As a society we’ve been a bit conditioned to focus on the number on the scale as a physical indicator of how healthy or fit we are. However, whether the scale is your best friend or worst enemy, there are actually better body metrics to pay attention to that are a much better indicator about what is going on in your body – one of them being body composition. Okay, you’re losing weight (or gaining weight), but is it fat or metabolism-boosting muscle?
We know that having lean muscle tissue has heaps of benefits: getting stronger, reducing risk of injury, supporting a healthy lifestyle for the future (when you’re older!) as muscle generally tends to deteriorate. The National Institute of Health concluded in a study that muscle strength declines from people aged <40 years to those >40 years between 16.6% and 40.9%!
For women in particular, body fat has a lot to do with being able to support our reproductive organs and have a regular and healthy menstrual cycle – an indicator of fertility. Just because a person is skinny, shredded or has a low body fat percentage doesn’t always mean that that person is also healthy.
Ways to test your body fat
1. Skin calipers
This is done by pinching 3 different skin folds in the body — the measurements of your body fat percentage can be read directly on the tool. It’s the easiest to do at home with a friend or with your trainer. However, this method isn’t generally efficient for obese people and can have a large margin of error if being administered by different professionals. If you are using this method, be sure to have the same person administer it for you to ensure a more accurate comparison. It’s not the most precise of all the methods, but doesn’t take much time at all.
2. Bioelectrical impedance
No, you don’t get shocked. In fact, you won’t feel a thing. These are the smart scales of the world or the “fancier devices” with electrodes on the feet and sometimes even additional electrodes for the hands. How does it work? Electrical impulses are sent through the body and then measured to see how fast they return. You will get a more accurate measurement if you use the ones with both electrodes on the feet and on the hands. These machines can oftentimes be found at gyms or nutrition stores.
3. Hydrostatic weighing
This one is much more accurate than the previous two as it makes its calculation based on water displacement – yes, you get dunked! Weight is compared outside of water and inside of water to calculate density and thus the body composition. If you’re interested in this method, you’ll need to find a location in your area that provides this method – usually a medical facility.
4. Air displacement plethysmography
This method is very similar to hydrostatic weighing but with air measuring the displacement instead of water. This is done by sitting inside of a machine, sometimes known as a Bod Pod. As with the hydrostatic weighing, you’ll need to find a location in your area that provides this service. They can be found in high-end gyms or in a medical facility as well.
Once you’ve determined your body fat percentage, you can have see what that means for you in the tables below:
Body Fat Percentage Ranges & Rating for Men
Body Fat Percentage Ranges & Rating for Women
Tips to lose body fat and keep it off
So now you know that the weight on the scale isn’t the only important body metric to keep track of. Do you know your body fat percentage, or are you now eager to find out? Let us know in the comments below.