Understand Body Fat Percentages
Body fat is essential for the body to function correctly, but too much is unhealthy. A petite person may weigh 110 pounds and wear a size 2 but have over 35 percent body fat.
Medically, this person would be in the American Council for Exercise’s obese category.
For women, the healthy percentage is 25 to 31 percent, and for men it’s 18 to 25 percent. Knowing the percentage of body fat you have helps you realistically set goals for weight. The best way to determine body fat is to use a body fat tester. Because factors like your hydration level affect body fat tests, you should test in the morning after drinking one glass of water but before eating breakfast.
Pinch Body Fat
Generally, calipers are the most common body fat tester. In the hands of an expert, calipers measure the amount of body fat under your skin. The accuracy of the results depends on the ability of the person doing the measuring to separate the body fat from your muscle and skin.
Different experts tend to measure in different places, and your results skew if you switch between testers. Other factors that affect accuracy include age, race and the time of day you do the testing.
Toss the Bathroom Scale
Are you exercising and reducing calories, but still gaining weight? While it can be frustrating at times, as you build muscle, your weight initially increases because muscle weighs more than fat.
Replace your bathroom scale with a bioelectric impedance analysis scale, often called a BIA scale or body fat monitor, which simultaneously measures your weight and your body fat by sending a painless electronic signal through the body. To use a BIA scale, you need to know the height, age, sex and sometimes the activity level of the individual.
BIA scales are considered accurate and don’t rely on the skill level of the tester.
Take a Dunk Underwater
One of the most accurate body fat testers is hydrostatic testing, which uses the amount of water displaced by a submerged body to calculate body fat. To do a hydrostatic test, you sit on a high-precision scale with the bottom half of your body in warm water.
You exhale the air from your lungs, bend forward to completely submerge your body and wait for the scale to register your underwater weight. Finding a hydrostatic testing facility may be difficult, but the results have a smaller margin of error than calipers or BIA scales.
Use X-Ray Vision
DEXA scanning provides a detailed analysis of your body and measures the density of your bones and the weight added to your body by organs and other body tissues aside from muscle and body fat.
While DEXA scans primarily identify osteoporosis or other bone density problems, they accurately calculate body fat percent. Services like DEXA Diagnostics transport the lab to popular health and wellness centers to hold testing.