How off are Body Fat Tests?

There are many ways to measure your body fat (BF) with underwater weighing as the Gold Standard. A few other options claim to measure your BF, do they work?

  • Calipers – Most health clubs offer this test. This “pinch” test uses calipers to  measure several body points – like thighs, hips, back, and the upper arm. These readings are then put into an equation and tada, you have your BF. ??.. No sorry,  a large chance of human error in not pinching the exact same spot, pinching more or less at times, not reading the calipers correctly (read to the mm) etc. This test is not very accurate.
  • Scales, Hand Feet Sensors – Called bioelectrical impedance analysis. These sensors have been added to traditional bathroom scales where an electrical current runs through the body to “read” the amount of fat body mass and lean body mass — calculating the percentage of body fat. Measurements can be 5%-8% inaccurate and are more off due to hydration levels.
  • Bod Pod–  Relies on air displacement to determine body fat.  Readings can be off by 3%-4%, giving leaner individuals higher readings than someone who is not as lean. Hydration levels can also deter this test.
  • Weight Height Charts – Not accurate due to the exclusion of bone mass, organ mass, and fluid mass. I would be considerably overweight if I believed this chart… not cool.
  • Tape Measure – Measuring the waist around the belly button is a great way to determine increased risk of health problems and to determine a fat problem. I say fat problem because weight doesn’t determine a fat problem! Abdominal fat is more of a health risk than having fat on any other body area due to laying right above all of your hard-working organs! If you’re pregnant it’s ok. 🙂
  • Underwater (Hydrostatic) Weighing is the best test for measuring body fat. In this test you’re first weighed on a scale, then weighed in a large water scale. You submerge yourself and expel as much air as possible. Fat floats, organs – bones – muscles sink… the scale will then take this measurement (digital is best) and goes through a calculation with your height and gives you your BF %.  You do this 3 times for an even more accurate #.
Getting your BF tested is a great way to see your starting point and results from the hard work you do. Remember you can be fat AND skinny! 🙂
Go Muscles!
Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart1 Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be?

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