Fat excludes skin, muscles, bones, water content, and vital organs. Body fat percentage is the scientific amount of fat in your body and it can be simple to measure at home, if you know how.
“Body fat is the amount of fat in your body. Everything else includes your organs, muscles, bones, tendons, water, and so on.” —Nerd Fitness, Level Up Your Life
Skin over bones wouldn’t be attractive without fat. Fat is found throughout your body and is used for adequate insulation and body shape. Fat regulates body temperature and protects your organs. You need body fat to function—just not too much.
The largest component to keeping a low body fat percentage is having the right nutritional strategy. Having a plan and the right mental attitude is half the battle. The other half is know how. Knowledge is power.
Qualified professionals help too. Create a supportive network of people to assist you.
Your scale doesn’t calculate fat percentage and it's not your enemy. It weighs the total package—’everything else.’ Your scale weighs your entire body.
Most people get fixated on the total number on their scale. What you see on the scale weighs everything. The number on your scale weighs water volume, vital organs, skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and fat.
Every body type is different and can vary on genetics, diet, and exercise. The good news is that most patients lose weight in areas where they hold the most weight.
Weight loss and cell health is an intricate process. Many good things happen to your body after the pounds are gone as well. Obtain wellness at a cellular level and work with caring, qualified wellness professionals to understand your food sensitivities.
Your body is not about “skinny.” Know how much fat percentage that’s ideal for your individual body function is what matters most.
Body fat percentage is the amount of body fat you have. That percentage has nothing to do with muscle mass amount. Two (2) people with the same amount of body fat percentage can look completely different.
Understanding how to measure your body fat percentage can make all the difference in your health and how you see yourself.
Metabolic harmony and healing begins inside your body.
Body Max Index (BMI) is body weight versus body height. It doesn’t measure fat percentage. Men and women carry different amounts of body fat percentage. They are different.
BMI doesn’t account for those differences.
Many people believe that BMI measurements are a good indication of ideal weight. BMI measurement only provides a general gauge of ideal weight.
Your physician may only calculate your BMI, not your body fat percentage. BMI takes into account your height and weight ONLY. Based off of this ratio, it determines if you are underweight, normal, overweight, or obese.
You’re considered “overweight", if your weight increases disproportionately to your height.
'Overweight' Example: If you’re 175 pounds and 5’11” of pure muscle with a body fat percentage of 18%. You'd be considered overweight if you were 175 pounds and 5’11” with a fat percentage of 35% too!
Female #1: 19% body fat, large bones, carries more water weight = “overweight”
Female #2: 19% body fat, small bones, doesn't hold water weight = “average”
Get serious about your body weight and training, and BMI loses its accuracy. Achieve a healthy body fat percentage and have a positive perception of yourself in the mirror.
Your scale measures everything in your body—not just fat. 'Weight” isn’t the entire picture. BMI measurement doesn't measure body fat distribution, disease, bone structure, body limitations, or genetic factor.
BMI measurements are determined by insurance companies, based on accident and death statistics.
Measuring body fat is challenging. It’s difficult to calculate and track properly. Measuring body fat at home is easy with proper tools. Most people don’t know an ideal body fat percentage and their estimates are often skewed by incorrect measurements.
There are a handful of methods to measure your body fat. Each method has varying levels of accuracy and cost.
1. Look And Compare
This method is popular to use at home. You can measure your body fat percentage by simply “taking a look.”
Take a photo of yourself each week. Compare your photos week to week to see if you notice increased definition in your muscles. Your appearance will change as you start to reduce body fat.
Compare a photo of yourself with an accurate list of sample body fat percentage pictures. This method makes it easy to determine a close estimate of what your body fat percentage is.
Ten (10) percent of body fat looks different on different people. Men and women body fat percentages vary too.
2. Body Fat Calipers
Skin Calipers are a terrific at-home method for measuring body fat. A set of calipers usually runs about $10. Pull your fat away from your muscles, pinch the skin-fold with the caliper and take measurements at multiple test sites.
This medical device measures spot locations of your body, usually underneath various skinfold locations. Common areas include circumference of your abdomen, hip, and skin under your arm by triceps. These typical higher fat locations provide a good indication for measure.
By taking an average of three (3) areas of your body, you’ll get an estimated fat percentage to work from. Calculating your body fat percentage in the same locations and on a regular schedule can help to indicate a most accurate percentage.
This device is typically used by personal trainers to provide a baseline for their fitness clients. Physicians are often notified of the results.
The key to measuring your body fat percentage is to measure and record your numbers in the exact same areas—each time you measure—and on a regular schedule. Calipers underestimate body fat percentage and they're an inexpensive method for accuracy.
Measurement consistency is key. Start by liking your scale again.
Fat naturally distributes and resides in these common localized body areas. These measurement areas are for tracking only. You can’t spot reduce body parts either. Medical devices aren't perfect and can be cumbersome.
Bottom Line: Measurements only provide a baseline.
Body fat is essential to survival. Fat protects your internal organs and provides necessary energy stores and immunity health. Men and women fat percentages vary.
Take a look:
Images: Nerd Fitness: Level Up Your Life
Minimal amount of fat required for survival. (Extreme low levels of body fat are dangerous and can result in organ failure.)
Bodybuilders can minimize body fat to “essential fat” level for show prep. They typically maintain a higher body fat percentage for the rest of year to remain healthy and to function properly.
Performance: “Ripped” look (males) and “toned” look (females)
Ideal: Stay healthy and perceive your image as “looking good”
Typical: A decrease in body fat percentage would benefit your health
Health Concern: A decrease in body fat percentage is essential for your health
The “U.S. Navy measurement” or the “YMCA measurement” are examples of this method to calculate body fat percentage. This method often overestimates body fat, as it uses only few points of data.
