Body composition in athletes and sports nutrition: an examination of the bioimpedance analysis technique

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BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES:The purpose of the current review was to evaluate how body composition can be utilised in athletes, paying particular attention to the bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) technique.SUBJECTS/METHODS:Various body composition methods are discussed, as well as the unique characteristics of athletes that can lead to large errors when predicting fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM). Basic principles of BIA are discussed, and past uses of the BIA technique in athletes are explored. Single-prediction validation studies and studies tracking changes in FM and FFM are discussed with applications for athletes.RESULTS:Although extensive research in the area of BIA and athletes has been conducted, there remains a large gap in the literature pertaining to a single generalised athlete equation developed using a multiple-compartment model that includes total body water (TBW).CONCLUSIONS:Until a generalised athlete-specific BIA equation developed from a multiple-compartment is published, it is recommended that generalised equations such as those published by Lukaski and Bolonchuk and Lohman be used in athletes. However, BIA equations developed for specific athletes may also produce acceptable values and are still acceptable for use until more research is conducted. The use of a valid BIA equation/device should produce values similar to those of hydrostatic weighing and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. However, researchers and practitioners need to understand the individual variability associated with BIA estimations for both single assessments and repeated measurements. Although the BIA method shows promise for estimating body composition in athletes, future research should focus on the development of general athlete-specific equations using a TBW-based three- or four-compartment model.

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