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Body composition for health and performance: a survey of body composition assessment practice carried out by the Ad Hoc Research Working Group on Body Composition, Health and Performance under the auspices of the IOC Medical Commission
  1. Nanna L Meyer1,2,
  2. Jorunn Sundgot-Borgen3,
  3. Timothy G Lohman4,
  4. Timothy R Ackland5,
  5. Arthur D Stewart6,
  6. Ronald J Maughan7,
  7. Suzanne Smith1,
  8. Wolfram Müller8
  1. 1Department of Health Sciences, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
  2. 2United States Olympic Committee, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
  3. 3The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  4. 4University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  5. 5University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
  6. 6Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK
  7. 7School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK
  8. 8Institute of Biophysics, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nanna L Meyer, Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Colorado, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO 80918, USA; nmeyer2{at}


Background Successful performers in weight-sensitive sports are characterised by low body mass (BM) and fat content. This often requires chronic energy restriction and acute weight loss practices.

Aim To evaluate current use of body composition (BC) assessment methods and identify problems and solutions with current BC approaches.

Methods A 40-item survey was developed, including demographic and content questions related to BC assessment. The survey was electronically distributed among international sporting organisations. Frequencies and χ2 analyses were computed.

Results 216 responses were received, from 33 countries, representing various institutions, sports and competitive levels. Of the sample, 86% of respondents currently assess BC, most frequently using skinfolds (International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK): 50%; non-ISAK, conventional: 40%; both: 28%), dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (38%), bioelectrical impedance (29%), air displacement plethysmography (17%) and hydrostatic weighing (10%). Of those using skinfolds, more at the international level used ISAK, whereas conventional approaches were more reported at regional/national level (p=0.006). The sport dietitian/nutritionist (57%) and physiologist/sports scientist (54%) were most frequently the professionals assessing BC, followed by MDs and athletic trainers, with some reporting coaches (5%). 36% of 116 respondents assessed hydration status and more (64%) did so at international than regional/national level (36%, p=0.028). Of 125 participants answering the question of whether they thought that BC assessment raised problems, 69% said ‘yes’, with most providing ideas for solutions.

Conclusions Results show high use of BC assessment but also a lack of standardisation and widespread perception of problems related to BM and BC in sport. Future work should emphasise standardisation with appropriate training opportunities and more research on BC and performance.

  • Body composition methodology
  • Exercise and/or caloric restriction effects on body weight/composition
  • Injury Prevention
  • Eating disorders
  • Sports and nutrition

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