Different Ways to Measure Body Fat

Once you’ve decided to lose weight, you need to make sure you measure your body fat frequently. By doing so, you will know exactly when you will achieve your goal. There are several methods to measure the body fat but they vary in accuracy. Each of them will be further detailed and explained to better understand how they work. Learning more about the various methods to measure your body fat percentage will help you choose the one you consider more convenient for your needs. Unfortunately, there are many people who have never measured their body fat, so if you are one of them, then it’s time to take the first step and determine your body fat. Let’s see how exactly you can do this.

What exactly is body fat percentage?

The body fat percentage is actually the total mass of fat divided by total body mass. The body fat includes essential body fat and storage body fat as well. Essential body fat is important in order to maintain life and reproductive functions, and it is greater when it comes to women than it is when it comes to men. Are you wondering why? This is different due to the demands of childbearing and other hormonal functions. The percentage of essential fat in women is 10–13%, and in men is 2–5%. Storage body fat represents the accumulation of fat in the adipose tissue part. There are several methods available that can help you determine the fat percentage. We are going to talk a bit about each of them so that you can understand exactly how they work.

How can you measure body fat?

  • A number of methods are available these days. The most common one is the one in which you use a skin fold caliper. What you actually need to do is to pinch your fat with your fingers, and then measure the thickness with the unit mentioned earlier. The results will be provided in millimeters, which you will need to compare to a chart with age and gender as well, in order to know exactly if you are in the right parameters. You will find on the market different types of caliper tests. Make sure you choose a good one. The advantage of these units are that they are very accurate, and the disadvantage is that you need to actually measure the same exact spot, each time. You also need to take into consideration the fact that for individuals 35+ pounds overweight, fat may not fit within this unit, and therefore, it will be less accurate.
  • Another method that will help you measure the fat percentage is the bioelectrical impedance analysis. BIA determines the opposition to the flow of an electric current through your body. Your muscles have a higher water content, and it is highly conductive, and your fat has lower water content and is not highly conductive. Based on the strength of the impedance along with your weight and height, the Bioelectric Impedance Analysis scale will estimate body fat percentage and fat-free body mass as well. This is an affordable and very easy to administer method. However, the accuracy seems to be not so great, and the variability of results actually depends on the hydration level.
  • The third method is the one in which you use an anthropometric. The body circumference measurements will tell you your body fat percentages. The U.S. Navy method involves measurements for waist, neck, and height when it comes to men, and measurements for hips, neck, and height when it comes to women. This method is also cheap and easy to administer, but not very accurate.
  • You can also measure body fat through the hydrostatic weighing. Because your muscles and bones are actually denser than water, an individual with a larger percentage of fat-free mass will weigh far more in the water and also have a lower percent body fat. A large amount of fat mass will make the body lighter in water and have a higher percent body fat. This test takes about half an hour, it costs around $150, and is available at research labs or hospitals. It is without a doubt extremely accurate, but the disadvantage is that it is quite expensive.
  • DEXA scan can also provide you the desired information. This method allows for body fat distribution analysis, and therefore, you can find out with precision how fat is distributed in various parts of your body. For this procedure, a body scanner with low dose x-rays is being used. It is completely safe, and it takes around 20 minutes. This procedure is without a doubt extremely accurate, but very expensive. It costs around $250.

Final thoughts

All in all, these different ways to measure body fat presented in this article will definitely help you obtain the desired information. Even though each of these ways through which you can measure you body fat use different methods to offer you accurate information, the result is the same, namely the body fat percentage in your body. Therefore, in case you want to know more about this aspect and you decide to live a healthier life, this is the first step you have to take to reach the ideal fat percentage. Remember, the key to a balanced lifestyle is constant monitorization of your body measurements, physical exercises, and a healthy diet.

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