You just had your first DEXA scan and you’re armed with new data about your body composition. You’re empowered and motivated to dial in your nutrition and make the most of every workout. But you still have one question… “When should I come back for my next DEXA scan?”
We’ve heard recommendations that people test as often as every week or every 2-4 weeks! However, we believe the answer really depends on your goals. Why? Because losing fat and building muscle happens at a different pace and because general wellbeing and elite competitors need different degrees of progress tracking.
We call your first DEXA scan a baseline scan because it’s the starting point. You’ll compare all your future scan results to this baseline scan to see how much progress you’ve made. Regardless of the goal, we strongly encourage anyone starting a new fitness or weight loss journey to start with a baseline DEXA scan. After that, we help you create a testing schedule that fits your goals.
Transformation & Fat Loss: If you have a significant amount of body fat to lose, then we recommend frequent testing every 30-60 days. It takes approximately four weeks to see the result of any change to your diet or exercise program, so testing every month or two allows you to monitor your progress and check the effectiveness of your plan. Testing frequently also holds you accountable to commitments and motivates you to keep going!
Gaining Muscle: If you are working towards fueling and working your body to grow muscle, then monitoring your progress with DEXA scans every 3-4 months should be a good schedule for you. Muscle growth happens slowly and over time so testing 3-4 times a year is enough to make sure your program is on track.
Physique: If you are a physique competitor, we recommend testing every 30 days. Training strategies mean you cycle through periods of higher and lower body fat levels and you are always looking for steady growth and symmetry in your muscles. Regular testing helps you monitor your body fat levels, your muscle mass, and your symmetry.
General Health & Fitness: Everyone benefits from understanding their own body at a deeper level. Your DEXA scan will tell you things your scale can’t, like whether you’re carrying too much body fat compared to your muscle mass and whether your visceral fat levels put you at risk for health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes. This becomes more important as we age. The older we get, the harder we need to work to maintain muscle mass and keep body fat away. So, if your goal is to maintain your general health and fitness, then we recommend you repeat your DEXA scan every 6-12 months to monitor your body composition and body fat-related risk factors.
What about those suggestions to test more frequently?
- Body composition changes over time.
We’ve all stood on a scale and noticed how significantly weight can fluctuate from day-to-day. It even fluctuates over the course of a single day! This isn’t true of body composition and you should be wary of suggestions to monitor your body composition for fluctuations. Body composition happens slowly and incrementally, so it can take up to 4 weeks to see measurable changes!
- Measurements without progress can be discouraging.
Have you ever started a new fitness program only to see the number on the scale stay about the same? You’ve worked hard for weeks but the scale just won’t budge beyond daily fluctuations – it’s frustrating and discouraging! If you’re reading about DEXA scans then you’ve probably already learned that your body can change and make progress that the scale can’t measure, but those changes take time. Testing too soon can leave you feeling like you’re not progressing or worse, that you’re failing. Stay patient and disciplined in your diet and exercise plan and give yourself time between tests to avoid frustration and discouragement. When it’s time to test, you’ll be proud of your measurable results and we’ll be excited with you!
- DEXA is an x-ray technology.
First, let’s be clear. DEXA scans use extremely low doses of radiation that are considered safe for most people. The amount of radiation exposure is so low that it can be compared to a body scanner at the airport or a cross-country flight. However, as a rule, we should all limit ourselves to only the amount of radiation that is needed to provide a benefit. Repeating your DEXA scan too frequently won’t provide you with beneficial information because body composition changes take time. To ensure the very low dose of radiation is worth the benefit, allow your body enough time to change between your DEXA scans.
Live Lean Rx Houston is located at 17000 El Camino Real, Suite 104C, Houston, TX 77058. Contact us by phone at 281-241-7125 or send us a message.