There are many other trial and error body fat calculations.
4. Body Fat Scales and Fat Monitors
This method uses an electrical current throughout your body. It uses Biometrical Impedance Analysis (BIA). BIA method sends an electrical current through your body.
“Testing when you’re dehydrated can result in abnormally high body fat measurements, testing after you eat can result in abnormally low measurements—in one study, testing in a fed state reduced body fat levels by 4.2 percentage points–and testing post-exercise can also produce inaccurate results.” —muscleforlife.com
Water weight skews body fat percentage results.
“Another measure is gaining acceptance for accurately detecting body fat. BMI uses height and weight to estimate body fat. The Body Adiposity Index (BAI) does not take weight into account. BAI uses this calculation: hip circumference (in centimeters) / height (in meters) (1.5) – 18.
BAI tends to overestimate fat percentage in males and underestimates fat percentage in females. Results of the present study show that BAI provides a better indicator of adiposity in European-American adults than does BMI, but does not provide valid estimates of fat percentage, particularly at lower levels of body fatness.” —"Which Is Better: BMI or Body Adiposity Index?", ideafit.com
5. The Bod Pod
This body fat measurement method can be costly, yet accurate. The Bod Pod uses air displacement to measure body mass, volume, and density. It’s a good combination of accuracy and practicality.
6. Water Displacement
Water displacement calculations are expensive and tedious. Studies have shown accuracy within 1-3% percent.
7. Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) Scanning
Body fat scanning is considered the most accurate method. Usually conducted within a health facility, DEXA takes a full dual x-ray of your body composition which takes about ten (10) minutes. It’s typically expensive, depending on where the scan is conducted.
“Test yourself under the same conditions each and every time. Example: Every Monday morning, on an empty stomach, drinking a single glass of water. This way, even if you’re not getting the correct body fat percentage (due to user error), you’ll at least get a consistent incorrect body fat percentage and can calculate how much you lost or if you are progressing in the right way.” —Nerd Fitness, Level Up Your Life
8. Hydrostatic Weighing
This method of measuring fat percentage is considered the gold standard.
The measurement is conducted in a monitored setting with your physician. Patients are submerged under water to get an accurate weight of all other body components. The remaining number indicates fat percentage.
Hydrostatic weighing provides accurate results. It’s not a common practice for the average personal training or wellness client.
“Hydrostatic weighing is referred to as underwater weighing. Body is submerged and it compares a subject’s normal body weight (outside the water) to his or her body weight. Using these two numbers and the density of the water, operators can accurately calculate the subject’s density. This number is used to estimate body composition.
Hydrostatic weighing is an incredibly accurate technique for measuring body composition. The technique uses tried and true variables that feature a low percentage of error. Many experts refer to hydrostatic weighing as the gold standard for measuring body composition. It’s also commonly used in research settings.” —Daily Burn
You’ll need to research what’s best for you and where you can measure your body fat percentage on a professional level. Local universities often recruit a pool of eligible candidates to conduct this hydrostatic study.
Advocate ideal health and wellness and just start somewhere to measure body fat percentage—why not at home?
A simple body fat caliper, along with the ‘Look and Compare” method are the easiest ways to measure your body fat percentage.
Any method you use to track your body fat can often be inaccurate. Take multiple tests with preferred methods. Recognize that it may vary 1-3% in either direction. Therefore, track overall trends and body changes.
Do you like who you see in the reflection? If you’re pleased by how you look, and you’re 95% of the way there. If you don’t like what you see, decide to make positive weight loss changes and seek medical and/or professional wellness assistance.
“The easiest way to measure your body fat percentage is to use a scale or handheld device. They’re quick and easy but what you gain in convenience you lose in accuracy.” —muscleforlife.com
A ripped male bodybuilder might keep body fat percentage as low as 3-4%. A ripped female bodybuilder who’s trying to keep low body fat may only achieve a fat percentage of 8-9%.
Example: Each sex carries body fat in different ways. A male endurance athlete achieves 10% body fat and a women at a comparable level of athleticism achieves 18-20% body fat. Their appearance in shape and fitness are similar.
Let’s compare non-athletes: An overweight male at 30% body fat percentage and an overweight woman at 30% body fat percentage look quite different. Women need more body fat for biological reasons. Genetics, child bearing, and baby nourishment require fat percentage.
Genetics, BMI, and total scale weight number are not the entire picture. You may look great at a 27% body fat percentage if you’re 6’2’ versus 27% at 4’11".
Be your best, healthy self. The best advice is to measure and keep track of your own body fat percentage on a regular basis.
Aim for 6-8% (men) or 13-15% (women) body fat percentage. If you’re interested in a coveted six pack, drop your body fat down to 8-11% (men) and 15-17% (women).
Your athletic/strength gaining performance will suffer at this percentage and is challenging to maintain.
Body fat percentage = 15% (men) or 20% (women).
Many athletes train better at 20% body versus 15% body fat.
Looking good; feeling good = <18% (men) and 20-23% (women)
Ladies who are concerned about menstruation and fertility: Some studies believe that women shouldn’t drop below 15% body fat. These studies aren’t definitive, yet something to be aware of.
It’s challenging to understand that ideal body fat percentage is important for your entire weight loss and wellness package.
Fight the battle of the bulge: Knowing your body fat can be half the battle Expert guidance and instruction will help. Stay healthy and learn how to measure your own fat percentage. First, establish a thorough body composition analysis baseline.
Accountability for your own health and wellness will keep you on track.
Nothing tastes better than feeling good. Seeking overall wellness and achieving an ideal body fat percentage means making early health decisions on your body's overall composition and food tolerances.
Ready to estimate your ideal body fat percentage and stay healthy? It’s simple! Contact SaunaBar at (310) 652-5522 for a wellness appointment.