Measuring Body Fat Percentage

There are many ways to measure your body fat percentage, but two of the more practical ways are bioelectrical impedance and skin-fold measurements.

Bioelectrical impedance is convenient, fast and super easy.

Skin-fold testing is more accurate but slightly more difficult.

I’ll give you some info, you make the choice.

Bioelectrical Impedance

Impedance is a measure of how current is slowed or stopped as it passes through a material.

Lean body mass is more conductive because of its high water makeup.

Fat is more of a resistor to the current because of its insulating effect.

Bioelectrical impedance makes use of body fat scales or hand held devices.

Your body fat reading is determined by how long it takes harmless low amperage current to pass through your body.

The good: Convenience and the ability to test yourself easily.

The bad: The test is based on your hydration status, so the results can fluctuate.

To increase the accuracy of your measurement, test at least…

  • 8-12 hours after exercise or drinking alcohol
  • 2 hours after drinking or eating
  • 5 minutes after lying down.

The thing to do is to try to keep all conditions close to identical each time you measure yourself.

If you’re a woman, test during the same time each month. The reason is that a woman’s water balance shifts at certain times because of the menstrual cycle.

Body Fat Scale. Currently the most popular scales are manufactured by Tanita. Here’s a selection of the most popular Tanita body fat scales.

Handheld Sensor. With handheld body fat analyzers, you plug in some stats, hold the device out in front of you and hit a button. Within a couple of seconds you’re given a body fat estimate. Here's a list of some popular ones.

Skin Fold Measurements

Most of your body fat is stored directly beneath your skin. Skin fold testing is based around this fact.

You get an accurate estimate of your overall body fat percentage by using calipers to “pinch” folds of skin and fat at several places.

The good: Skin fold testing can be a very accurate way to estimate your body fat percentage. It’s also quick and convenient.

The bad: It takes some practice. The accuracy of the numbers is only as accurate as the person conducting the test. Errors can occur by pinching the wrong spots or using the wrong technique.

You need to repeat all conditions at each test…

  • The same person should test every time.
  • The same formula should be used.
  • The same caliper should be used.
When measuring body fat, it’s not necessary to have laser accurate numbers. You just want consistency in how you test so you can track your results.

When you buy calipers you’ll receive instructions to measure body fat and a body fat percent estimate chart.

You can buy a basic caliper or a digital caliper.

You can browse a list of various calipers here.

Go from Measure Body Fat to the home page.