To make sure you’re losing body fat you have to understand the difference between body weight and body fat.
Example: If I weigh 130 lb and my body fat percentage is 10, that means I have 13 lb of fat on my body.
Our bodies need a certain amount of fat to function optimally (essential body fat) and everything else is fat you can do without. Essential body fat is approximately 2-5% for men and 10-13% for women.
The least expensive and most widely available method of calculating body fat percentage is the skinfold caliper test.
A great post by Stephanie Clark last week on body image and a perspective coming from the female side. The first one is easy, how often do people ask “how much do you weigh?”  On top of that, how easy is it to figure out? Again, the BMI calculation does not take into consideration how active you are and how much muscle you carry, simply your weight and your height.
The last measurement we have is the body fat percentage test and for some reason, the one I feel like we hear about the least but what I feel like is the best way to put a number to oneself if you are looking for some sort of metric.
So what am I really trying to say with all this, be happy in your own skin and when you set goals, set the right type of goals.
For those interested in a body fat percentage test, we are trying to get Body Analytics scheduled to come sometime in December or January.
Nowadays the golden standard by which many health and fitness enthusiasts use to gauge their level of fitness is their body fat percentage.
Healthy body fat percentages vary based on age, gender and activity levels but you don’t have to be ultra lean to be healthy.
Body fat is an important component for our overall health as it serves some very important roles as it acts as an insulator to help our bodies conserve heat, it helps cushion and protect vital organs and fat plays a key metabolic role in the production of energy for everyday activity. Storage Fat- which is stored under our skin, (subcutaneous fat), and for most males 12% of body weight is storage fat and for women 14% of body weight is storage fat. Essential Body Fat- which is needed to keep us alive and maintain proper hormonal and reproductive function.
Since fat is such an essential part of what keeps us healthy and alive, training and dieting to drop body fat levels under healthy amounts not only leads to a decrease in performance, but can also create vitamin and mineral deficiencies, fluid and electrolyte imbalances, an increased risk of bone fractures, suppress the immune system, adversely affect reproductive functions and damage the heart.[38,39] I can tell you from personal experience as well that while having a body fat percentage in the very low single digits might look great, you pretty much feel really awful as the numbers start to go down. Before we delve into the various methods of measuring body fat percentages, it’s important to note that all methods are for the most part indirect and subject to error.
Research has shown that the assumptions made in these models do not always hold true for all groups.
While not a true method of measuring body fat percentages, Body Mass Index (BMI) is perhaps one of the most popular method of informally measuring body composition.
Another simple method of testing body fat is the tape measure method or anthropometry which involves taking measurements at various parts of the body and using a formula that also includes body mass and standing height to determine body fat and fat free mass.[23,24] It is relatively accurate when measurement are taken by a skilled technician but with tape measurements, people who are muscular and with low body fat levels can get numbers 3 to 5 percent higher than their true percent body fat percentages. Skinfold calipers are popular but have some limitations that you should be aware of before using it to measure exercise progress. Many personal trainers include skin fold caliper testing as a way to determine their client’s body fat percentage and their progress.
Scales and hand held models for bio-impedance testing are not as accurate as the systems that allow for full body testing. True bio-electrical impedance testing is far more involved, (and more accurate) than the more common methods in scales you have at home, at the gym or devices you can hold to measure body fat percentages.
That said, segmented bio-impedance instruments such as scales that send a current through only the lower body and hand held devices that send a current only through the upper body, cannot fully measure total body water levels, only estimate them based on the part of the body that they do measure.
Hydrostatic weighing has been the golden standard for body fat percentage testing for several years. Hydrostatic testing, (or hydro-densitometry), for years has been the golden standard for body fat testing. To perform the test you are first weighed in on dry land, then completely submerged in a tank of water while sitting on a scale designed to measure your underwater weight. Air displacement plethysmography offers an quick and non invasive method of measuring body fat percentages but like all tests, it does have its limitations. Offering an even less invasive but advanced form of body fat testing is air displacement plethysmography which measures total body density and body volume. DEXA is a highly accurate method of testing body fat but like all tests it does have limitations.
Dual-energy X-Ray Absorptiometry or DEXA is a relatively new method of measuring body composition. There are other forms of body fat testing such as Near-Infrared Interactance, which is a method developed by the USDA to measure body composition in livestock based on infra-red light absorption  and reflection, but its accuracy is not high enough that it is seriously considered for testing purposes. Please note that all material is copyrighted and DMCA Protected and can be reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the author.
Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to network TV, Kevin Richardson is an award winning health and fitness writer, natural bodybuilding champion, creator ofNaturally Intense High Intensity Training and one of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City. While I did ramp up the amount of exercise I do, the dramatic shifts in weight occurred BEFORE I made that change. Keri Gans, RD, the Weight Loss Coach at SHAPE magazine says, “Fluid is attracted to sodium like a magnet, so when you take in too much, you retain more water. Have you had the same experience, or do you think there are other causes of these dramatic shifts?
This book is intended for data analysts, managers, and executives with a basic knowledge of Python, who now want to use Python for their BI tasks. Some of the most accurate methods such as DXA Scan, Bioelectrical Impedance, and Hydrostatic (Underwater) Weighing are expensive and require a trip to a medical facility. In this method, you pinch the skin and fat under the skin (but not the muscle) in several locations on your body and measure the pinch using a skinfold caliper (not an affiliate link) which you can get from Amazon for $5.99.
Ask just about anyone that is seriously into their training what their body fat percentage is, and quite often they can tell you exactly what it is to the nearest decimal point!
For example,  many bodybuilding and physique competitors describe themselves as ‘fat’ at body fat percentages far below what most people would kill to achieve. While storage fat levels for men and women are similar, essential fat levels are quite different as men have about 3% of total bodyweight while women have 13%.
You feel cold all the time, your joints tend to hurt more than they usually would, you tire quickly and you don’t sleep as well either. To start, most guys who you would be considered ‘cut’ or ripped tend to fall somewhere between 7-12% body fat.

100% accuracy in measuring body fat is simply not possible without cutting someone up into pieces and physically measuring each piece. For example, fat free body mass densities can be significantly different due to gender, levels of muscularity, activity levels and ethnicity.
In the vicinity of almost 3% according to some researchers [5] with hydrostatic weighing which is often used as a measure of accuracy for other forms of testing.
Navy, (I was 20 years old at the time), and showed up at the recruiter’s office weighing in at a solid 220 lbs at a height of 6 feet tall.  After stepping on the scale, they punched in some number on the calculator, pulled out a chart and told me that I was significantly overweight and would have to lose at least 30 to 40 lbs before I could enlist. Again, since the theoretical models used to calculate body mass assume that fat free mass and fat densities are constant for everyone[3,25,26] which is not, [27,28,29,30,31] there is always going to be a margin of error.
With skin fold testing, calipers are used to pinch select parts of the body after which the individual’s body fat is determined based on the assumption that the amount of fat stored at these various sites is proportional to a person’s overall body fat. The way it works is that a small electrical charge is sent through the body, (arms and legs), and the individual’s total body water levels are estimated from impedance measurements. There can be considerable discrepancies among individuals in terms of differences in fat free mass in the upper and lower body so only measuring one segment of the body introduces a margin of error. The air in your lungs can significantly increase buoyancy and thus throw off the readings and so you have to expel as much air as is possible and remain completely still while your underwater weight it measured. In order to do the test, the subject is placed inside a sealed chamber called a Bod Pod and body volume is calculated by subtracting the volume of air inside the chamber when the subject is in it from the volume of air in the chamber when it is empty. It measures total body mineral mass, mineral free lean mass and fat tissue mass through the emission of two different types of X-ray radiation, (in a very small dose, of course) and measurement of the differences in absorption of the two energies. At the end of the day, very few people really need a body fat percentage test and such tests can only give an estimate at best whereas you can easily look in the mirror to monitor your progress and see how you feel to know if you are where you need to be.
Kostek MA1, Pescatello LS, Seip RL, Angelopoulos TJ, Clarkson PM, Gordon PM, Moyna NM, Visich PS, Zoeller RF, Thompson PD, Hoffman EP, Price TB. Measurement and prediction errors in body composition assessment and the search for the perfect equation.
My family and I would go out to eat at least once over the weekend, and when I weighed myself on Monday, I seemed to have gained a few pounds! Ben Greenfield, an Ironman Triathlete, did the research for us and found out that the 1,500mg max recommended by the American Heart Association may be too low.
If you have a good knowledge and understanding of BI applications and have a “working” system in place, this book will enhance your toolbox.
Keep in mind, a little bit of excess fat is not bad at all and you don’t have to lose fat until you reach the essential fat levels.
You will have to take the measurements (in mm) from 7 different locations and put the numbers into a body fat percentage calculator to get your body fat percentage using this method. When I started my training as an apprentice trainer almost 25 years ago back in the islands, my coaches frowned upon the use of skinfold calipers and body fat testing in general.
Not as glamorous as it seems and to be honest, most people are much happier with a body fat percentage that is low- but not too low as it does cut down on your quality of life. Most of the women who display a tight and toned physique, (not the skinny fat look), and who would be considered fit are usually are in the vicinity of 12-18% body fat.
