Other body composition assessments. Other less common measurement tools of body composition are available. Medical imaging equipment such as computerized axial tomography, or CT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, can be quite accurate. CT creates high-resolution images of the body and can differentiate four different components of the body (bone, muscle, adipose, and other), thus increasing accuracy. However, CT requires exposure to high levels of radiation, more so than DXA, which limits the frequency of use. MRI also produces detailed images of the same four body compartments as CT, but does not require exposure to radiation. Both systems have considerable limitations: they require use of very expensive computer equipment and technology, thus limiting their accessibility; they can induce feelings of claustrophobia in some individuals. Few body composition studies have been conducted using these tools and there lacks normative data with which to compare results (Ackland et al. 2012).
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Hydrometry, or use of body water, ultrasound, and 3D photonic scanning are additional methods to assess body composition. Due to limitations that include expense, lack of standardization of methods, and other inaccuracies in the assumptions underlying the techniques, they are not commonly employed to measure body composition. This is not to say they will not become more frequently utilized as some of the limitations are addressed and minimized.
Overall body composition analysis is a fundamental component of the athlete assessment. Knowing an athlete’s body composition is essential to understanding if body composition goals are realistic or potentially dangerous. Ongoing body composition assessment provides feedback as to what is successful and what is not in efforts to alter body composition. Continual assessment also allows athletes to see how alterations in body composition affects performance and better define the optimal value that supports performance and health. There is a myth that the lower an athlete goes (in percent body fat), the better the performance; however, understanding body composition feedback can help illustrate the concept of diminishing returns.
Athletes and practitioners must decide upon which method(s) is most realistic based upon available resources and feasibility of different assessment tools. While body composition information can provide useful feedback, athletes and practitioners need to keep in mind body composition is only one aspect of an athlete’s training program.
Assessing Dietary Intake
Collecting medical history, relevant biochemical data, and anthropometric information is important, but the dietary assessment is of utmost importance to a weight loss professional. Assessing dietary intake, which is then evaluated for nutrition adequacy or inadequacy, can identify risky nutrition-related behaviors, which can help the practitioner determine appropriate dietary recommendations. The assessment also serves as a baseline for making dietary changes, a starting point so-to-speak, and facilitates the prioritization of nutrition strategies. Knowing each athlete’s individual behaviors and preferences also allows customization of recommendations, increasing the likelihood of successful implementation. There are many methods to assess dietary intake and it is important to be familiar with different methods and which ones may be most appropriate given the context. Practitioners also need to know limitations of each assessment method so that results are interpreted appropriately.
Assessment of the adequacy of an athlete’s diet can be accomplished by looking at previous dietary intake through use of retrospective measures, or by measuring current intake with prospective measures. Both types of assessment have utility in specific situations and sometimes are completed in conjunction with each other to increase knowledge of an athlete’s diet and eating patterns.
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