How to determine body fat percentage

There are many ways to determine your body fat percentage. The reasons why you may want to do so are varied, needless to say the less bodyfat you have the healthier you are perceived to be. If you are planning on entering into any type of bodybuilding competition figuring out where you are at the moment you begin to train for a competition is crucial to your success.

You can use a variety of techniques to give you an estimate of your body fat. These methods will range in cost and effectiveness. The cheapest way to do this is by using calipers. You can buy some calipers from various locations for under 20 dollars. I know has several different calipers for sale from 15 to 50 dollars. There are some digital calipers you can buy that will do the math for you, so that may be an option.

Using calipers

Most people use calipers and pinch different points on their body to give them some idea. Calipers are easy to buy and if you know what you are doing can give you a rough guess of what your body fat really is. If you don’t know how to use these then it may be best to go to some gym or other fitness facility that offers this service.

There are several good guides you can find online that will help you with this method. You will need to take measurements at various points around your body these include:

  • ·         Triceps
  • ·         Biceps
  • ·         Shoulder Blade
  • ·         Waist
  • ·         Thigh
  • ·         Calf

Using a 7 point method you can fairly accurately determine your overall body composition. While this can be used as a general guide it should not be used as the gospel truth. However, since this method is relatively cheap you can check yourself over several months to monitor your progress without too much hassle.

The accuracy of this method is really dependent upon the person doing it. If you should test yourself again using this same method and have lost body fat then that should be relative to where you started. Essentially if you are estimated to be at 12 percent when you started and then get measured again and are at 9 percent then you can rest assured that you most likely lost 3 percent of body fat. But, as I mentioned this is not a completely accurate method so while you may be measured at 9 percent body fat your body fat composition may be higher than that.

There is also a quicker 3 point method to determine body fat, but this is even more inaccurate than the 7 point method. But if you are in a rush for time then this may be the best way to go to see how you should be eating for the week or for the day.

Other more expensive yet more accurate forms of measurement

Using a hydrostatic tank can be a fairly accurate way to determine how much fat you are carrying around. This method involves dunking yourself in water and by using just the law of physics you can determine what your body composition is made of. Most of the time this will be manned by someone experienced in using this method and he or she will have a computer to assist in accurately determining overall body fat.

DEXA scans are supposedly the most accurate ways to determine bone density, muscle composition, and body fat percentage. These scans are not cheap, they typically run around 200 dollars if not more, but they are extremely accurate. Since this involves a lot of radiation it is not advisable to be used often, in fact maybe once or twice per year would be best.

If given the choice between the hydrostatic method and the DEXA method I would choose the DEXA method as that is the most accurate. Unfortunately, this method is very expensive so my second preferred choice is the hydrostatic tank. Either way both of these are highly accurate and will help you find your starting point so you will know how to modify your diet in the future.

The worst way to determine body fat percentage

Unfortunately there is some hype around bathroom scales that can supposedly tell you how much body fat you have. These devices are notoriously inaccurate and a complete waste of your money. Don’t bother buying any scale that offers this feature, it is just a waste of money.

Any device that relies on bioelectrical impedance analysis is somehow flawed as many of these devices seem to come out of the manufacturing facility flawed in one respect or another. Over time I would expect these devices to get better but unfortunately they just have not.

Another horrible way to determine overall health is by using a BMI calculation. This method is greatly flawed in that it does not account for muscle mass. So those who are very muscular can sometimes be wrongly labeled as obese. Clearly someone who has a body fat percentage less than 9 percent would hardly be considered obese in normal circles.

The reasons why body fat percentage matter

Body fat around your waist, arms, and other body parts really can determine your overall health in the long run. Unfortunately there are many people who have a lot of fat around their waist and as such are putting themselves at risk for various coronary heart conditions and cancer.

The leaner you are as an athlete the better you will perform, this is a direct correlation between your overall body fat and how flexible and mobile you are on the field. No matter what sport you play the better you can move around the faster you will be and that could be the difference between winning and losing.