How To Measure Body Fat

how to measure body fat

Many people use the scale when losing weight to track their progress. This is not effective, especially when you near your weight loss target. The best alternative to monitoring your progress is body fat and body measurement. So, why must you track your body fat?

Differences between Losing Weight and Losing Fat

Using scales does not tell your fat level in body composition. It is misleading since you are not sure if you are losing water, muscles, or fat. As soon as you start on a keto diet, you are going to lose water because of carbohydrate withdrawal leading to a considerable weight loss. You are advised to take a few weeks before you start measuring your body fat.

Keto diet preserves your body lean by preserving muscles. However, you may lose your muscles if you don’t eat adequate proteins, fats, or calories. Eat enough to avoid unwanted muscle loss. Following a ketogenic diet does not mean starving yourself.

Body Fat Helps Calculate Protein Intake Accurately

You must know how to calculate your macros accurately. Your lean mass determines your protein intake. You must know your body fat to calculate your lean mass accurately. Once you know your body fat, use our Keto Calculator to find out your macros.

Can you Gain Weight with Exercise?

Yes. But there is no reason to panic since muscles tend to be heavier and compact compared to fat. Your muscle gain is proportional to weight gain. When you are nearing your target, focus more on body fat, not body weight.

If two people have similar body fat content, they are still likely to have different weights. Muscular individuals will always weight more than thin individuals. The Body Mass Index (BMI) and the total body weight of a muscular person can be similar to an overweight, sedentary person. Don’t weight yourself; instead, track your body fat.

How to Measure Body Fat

Skinfold Calipers and Body Fat Calculator

Accu-Measure Body Fat Caliper

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Skinfold calipers measure skin thickness and, therefore, subcutaneous fat in some specific body areas. You can do it yourself or ask a friend to help you. Some formulas require you to take measurements in 9 areas while others need measurements from 3 areas. Skinfold statistical measures are used to calculate total body fat. 

These calipers are cheap ($7) and fairly accurate. The accuracy of the skinfold caliper depends on racial differences and age. You only measure subcutaneous fat, not visceral fat. They might not be accurate in reading the total body fat percentage, but at least it gives a reliable measure of fat in the body. Calculate your body fat using skinfold calipers 

Visual Estimates

One of the best techniques is to observe your belly fat. It is not accurate in measuring your body fat, but it gives a rough idea about your body fat. Find images on visual estimates for women here and also visual estimates for men here.

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis

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Two conductors are attached to your body, and they send a small current through as they measure the resistance between the two conductors. The resistance registered between the skeletal tissue, muscle, and fat varies, and that is how you measure fat using BIA.

BIA has proven to be quite effective but inaccurate results as they measure a small part of your body and use approximation on the rest of the body. BIA scales usually send current down one leg and up the other. People with pear-shaped bodies will record high fat than the actual fat in their bodies. BIA analyzers only measure the fat in the upper body. DMS-BIA technology will best help address these issues. 

  1. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and Other Methods

DXA alias DEXA scans are used to measure bone mineral density. They are also used to measure the body fat content and body composition. It is accurate but expensive ($60 to $100 per scan). 

Another alternative is Hydrostatic Weighing and Near-Infrared Interactance. They are not easy to find, but they are accurate.

Bottom line: use skinfold calipers if you cannot afford DXA. I highly discourage you from using handheld devices and BIA scales to measure body fat. I recommend skinfold calipers as they are affordable and fairly accurate.