often have a body fat percentage of 10-15%.
That said, here’s a general guide of how DEXA scans categorize body fat percentages:
20-40yrs old: Underweight: below 21%.
Healthy: 21- 33 %
Overweight: 33-39 %.
DEXA scans are primarily used to measure bone mineral density. However, they can be used to measure body composition. If the cost of getting one is of no concern to you, go get one! It’s probably the most accurate way to measure your body fat percentage. If cost is a concern, maybe you can get one once in a while just to keep tabs on your progress. Either way, it’s not necessary. I highly, recommend you read the main body fat percentages guide to understand some core principles first!