# Different Ways To Calculate Body Fat

13:32 2013

Many people have been using the BMI (body mass index) as a measure of healthy body weight.

An acceptable range is given for each age group and if your BMI falls within this range, it's usually an indication that your weight is in the healthy range. But there are exceptions.

The BMI is a useful index for the masses. But if you are an athlete or a bodybuilder, the BMI may not be such a useful index. For instance, you may be gaining muscle due to your strength training. Muscles are heavy and the numbers on your scales show that you are putting on weight. As a result, your BMI reading goes up. But note that you are putting on muscle weight (not fat). So to say that you are becoming less healthy would be inaccurate.

For this reason, many more experienced sports people calculate body fat percentages to track their progress. So instead of having just one number that sums up the body weight, you now have a number that tells you more about your body composition. In other words, if you are gaining weight, you now know whether that weight gain is coming from muscles or fat. Obviously, if you are gaining fat, that is not a good sign.

When you take the total amount of body fat, divide that by total body weight, you get a body fat ratio. Take that ratio and times 100, you get your body fat percentage. Typically, body fat is around 21% for women and 15% for men. A fit person will have a lower percentage - 15% for females, and 10 to 12% for males. For elite sports individuals, body fat percentage can be as low as 5 or 6%.

So how do you go about measuring body fat? You can walk into a clinic to have your body fat measured. Clinical measurements will give you highly accurate measures, but it may also set you back by a few hundred dollars. For most people, getting clinical measurements is just not practical. Here are a couple of ways you can get your body fat measured.

Using skinfold calipers

A pair of skinfold calipers is cheap and easy to acquire. Using a pair of calipers, you measure the amount of fat underneath your skin on different parts of the body - triceps, biceps, shoulder blades and waist. To take a measurement, the skin is lifted up gently with a pinch. The calipers, applied in a vertical direction, is then used to take a measurement. The more fat underneath the skin, the higher the measurement. Once the measurements have been taken, they are added up. The body fat percentage can then be determined by referring to a chart.

Using weighing scales

Before such weighing scales are made widely available, the skinfold calipers remain as the most common (and cost effective) body fat measuring technique. Today, we have weighing scales that help to measure body fat percentages. These scales work by passing a slight electrical current through our bodies. The current has to pass through the body for the reading to be accurate. For such scales, you would usually notice two metal strips on them - one for the left foot, the other for the right foot.

Regardless of the method that you eventually choose to measure body fat, just make sure that you are consistent and stick to the same method.

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