Estimating Body Composition in Adolescent Sprint Athletes : Comparison of Different Methods in a 3 Years Longitudinal Design

Dirk Aerenhouts, Peter Clarys, Jan Taeymans, Jelle Van Cauwenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


A recommended field method to assess body composition in adolescent sprint athletes is currently lacking. Existing methods developed for non-athletic adolescents were not longitudinally validated and do not take maturation status into account. This longitudinal study compared two field methods, i.e., a Bio Impedance Analysis (BIA) and a skinfold based equation, with underwater densitometry to track body fat percentage relative to years from age at peak height velocity in adolescent sprint athletes. In this study, adolescent sprint athletes (34 girls, 35 boys) were measured every 6 months during 3 years (age at start = 14.8 ± 1.5yrs in girls and 14.7 ± 1.9yrs in boys). Body fat percentage was estimated in 3 different ways: 1) using BIA with the TANITA TBF 410; 2) using a skinfold based equation; 3) using underwater densitometry which was considered as the reference method. Height for age since birth was used to estimate age at peak height velocity. Cross-sectional analyses were performed using repeated measures ANOVA and Pearson correlations between measurement methods at each occasion. Data were analyzed longitudinally using a multilevel cross-classified model with the PROC Mixed procedure. In boys, compared to underwater densitometry, the skinfold based formula revealed comparable values for body fatness during the study period whereas BIA showed a different pattern leading to an overestimation of body fatness starting from 4 years after age at peak height velocity. In girls, both the skinfold based formula and BIA overestimated body fatness across the whole range of years from peak height velocity. The skinfold based method appears to give an acceptable estimation of body composition during growth as compared to underwater densitometry in male adolescent sprinters. In girls, caution is warranted when interpreting estimations of body fatness by both BIA and a skinfold based formula since both methods tend to give an overestimation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0136788
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Body Composition


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