When deciding that we need to get back into shape, the one thing people really tend to focus on is wanting to weigh a certain number. Any of the fitness reality shows or online fitness challenges tends to focus on achieving a certain weight. This may be ok if you have let your weight get out of control, but what about the other number. Not BMI. Seriously, don’t get me started on the uselessness of that. No, I’m talking about your body fat percentage.
Your body fat percentage is just how it sounds. Your body is comprised of non-fat mass and fat mass. The later is obviously how much fat you have in your body. Duh! Your non-fat mass is everything else such as muscle, bone, soft tissue, and fluids. The problem with BMI is that it doesn’t take into consideration your body composition. Someone could have a ton of muscle like a body builder and yet be considered overweight according to the BMI scale.
On the otherhand, knowing your body fat percentage will let you know if you are leaning towards the healthy side or not. For example, take a woman that is 5’3″ and 145 pounds. According to any BMI chart, this is overweight for a woman. What if I told you that her body fat percentage was 23%. The American Council Of Sports Medicine (ACSM) notes this to be an athletic composition. You can see how having more of something like muscle or a lack thereof can completely misconstrue what is truly going on inside. You are not an idiot. Obviously, if you have a composition of more muscle you are not worried about your health. So why focus on anything else.
There are several ways to test your body fat:
What the heck do all of these mean? Especially that bioelectrical thing. No, you won’t get electricuted to test your body fat, but these are definitely listed in my order of preference with 3 and 4 mostly being a tie.
Calipers – When I first started training at a big box gym, we used these to measure results with our clients. The problem is that many of my clients I had a hard time getting readings off of. The calipers themselves are these handheld devices that pinch your fat. This only works for those that have an slightly overfat or less body. The second problem is that I could easily pinch in a different spot every time. It lacks accuracy and trainer to trainer generally will have a slightly different method that alter results. I dislike it so much that I never use this method with my clients anymore. Never!
Biolelectrical impedance – You may have seen these on a scale or as a hand held device. I quickly switched to this method after working at the gym. The device uses a light electrical current (you actually feel nothing) to move through the body. This technology determines body fat based on how quick this current moves from one end of your body to the other. Readings however can be altered based on the individual’s level of hydration. If you need something that is quick, easy and fairly accurate I would recommend this method.
The scale I use personally at home is by 1byOne. It has a bluetooth that connects to an app on your phone to keep track of your progress. You can of course find this on Amazon for just over $30 at: Body Fat Scale
Dunking – Getting your body fat measured by getting dunked in a water tank is one of the most accurate ways you can get your composition readings. The method is based on Archimedes principle which states “that when a body is submerged in water, there is a buoyant counter force equal to the weight of the water which is displaced”. I rank it behind the air pod simply because of the inconvenience of getting completely wet. Not something you can exactly go do on your lunch break. There are mobile services in the bay area that do this for around $45 with companies such as Fitness Wave in the Bay Area. You can schedule an appointment near you at: Get Dunked
Air pod – Again, I am purely ranking this method above the water displacement due to the fact that you don’t get dunked under water. As a woman with long hair that can put a kink in my day. This method is very similar to getting dunked except that it uses air displacement instead of water. These pods can be more difficult to come by, but if you find a location near you this may be a preferred method over the water. Or maybe not 🙂
Regardless of the method you choose, I believe it is important to be consistent with how you measure to track progress. Afterall, progress is progress.