This week I want to share with you how you can measure your body fat. That said, let’s get this out of the way right now: We all have body fat! From the elite athletes to the models and actors you see in the magazines.
A post on Medicine.Net explains why women typically have more body fat than men: There are many reasons why women have more body fat than men. One is biological. Body fat content is 25% for women at normal size compared to 15% for men. All other things being equal, such as age and exercise levels, women require fewer calories per pound of body weight daily than do men. Female hormones make it easier to convert fat into food. Women more often do the cooking in the households. Finally, in fat-prone women, birth control pills cause the body to produce increased amounts of fat and water. Estrogen alone will cause increased deposition of fat. Anyone on the pill needs to decrease caloric intake by at least 10% in order to maintain the same weight.
So how do you measure your body fat?
1. The old-fashioned way. When your pants feel tight and your shirt gaps, that’s a clue: something’s up. Step on the scale and pull out the tape measure and measure your waist circumference. The National Institute of Health says health risks go up with a waist measurement over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women.
2. BMI is a useful measure of our true weight status. It is calculated from your height and weight. It is very important to know our true weight and the best way to measure our status is by numbers. Calculate your BMI.
3. Skin Fold Calipers: Calipers are measuring tools available at the gym or doctor’s office that measure skin folds on various body parts to calculate total body fat. This test is available through Quad City YMCAs.
4. Underwater (Hydrostatic) weighing: Considered a more accurate but more expensive and inconvenient method, this procedure is usually done at medical or university research facilities or sometimes at high-end exercise facilities. The basic idea is that fat floats while bone and muscle sink.
5. Bioelectrical impedance: This high-tech method is available at medical research facilities, high-end fitness centers and your bathroom. A small amount of harmless electrical current is delivered through the body to calculate total body water in lean tissue and muscle. Fat contains no water so body fat percentage is based on the difference between your body weight and lean tissue. Results can be inaccurate in people who are dehydrated, over-hydrated, morbidly obese, aged or those with very low muscle mass. This test is also available at local YMCA’s for a small fee.
6. DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry ) This test is used to measure bone density, but it also measures body fat percentage as well as where most of your fat is. The facts about DEXA: DEXA uses a whole body scanner and two different low-dose x-rays to read bone mass and soft tissue mass. – It takes about 10-20 minutes to do a body scan-It provides a high degree of precision with a 2-3 % margin of error. This is considered a gold standard for measuring body fat and bone density. It’s painless. Check with your doctor to see if this is right for you and call your insurance company as they may cover it. The cost is usually about $100.
Is your lean muscle-to-body-fat ratio right for your body?
The American Council on Exercise provides this chart:
Fitness Level Women Men
Essential fat 10-13% 2-5%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Average 25-31% 18-24%
Obese 32%+ 25%
Essential fat: the amount every body needs to function.
Athletes: have more muscle and less body fat due to exceptional fitness.
Fitness: the range of fat on a normally fit person.
Average: you’re not at your top fitness level but you’re not overweight either.
Obese: you’re carrying way too much body fat and you’re at risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other health problems.
|Meet Jeni Tackett, Let’s Move Quad Cities Nutrition Blogger. Jeni is a registered and licensed dietitian for Unity Point-Trinity and Two Rivers YMCA. Jeni counsels her clients on weight loss and nutrition. You can read Jeni’s bio and other blog posts by clicking here.|