Since we’d rather know our body fat percentages while we are still in one piece the science is kind of like someone trying to figure out what’s inside a box without being able to actually open the box.
On a purely cosmetic level, such a discrepancy is relatively insignificant but could be some cause for concern for an athlete trying to figure out how to keep their body weight as low as possible without adversely affecting performance. My BMI was 29.8, which gave me a reading placing me on the higher end of being overweight and almost obese.
Studies have found skinfold testing to be a reasonably reliable test for measuring body fat percentages when performed by a skilled technician- comparing well with more direct methods such as computed-tomography measurements. The greater the resistance, (measured in ohms), to the current flow, the more fat is present since fat tissue is a poor conductor of electricity due its low water content.
It works on the precepts of the Archimedes principle which states that the upward force, (buoyancy), exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially submerged, is equal to the weight of the fluid the body displaces. Boyle’s Law states that the product of the pressure and volume for a gas is a constant for a fixed amount of gas at a fixed temperature, so conditions inside the chamber are kept at a stable temperature and the pressure is changed in order to determine total air volume.
DEXA gives a highly accurate reading of body fat percentage when compared to hydrostatic weighing.[26,55,57 The scan takes 20 minutes and is one that can be administered to children, the elderly or those with physical limitations. So don’t get too hung up on the numbers and remember that building muscle is key if you are trying to get that look! Aqueous and mineral fractions of the fat-free body and their relation to body fat estimates in men and women aged 49-82 years.
Accuracy of subcutaneous fat measurement: comparison of skinfold calipers, ultrasound, and computed tomography. Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry for total-body and regional bone-mineral and soft-tissue composition. Reliability of body-fat estimations from a four compartment model by using density, body water, and bone mineral measurements. In vivo validation of whole body composition estimates from dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.
Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry versus skinfold measurements in the assessment of total body fat in renal transplant recipients.
Asians have lower body mass index (BMI) but higher percent body fat than do whites: comparison of anthropometric measurements. Bioimpedance analysis for estimation of total body potassium, total body water, and fat-free mass in white, black, and Asian adults.
Computational model of in vivo human energy metabolism during semistarvation and refeeding. Implication of high-body-fat percentage on cardiometabolic risk in middle-aged, healthy, normal-weight adults. Elevated body fat percentage and cardiovascular risks at low body mass index levels among Singaporean Chinese, Malays and Indians. Lipoprotein metabolism, insulin resistance, and adipocytokine levels in Japanese female adolescents with a normal body mass index and high body fat mass. Relationship between percent body fat and cardiovascular risk factors for normal weight adults.
In vivo validation ofwhole body composition estimates from dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. This would stress me out to no end, until Tuesday morning when I seemed to lose the extra weight and more.

However, if you are trying to lose weight, go out to eat and notice dramatic multi-pound shifts up to a few days after, there is no need to freak out – salt may be causing you to retain water. You will not be able to reach some of the measurement locations yourself and will need someone else to help you. While the training manuals might have said that it was important to measure your client’s body fat percentage as an indicator of their progress, my coaches all said that if a client couldn’t look in the mirror and see visible differences in their body or how their clothes fit then I wasn’t doing my job. For high level athletes, body fat percentages can vary from sport to sport but are usually lower than average.
That said there are exceptions, as my experience has been that two people can have exactly the same body fat percentages yet look as different as night and day. We can make assumptions based on what can be measured outside the box, but at the end of the day we can’t always be 100% certain since we must rely on assumptions.
So while some of the more involved methods of measuring body fat may be able to accurately measure total body mass, they may not be as accurate in determining body fat as they are limited by the formulas and assumptions they rely on for these calculations. Precision for this group would be paramount- as a nearly 3% error margin could make the difference between winning and losing a highly competitive event where power to weight ratios make all the difference. I couldn’t tell you how funny this was as I had a body fat level at the time of about 8-7% at the time- with rippling abdominals and barely any fat readily visible on my frame. Since both bone and muscle are denser than water, (and would sink), a person with a high percentage of fat free mass, (like an athlete), will weigh more in the water because of their lower body fat percentage. However, while it is more accurate than caliper tests or tape measurements, it still has some degree of error.
The entire test takes less than 5 minutes and its accuracy is comparable to that of hydrostatic weighing in adults.[60] The speed and convenience of this form of testing makes it appealing for children, the elderly and the physically challenged, but like all tests it does have limitations.
Another advantage is that unlike hydrostatic testing, DEXA takes into consideration differences in bone mass which can vary based on ethnicity and activity levels and is less affected by varying levels of hydration in the subject tested.
