If you want to know the amount of fat in your body, this article will show you different ways to measure body fat percentage.
You might be stepping on the scale every now and then but never take time to measure your body fat percentage.
Whether you want to look a certain way, get lean or drop a few pounds, knowing your body fat percentage is important.
What is body fat percentage?
Body fat percentage is the composition of the total body weight that is fat tissue. There are two different types of fat tissues namely; essential fats and storage fats.
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Essential fat is the amount of fat required for the body to perform all its physiological functions properly. These fats are usually stored in the heart, bone marrows, kidneys, brain, liver, lungs, intestines, muscles and the spinal cord.
Essential fats provide protection to the internal organs by acting as a shock absorber and also help regulate the body temperature.
Storage fat also known as nonessential fat is stored below the skin and located in fat cells. Storage fat is important to the body because it serves a store of energy.
Why do you need to know your body fat percentage?
You might have two people of the same weight, age, height but different BF% so the scale alone is not enough to determine your health or measure your progress. The scale may be showing that your weight is fine when you have hidden excess fat or it may be showing that you are overweight when your body fat level is healthy
Knowing your BF% will also help you track the amount of fat you are losing, something the scale can’t show you.
Excess body fat can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and stroke. Low BF% is not healthy too; it can lead to failure of vital organs, lack of menstrual flow for women and lowers your immunity.
Body fat percentage in women
Women have a higher essential body fat percentage than men because of requirements for babies and hormones. This extra essential fat is stored in genitals area, breast tissues, and the lower body.
|Obese||32% or more|
Body Fat Percentage for men
Men, we naturally have a lower body fat percentage than women.
|Obese||26% or more|
Understand body composition and fat percentage.
The body is composed of fat tissue and lean tissue. Lean tissues include bones, organs, muscle, glycogen, hair, water, blood volume, skins, nerves and other parts.
The amount of fat in the body compared to the total body weight is the body fat percentage. For example, let’s say an individual weighs 180 pounds and out of that 18 pounds is pure fat, his/her body fat percentage will be 10%, which is calculated as 18/180*100=10%.
If the level of fat increase in the body the percentage will go up and if you lose fat the percentage goes down. But the percentage can also change without gaining or losing fat; this can happen if you lose or gain muscles and maintain the same body weight.
Use these methods below to determine your body fat percentage.
Body Fat Calipers
This is one of the easiest and accurate (if done repeatedly) methods to measure body fat percentage at home. Pinch the fat using your fingers and measure the thickness of the skin fold using the body fat calipers, the units of measurement are millimeters.
After you get the thickness you will use a chart that uses gender and age to determine your body fat percentage. You need to take the measurements on several parts of the body to get accurate results. Some of these parts you will need someone to take the measurements for you.
Take measurements at the back of the hand (triceps) fold the skin and take a vertical measurement, the front of the arm (biceps) also take the measurements in a vertical position. Measure on your back below the shoulder blade (subscapular), take measurements at a 45-degree angle then measure the Waist (Suprailiac) take a measurement in a horizontal position. There is no particular order to take these measurements.
Add up your measurements and use the body fat calipers chart to determine the body fat percentage. There are two charts for male and female so choose the one that fits your gender to get the results.
This method involves a full body scan with a low dose of x-rays. It determines the value of body composition into three sections; body fat tissue, lean tissue, and body mineral.
It is very accurate though different machines might give different results so it’s advisable to use the same machine for consistent and accurate results.
Dexa scanning will give you accurate results and it takes as low as 10 minutes to use.
One of the downsides it’s very costly ranging from $100-250$ and the fact that you are getting exposed to radiation may not be safe especially if done regularly.
Also known as water displacement is another accurate method with a low percentage of error (1-2%). In this method, the body composition is divided into two, body fat and fat-free tissue.
A person is submerged in water then weighed while underwater, the percentage of fat is calculated from the body density.
A logical explanation is that an individual with muscles and low fat will weigh more in water because muscles are denser than water. While a person with high-fat percentage will weigh less in water.
Though accurate, this method is expensive, tiresome and time-consuming.
The Bod Pod
This method uses the same concept as hydrostatic weighing but involves air displacement, where an individual steps in a chamber and the air displaced is measured my censors then calculated to body fat percentage.
This method is very accurate with a low percentage of error but is expensive and not widely available. If you have used this method before, leave a comment below and share your experience.
Biometrical Impedance Analysis
BIA measures the opposition of the flow of electric current in the body which is then used to calculate total body water weight. The amount of water in the body determines the flow of electric current, high volume of water means an easier current flow.
The more muscles one has the more water their body can hold while the more fat one has the more the current resistance.
This method can be inaccurate if an individual is dehydrated or has high water retention. It’s affordable and easy to use.
The Naked Eye
One of the easiest and simple methods you can use to determine your BF%. You will need a variety of pictures showing individuals and their BF%, this will require some experience to be able to determine your category correctly. In this method, you can’t know your exact percentage but you can know your percentage range.
Use the charts below to estimate your percentage.
All these methods have a percentage of error and some might give you different results. It is advisable you try different methods but if you are short of cash use the above images or get a friend’s (unbiased) opinion on your percentage range from the images.
If you are using body fat calipers make sure you take the measurements several times and under the same conditions. For example, you can take the measurements every Sunday morning after taking a bath and before breakfast.
By doing this you will get consistent results even if they have a percentage of error. If you can afford Dexa scanning go ahead, you will get more accurate results.
If you have experience with any of the above methods feel free to share with me in the comments below. If you have any questions or Ideas leave a comment and I will get back to you.