FFF 117: The Truth About Measuring Your Bodyfat (and Why You Should Stop) – with Dr James Krieger


In this episode, Scott and Dr. James Krieger cover two key sections. First, you will discover the concept of NEAT, why it’s important, and what you can do to combat “weight plateau.” Next, they tackle various body composition measurement methods and whether or not you should trust them.

A Brief Background About James:

With over two decades of experience, James is a scientist and author in the field of exercise and nutrition. Aside from publishing a ton of research, he runs his own website called Weightology, featuring various articles touching on fat loss, body fat testing, nutrition, and more. He also does research review and client coaching.

James holds vast experience in the field of Obesity, being a former research director for an obesity management program for Microsoft employees, where they achieved an average weight loss of almost 40 pounds in 3 months. Since then, he has been heavily involved in the industry, where he now travels and speaks across different countries.

In this episode, you will discover:

Part I: NEAT

What is NEAT?

NEAT stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. James describes NEAT as basically all your daily physical activity other than your formal exercise session. It makes up a big chunk of your physical activity daily energy expenditure.

People get so focused on exercise, which only makes up an hour out of your day. But what about the other 16 hours a day that you’re awake? This large chunk can actually make a bigger impact on how much energy you expend each day than what you’re doing in that one hour of exercise.

NEAT Reduction

NEAT gets reduced when someone is dieting for weight loss.  Basically, it’s the body’s defense mechanism causing you to move around less and burn less calories for the exact same motion. James shares some ways on how you can combat this through deliberately moving around each day and doing resistance training.

Weight Plateau

Whether you drop your calorie intake further depends on a number of factors and situations. Ultimately, people hit weight plateaus due to the loss of dietary adherence.

Step Count, Walk More, and Stand More

Walking is an easy way to increase your daily energy expenditure. Standing only works if it involves more movement. Rather, treadmill desks work better than standing desks ㅡ not an easy way, but still an option.

Variation of NEAT Levels

NEAT levels vary from person to person. Your metabolism may be slow, but you may have high NEAT levels.

Part II: Body Composition Measurement Methods

The biggest misconception about measuring body composition is that people think it’s accurate. But it’s just an estimate, and a very rough estimate at that.

BIA (Bio-Electrical Impedance Analysis), Hydrostatic Weighing, and DEXA

BIA works by way of an electrical current being run through your body. Since fat mass has less water in it than fat-free mass, it will not conduct electricity. Hence, resistance to an electrical current through your body should be somewhat related to your body composition. James further talks about the pros and cons related to this technique. Generally, it’s still not as accurate since these devices have high error rates.

James recommends using either hydrostatic weighing and DEXA, which he considers as the two best body comp measurement techniques. But even so, they still have high individual error rates.

How Often Should You Measure Yourself?

James suggests taking long periods of time between body fat measurements, preferably 3-6 months. As for waist circumference measurements, it’s fine to do it weekly or every other week.

  • What is NEAT and why it’s important
  • NEAT reduction and its effects on the body
  • Solutions to combat weight plateau
  • Wide variation of NEAT levels among people
  • The biggest misconception about measuring body composition
  • How effective are body comp measurements (BIA, DEXA, and hydrostatic weighing)
  • Why people put numeric value on how they look
  • Body comp measurements they used at Microsoft and what worked
  • How often you should measure yourself
Quotes & Take-Aways

NEAT makes up the biggest portion of your physical activity daily energy expenditure, much bigger than exercise does.

Your body tries to reduce energy expenditure to try to stop your weight loss and one of the ways it does that is by reducing your NEAT levels unconsciously.

The greater the energy deficit, the more the reduction in NEAT you’re going to see.

When people hit weight plateaus, it’s because of loss of dietary adherence.

Take long periods of time between measurements… the error rate of the device is bigger than the change you might see in that period of time.

Connect with James:

Thanks for listening and the support – if you enjoyed this episode, I hope you can leave the podcast a rating and review on iTunes, and if you haven’t subscribed yet, this is the best time to do that too. This will help the show to get up in the rankings.

Scott Baptie

Scott is the owner and founder of Food For Fitness. He is a fat loss coach, speaker and fitness writer with a masters (MSc) degree in Applied Sports Nutrition.