Comparison of body fatness measurements by BMI and skinfolds vs dual energy X-ray absorptiometry and their relation to cardiovascular risk factors in adolescents.
Comparison of dual-energy x-ray absorptiometric and anthropometric measures of adiposity in relation to adiposity-related biologic factors. Association between general and central adiposity in childhood, and change in these, with cardiovascular risk factors in adolescence: prospective cohort study. Estimates of excess deaths associated with body mass index and other anthropometric variables. Relation of body mass index and skinfold thicknesses to cardiovascular disease risk factors in children: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Comparison of bioelectrical impedance and BMI in predicting obesity-related medical conditions. High adiposity and high body mass index-for-age in US children and adolescents overall and by race-ethnic group. Appropriate body-mass index for Asian populations and its implications for policy and intervention strategies. At the end of the day, a change in numbers means nothing if your client still has layers of fat obscuring their midsection and no one walks around on the beach with their body fat percentage numbers printed out on their swimsuit! Healthy male athletes may have body fat levels as low as 5-12% body fat, and healthy female athletes can at times be as low as 12-20%.[36] Competitive bodybuilding requires having the appearance of having as little body fat as possible and male competitors are often reported to go as low as 3-4% with females can getting as low as 8-9%.
Some people can have rippling abs with 15% body fat whereas others have to go as low as 6% to start seeing real definition in their abdominal muscles because of differences in where they store fat, (which is a genetic factor- see my article on Why People Store Fat In Different Places) and levels of hydration.
The same applies to the equations used to calculate body fat percentages as they are all are based on theoretical models of that divide the body into, (usually), two components of fat and fat free body mass.[1,2,3]  The fat mass encompasses all the lipids from adipose and other tissues while the fat free body mass includes water, protein and minerals. That said, let’s take a look at some of the methods used to determine body fat percentages.
When I stripped down so the recruiter could see what I looked like under my clothes, he was shocked! For many people, the tape measure test is enough to give you a basic idea of your body fat percentages and it can be done frequently at little or no cost but don’t expect exacting accuracy.
In some ways bio-electrical impedance testing is easier than a skinfold tests as it can measure the body fat of obese individuals and does not require as much skill in order to administer the test. On the other hand, fat tissue is less dense than water, (and would float) so a person with a large amount of fat mass will weigh less in the water because of their higher body fat percentage. Studies have found that air displacement plethysmographs tend to overestimate the average body fat percentage of African Americans and underestimate the body fat percentages of football players. There are also some very considerable limitations to field methods of body fat testing that make it somewhat impractical and so I have never used it in my personal training practice. Bodybuilders, for example, who perhaps have the lowest body fat percentages, achieve their skinless look through a combination of dehydration and depleting body fat stores- as how much water you are holding can make a huge difference in how you look when body fat levels are extremely low.
These models assume that the densities and relative proportions of protein, water, and minerals in fat free body mass are the same for everyone and that individual differ from the referenced ‘body’ only in the amount of fat they carry.[1,2,3] These assumed models are used to calculate body fat percentages from readings from advanced forms of body fat testing such as bio-impedance testing, air displacement testing, hydrostatic weighing and dual x-ray absorptiometry. Studies involving before and after measurements of men and women involved in a 16 week program of resistance training found no changes in subcutaneous fat when assessed by skinfold calipers. I can attest to this myself as I can literally stand on the bottom of a pool and have a very hard time floating in general! And as we said earlier in the article, these formulas are based on the assumption that the density of fat free mass is same for everyone and this assumption does not hold true for people of different races, genders, ages and activity levels.[4,5,6,49] It also cannot account for air in the intestines which can also have an effect on buoyancy, but you work with what you have and this is a very reliable method of testing. That said, it is a good idea to have a ballpark idea of what your body fat percentage is for health reasons more than anything else, unless you are an athlete involved in distance events where weight to power ratios are all important, and you need to know just how far down you can go body fat wise without affecting your performance.
A male bodybuilding competitor could be ripped while dehydrated at an extremely low body fat level and after a few hours of eating high sodium foods would retain a significant amount of water that would make them appear bloated and with far less muscular definition. The effect of unilateral isokinetic strength training on local adipose and muscle tissue morphology, thickness, and enzymes. In this article we are going to take a look at what men and women tend to look like at different body fat percentages and the various methods of measuring body fat- and their limitations. Except they would not have put on any additional body fat in such a short space of time and so their body fat percentage would be the same.
Thanks for reading and as always, be sure to share this article with someone who you think might find it to be of interest!

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