Monday, October 20, 2014

How to measure your body fat content

Why is it important to know your body fat composition? Are the so-called fat calculators effective in estimating your body fat rate and composition? What are your options to know your body fat percentage (BF%)? Keep on reading to find the answers to those questions.


Why to understand your body composition?

Whether you want to lose fat, gain muscles, do both, or maintain you current weight, assessing your body composition (especially fat and lean body percent) is an important part of your fitness and health seeking plan. You need to know your current BF% so you would:

Set an appropriate time frame for the expected and desired results of plan set.

Continuously evaluate your progress. If you didn’t know your starting point, how would you know what’s achieved?

Provide yourself with source of motivation as you see (hopefully) positive results.

In addition; fat percent and location is one of the primary markers for diseases risks, read more in where you carry your fat matters too.


How to calculate body fat percent (BF%)?

There are many methods existing nowadays to estimate and measure BF%, each has its own pros and cons regarding factors such as: cost, ease of use, portability, equipment needed, etc.

But with variation in methods comes fluctuations in accuracy and results obtained from each, while some provide you with accurate readings, others leave significant range of error. To see what options you have for estimating your body fat, Check out these some of the most common methods used in estimating BF%, with pros and cons of each:


1- Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)

Probably one of the most accurate methods used in estimating fat, muscle, bones and mineral body content, using X-ray beams.

Pros: Very accurate, only requires the participant to lie on the table.

Cons: Expensive, and not easily available.


2- Under Water Weighing (UWW)

Also known as hydrostatic weighing; which is a very accurate method to estimate body fat, by completely submerging the body under water and then estimating body density, then BF%.

Pros: Accurate and reliable, not very expensive.

Cons: Affected by amount of air in lungs and gastrointestinal track so forced strong exhalation while under water (which might not be comfortable for some individuals) and it is not portable.


3- Bioelectrical Impedance

BF % is estimated by measuring the rate at which a small, senseless electrical current are passing throughout your body. Considering the fact that electricity passes faster through muscles than fat -due to higher water content in muscle tissue-, faster electrical impulses means more lean muscle mass.

Pros: Portable, easy to use, many are not very expensive.

Cons: Very affected by water content of the body, which varies with humidity, last meal eaten, time of the day, exercising. Recent scientific reviews of these methods indicate that it’s not very unreliable.


4- Skinfolds thickness

This way estimates body fat by measuring subcutaneous fat, using a caliper; the thicker the fold of skin and fat -but not the underlying muscles- the greater the body fat content in the person.

Pros: It is cheap and minimum skills required doing it.

Cons: It depends on accuracy of readings taken and may give falsely lowered results if the participant has significant fat accumulation in areas outside those being measured.



Which way to use?

You can determine the most appropriate way to go for depending on First: your fitness goal; is your goal is just to lose coupe of kg for shape and health reasons, or your planning to get athletes and body builders level of body composition! For athletes more accuracy might be warranted.

Second: the available resources, do you have access to a health and fitness facility that provides more advanced tools, are there qualified persons to do procedures and measures accurately? Or you can only use low-cost measures of body assessment?


So depending on desired level of accuracy and availability of tools and techniques, you can determine which way to use. At Fitnessyard, we currently provide two easy-to-use calculators to estimate BF% and mass, which we will discuss briefly.


Body Fat Calculator

This calculator uses the mean average of BF% calculated using Larsson and Deurenberg equations, which have been shown –in this study- to provide less bias and a fine estimate of %BF when compared to DEXA and BIA measurements, making it appropriate in screening for obesity related diseases.

Pros: Only requites measuring height and weight of the individual.

Cons: Doesn’t take fat distribution (i.e. location of fat accumulation) into account.


Body Fat Rate Using 4 Skin Folds

There are a number of equations that use skin folds to calculate BF%, this calculator uses skin fold measurements from 4 different body locations.

Pros and cones: (see skin thickness above).


Have any question related to body fat, weight loss or fitness and health? Go to Fitnessyard’s forum for help.

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