How to measure body fat percentage?

A familiar and familiar benchmark for those who want to lose weight and improve their figure is the body mass index : it allows you to assess how much a person’s weight corresponds to his height. The index is easy to calculate and convenient to use, but unfortunately, it is not always possible to focus on it: it does not take into account many factors (for example, body constitution and muscle mass). For example, an experienced bodybuilder and an obese person may have the same weight and height, and thus the same index.

But there is an alternative to this indicator: you can measure the percentage of body fat and determine exactly whether you have problems with being overweight or not. Here’s how to do it.

Short answer : there are many ways. The more accurate the method, the more expensive and more complex it is. The simplest is a visual body assessment (you will need to compare your figure with the samples in the photographs), you can also use a caliper (an inexpensive device that resembles a caliper) or “smart weights” (they are more expensive, but you don’t have to count anything).

What you need to know about fat

First, that we need it. Yes, fat is as important a part of our body as muscles, bones and tendons. The body stores it for a reason: the body receives additional energy from fat, the fat isolates and protects the organs and ensures the transport of nutrients. Too low a percentage of fat is fraught with health problems, which is why professional bodybuilders “dry” only before the competition, and during the break allow the body to return to normal.

Secondly, the normal percentage of fat and its location is different for women and men (and at times), men can have a lower percentage of it without harm to health. For example, according to the American Physical Education Council, the normal percentage of body fat should be in the range of 21% to 31% for women and 14% to 25% for men.

How to measure body fat percentage

There are at least ten ways to measure your body fat percentage. The most accurate of them – using MRI , water displacement method, plethysmographic body composition analyzer Bod Pod – are very accurate, but also very expensive (you cannot do without the help of doctors and special equipment). The good news is that spending a lot of money without much evidence is unnecessary. There are three methods – simple and inexpensive, which will be quite enough for a novice athlete.

Body visual assessment method. Cost: Free

A very simple way: you just need to undress and stand in front of a mirror (or, even better, take a photo of your body), and then, using special tables, find a photo of a body that is most similar to you in its structure. If you want a more objective assessment (and don’t really trust yourself), ask a friend or girlfriend for help, but in general research says that most people cope with the task without outside help and get quite reliable results of such testing. 

Caliper method. Cost: from 250 rubles

The caliper is a special tool for measuring body fat, reminiscent of a caliper. All you need to do is draw out the fat fold a little and measure its size. This is usually done in three places (but if you want a more accurate result, measure 4 or 7 places of fat deposition). Men measure fat on the chest, abdomen and thighs, women measure fat on the triceps, in the area above the pelvic bone and thighs. For greater accuracy, it is recommended to measure the same area at least twice, and then average the result. The final value of the percentage of body fat can be obtained using a special table that is attached to the caliper.

Method using “smart weights”. Cost: from 1500 rubles

A more expensive and technically sophisticated gadget is a “smart scale” that allows not only measuring weight, but also calculating the percentage of fat. They work using bioelectrical analysis technology: when you step on the scale, a weak electrical current passes through one leg up to the pelvis and back down through the other. Fat conducts electricity worse than water and muscle, and a scale that can register electrical resistance automatically calculates the percentage of fat.

The method is very convenient, but alas, it is not very reliable , since it does not take into account many variables: in particular, the results may differ depending on how much water you drink, how long you have eaten, and when you last exercised. Alternatively, measurements can be made several times within 2-3 days and the average value can be calculated, but even in this case, the method does not promise 100% accuracy. 

Is it possible to measure nothing at all?

Yes, you can. If you went in for sports, you see improvements and are satisfied with the progress, there is no urgent need for additional measurements. At the same time, we must not forget that success, especially clearly recorded on paper or in an application on a smartphone, is a great motivation and a reason to be proud of yourself. In addition, as we recently wrote , sometimes fat loss can occur simultaneously with muscle mass gain, in which case the frozen readings of the floor weights can upset the novice athlete: in this case, measuring the percentage of body fat would be a great idea. 

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