Body   

Composition

Body Composition in Sport: BIA

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How BIA Works

Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) is based on the electrical conductive properties of the human body [1]. Using an imperceptible electrical current passed through the body, BIA segregates the body into 3 compartments: fat tissue, lean tissue, and water [1]. Lean tissues are good conductors of electrical current due to their large amount of water and electrolytes (i.e. they show low resistance to passage of electrical current). In contrast, fat, bone, and skin have low conductivity and are poor conductors of electrical current due to their small quantity of fluid and electrolytes (i.e. they show high resistance to passage of electrical current). BIA uses these differences in resistance to the flow of electrical current through the body to estimate body composition [2].

The harmless electrical current starts from point A which is, generally, an arm or a leg. When the current finally reaches its endpoint, generally another arm or a leg, it will have lost some of its voltage on its journey through body water. From there, the impedance (resistance) is determined, and body composition is estimated.

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POPULARITY

BIA is one of the most widely utilized techniques for measuring body composition, with 29% of national and international sport professionals reporting its use for body composition assessment, in a 2013 survey [3].

BIA was particularly popular in Europe, where it was the 2nd-most popular method for body composition assessment. Skinfold measurements came in at #1, with 47-50% of European sport professionals utilizing this method, followed by BIA at 42% and, then, DXA at 35% [3]. BIA was not nearly as popular in the Americas or Oceania, with 15% and 14% of professionals reporting its use, respectively [3].

Despite its lack of validity in athletes [3], its safety, affordability, and speed of data collection make BIA a practical body composition assessment option in the applied sports setting [4].

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