Get a Baseline Body Composition Reading with a DEXA Scan

We all already know that the bathroom scale doesn’t tell the whole story. It provides a metric: namely, what you weigh. But it doesn’t take into account body composition like muscle mass or bone density. That’s where the DEXA Scan comes in handy.

I’ve had numerous Bod Pod tests to test my own body composition, along with an off-brand scan that proclaimed itself to be better than the DEXA Scan (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). When DEXA Scan’s PR department contacted me to arrange for a free body composition scan, I jumped at the chance.

Unlike the Bod Pod, the DEXA Scan uses x-ray technology to determine the distribution of lean muscle, fat, water, and bone density in your body. It doesn’t just measure air displacement but really delves into your body composition.

The DEXA Scan does more than just measure body composition. Read on to find out what you'll learn if you get one!

What Happened at My DEXA Scan

I had to take a little field trip into Houston for my scan. I went to Composition ID, the closest one to me. Composition ID does more than just the DEXA Scan, by the way: they do VO2 max testing, nutrition counseling, and more – and they have a mobile DEXA scanner if you want to bring it to your gym.

Anyhow. I was instructed not to wear clothing with metal buttons or zippers. One of the advantages of the DEXA Scan is that you don’t have to remove your clothes or change into special clothes; you can wear your leggings and t-shirt, and just take off your shoes. I laid down on a table that was a lot like the exam tables in doctor’s offices, except this one had a scanner above it. I just had to stay still. Seven minutes later, it was done.

What the DEXA Scan Provides

After the scan was done, Malissa the owner and I sat down to go over my results. Malissa did a great job explaining all of it to me – and there was a lot! I got a lot more than just a simple “this is how much body fat you have, and how much lean muscle mass is there.” The DEXA Scan goes into a lot of detail, like:

Your Lean Mass Symmetry

If you’re injury-prone, you’ll want to get a scan. I’ve been having knee problems, and I learned that my right leg legit weighs 1.5 pounds more than my left leg. Approximately one pound of that is muscle. The rest of my body is symmetrical.

Where Your Fat Is Distributed

The printout provided me with numbers from my DEXA Scan, but the part that was the most interesting was what I call the “heat map” of body fat. The blue parts are my lean mass; the red parts are my body fat. To no one’s surprise, I tend to carry my body fat in my hips and thighs.

Your Bone Density

I’m particularly interested in bone density because I slacked on drinking my milk in my teens and twenties. As women age, bone density becomes really important to head off osteoporosis and injuries due to brittle bones. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my bone density is excellent – and not just for a woman my age.

Your Abdomen Composition, e.g. Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is the fat stored in your abdomen that could kill you. The more visceral fat you have, the more likely you are to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other life-threatening illnesses. But how do you know if you have visceral fat? Answer: Get a DEXA Scan. I learned that, while I do have some fat in my “android” region (where the abdomen is), I have zero visceral adipose tissue (visceral fat). Malissa said this speaks volumes about the quality of food I eat.

Should You Get a DEXA Scan?

In one word: yes. If you really want to know your body composition beyond just the percentage of body fat you’re carrying and really understand your body, this is what you need to do. I was really surprised at some of my results – especially the difference between my right leg and left leg. But this is all very helpful information: my chiropractor was very interested in this, and it’s helped inform my treatment. I’ve been able to ask my coach for suggestions on building muscle in my left leg. I’m sure that what you find out could be really useful for your own health and training, too.