April 28

Do you need to know your bodyfat %


We all have hangups over our body fat, don’t we?


Please feel free to email me about it but I think we all have hang ups over this.  We all want to know what our body fat percentages are like, we would like to get that measured reliably.


We think we need to drop our body fat percentage by this or that much. We see people online they’re only X percentage body fat and we want to look like them.


We can get really severe hang ups over our body fat percentage as if it defines us!


The first thing I want to say is, don’t let this define you. You are of course, far more than just the amount of fat that you have on your body. It actually does not matter what body fat percentage you have, as long as you are healthy.


As long as you are within a good ratio of waist to hip, you’re eating healthily most of the time, as long as you are a healthy body weight. These are the important things and it doesn’t matter necessarily the percentage body fat.


Of course I’m not advocating getting into very overweight territories, but what I’m saying is that we have this idea that lower body fat makes us better at sport or better at life for whatever reason. It’s absolutely 100% not the case.


If you are going to measure your body fat, then I can help you with the measurements. Personally, I think that they can be useful to dictate progress when you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscle.


I don’t however, think they’re good as a snap shot measurement, because what is the point of that? Apart from to potentially boost your ego? There is not a point in a one off body fat test.


There are several different ways that you can get tested: There are the body analysis scales that you get at Boots and in the gyms, there are BOD pods which are harder to find, they are mostly in research labs in universities, I’ve been in one, they’re quite cool. There are DEXA scans which are even harder to find, mostly in hospitals or private clinics, then there are skin folds.


Body analysis scales are like a tachometer. They can be quite useful for repetitive measurements, because they will at least give you the same recordings, but they can be affected by the temperature of the room, how hydrated you are, how hot you are, whether you’ve just worked out  and what you’ve eaten beforehand.


It therefore makes a lot of sense for you to make that test as consistent as possible in terms of what you’re wearing,  the time of the test and the room that you get tested in. Try and be consistent also with whether you’ve just worked out or not and what you’ve eaten.


These work by electricity conducting through the body, water is a good conductor of electricity and fat is not, so it gives you this estimation of your body fat through what it gets from the conduction.


The accuracy between machines can vary depending on whether they’re just a lower body machine or a whole body machine, which you’ll have to be aware of. It’s also good to know that the resistance throughout the body isn’t equal.


These predictive equations that they use could be quite far off from what your body fat actually is, so it might not give you that accurate reading. If you’re just using it to measure your progress, it’s not a big issue, don’t use it to give yourself an ego boost.


The bod pod works through air displacement under pressure, you sit within the pod and it works out your mass based on the displacement of air and pressure. These have reasonably good reliability and can be reasonably cheap to use, if you can find one.


There are some inaccuracies, room temperature etc. can affect them. They’re not that easily accessible, unless you’re in a university or similar establishment.


The DEXA is what a lot of people consider the gold standard because special detectors in the machine measure how much radiation passes through fat, lean tissue and bone, it therefore gives you a lean mass reading, a fat mass reading and a bone mass reading.


The print out they give you is quite cool, so it’s definitely worth doing. I think they’re very precise, they’re very accurate, your hydration status and the composition of your food can still affect it though.


This one is particularly useful if you’re interested in muscle changes and changes in bone density, especially as you get older, so you can determine the progress of your gym routine, in terms of getting swole, which, for a lot of you might be quite interesting. Look for private clinics if you’d like to book one.


Now the last measuring method I’m going to cover is skin folds. Skin folds are taken with callipers, if you’re seeing someone who’s got plastic callipers then they run away very quickly!


Callipers should be metal Harpenden callipers to get a good measure. They pinch your skin to measure the fat underneath the skin, what’s called the subcutaneous fat. The Isaak measurement, which is what I’ve been trained in, measures eight different sites.


We just measure for a sum of total skin folds in millimetres, then we measure the changes over time. There are some people who would like to garner a percentage based off predictive equations. But the issue with this is that, depending on the equation you use, you’ll get a different answer!


Nobody has an answer to which is correct either because they’re all different. So this method is purely used to give you a measurement to then start making changes, either in fat mass downwards or muscle mass upwards.


Then you can measure the amount of body fat you’re potentially putting on within that calorie surplus if your goal is weight gain. That’s all they should be used for.


To sum up, I personally don’t think you need to know your body fat percentage, but if you want to use your body fat as a measure of progress. Those are the ways that you can do it. That’s what I would advocate, measure for changes, not for vanity sake.


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