Measuring Body Fat

Measuring Body FatYou’ve heard me say it before.  Don’t rely on the scale to show you results.  Measuring body fat is a much better way to track your progress, and your body fat percentage is ultimately what you should really be trying to change.  Muscle weighs more than fat, so sometimes initially if you’re building muscle and losing fat the scale might not move, but your body could be changing drastically, and if you’re not measuring body fat or taking progress pictures you might get discouraged with the scale not moving much.  To read more on that, check out my article Ditch The Scale.  But now that you know measuring body fat is important, how are you supposed to accurately measure it??  From best to worst, I want to give you 3 techniques to consider when measuring body fat.

Measuring Body Fat – Hydrostatic Weighing

Hydrostatic weighing is by far the most accurate method of measuring body fat.  The reason being that factors such as operator error, skin temperature, etc. don’t affect the results.  This method of measuring body fat uses Archimede’s Principle, using your body density to determine your body fat percentage.  This is done by measuring the amount of water you displace in a tank, and then a simple formula is used to calculate your body fat percentage.

Unfortunately this can also be a very costly way of measuring body fat, and can be hard to find.  Universities seems to be the best place to go for this, so if you really want to give it a try I would suggest contacting local universities to see if they will do this for you.  Yes, it’s the most accurate, but it might not be the most realistic way of measuring body fat, especially if you want to do it frequently.

Measuring Body Fat – Calipers

Measuring body fat with body fat calipers is a very reliable, quick and easy.  Basically you take a set of body fat calipers and measure different locations on your body.   Then you can plug in that information to a reliable equation and you’ve got your body fat percentage!  It’s really pretty simple, but there is room for error.  The most important factors are measuring the same, and correct, locations.  Also it’s important to plug in your numbers to a correct equation.  The software at www.linearsoftware.com should give you reliable measurements.  If you want to start measuring body fat, this would be a great place to start.  You can pick up calipers pretty cheap and you can do this quickly yourself so it’s a great place to start.

Measuring Body Fat – Scales and BIA

Many scales these days will also come with a feature saying they will measure your body fat.  These scales are using BIA, or Bioelectric Impedance Analysis.  Basically it is sending an electric current through your body to measure how resistant your body is to the electric current, and based on that it can calculate your body fat.  The problem with measuring body fat this way is that factors like the amount of water in your body and your skin temperature can throw off results, and the equation programmed into your scale might not be the correct one to use for you specifically.  My scale at home usually puts my body fat over 20% so I don’t put much stock in that number.  In my opinion, there are much more accurate ways of measuring body fat that this method.  So I would not recommend doing it this way!

In my opinion, measuring body fat is best done using calipers to take skin fold measurements.  It’s very reliable and is super easy.  It’s also very cheap and very quick, so there’s no excuse for not doing it!  If you’ve been getting discouraged because the scale isn’t moving, this could really help you out, because your body might be going to big changes, just not in weight!  In my opinion, measuring body fat is the best way to measure progress.  So if you haven’t yet, start measuring now and also make sure to take progress photos as you go!

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  1. […] fat is really the main thing you should focus on.  It can be tough to measure, but here are some tips on measuring body fat.  You also want to take lots of measurements.  Your program should outline where to measure […]

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