Body fat?

I keep seeing people talk about their body fat percentage. I've heard the scales that tell you this are inaccurate, so how do people know what their body fat percentage is?
Sorry, I'm just confused...
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Replies

  • queenliz99
    queenliz99 Posts: 15,317 Member
    r5hwdeii0nkk.jpeg

    The easiest way would be to compare yourself with one of these images.
  • Spliner1969
    Spliner1969 Posts: 3,233 Member
    I use a set of calipers purchased off of Amazon.com. Most accurate way is with a Dexa Scan or a scan done by your doctor, but next would be a good set of calipers. Mine are designed to take measurements in 3 separate areas of the body, combine the numbers you get then look it up on a chart that comes with the calipers. Seems fairly accurate. Mine are spring loaded (so they close by themselves) so readings are the same and aren't thrown off by you squeezing them hard to get a smaller reading.
  • dkabambe
    dkabambe Posts: 544 Member
    Agree with investing in some callipers for more accurate reading. Even cheap ones on amazon will do the job. See http://scoobysworkshop.com/body-fat-calculator/ or http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/your-body-fat-percentage-how-its-measured-and-why-its-useful.html or similar, for how to measure and get result.
  • robininfl
    robininfl Posts: 1,137 Member
    I estimate using a combination of:

    The BIA handheld machine
    Pictures
    Calipers
    Internet calculators that use measurements and weight

    All of these are within a couple percentage points of each other so I am pretty confident, and am not in a situation where I need to know exactly what it is.
  • singletrackmtbr
    singletrackmtbr Posts: 644 Member
    I second the calipers. There is a learning curve so lots of practice is needed. You'll get higher accuracy if you let someone else measure you (preferably the same person all the time).

    I would also encourage you to do a 7 point test instead of 3. It is much more representative and takes about a minute longer.

    The photos are a great starting point, but I've seen a lot of variability in different photos, especially for women.
  • Spliner1969
    Spliner1969 Posts: 3,233 Member
    I second the calipers. There is a learning curve so lots of practice is needed. You'll get higher accuracy if you let someone else measure you (preferably the same person all the time).

    I would also encourage you to do a 7 point test instead of 3. It is much more representative and takes about a minute longer.

    The photos are a great starting point, but I've seen a lot of variability in different photos, especially for women.

    Do you happen to have a link to a 7 point test chart/instructions? My calipers came with only a 3 point chart. I guess I could average the numbers out. I tend to do the same 3 point test on both sides of the body and then average the numbers for my results. With the calipers I generally read between 12-13% body fat, and last I checked with a height/weight/waist circumference calculator it comes out between 11 and 13% so seems fairly accurate to me (within 1% anyway).
  • rybo
    rybo Posts: 5,424 Member
    It cracks me up that people will talk of how inaccurate BF% measuring is, then suggest comparing to some pictures. LOL

  • AnvilHead
    AnvilHead Posts: 18,344 Member
    edited October 2016
    I second the calipers. There is a learning curve so lots of practice is needed. You'll get higher accuracy if you let someone else measure you (preferably the same person all the time).

    I would also encourage you to do a 7 point test instead of 3. It is much more representative and takes about a minute longer.

    The photos are a great starting point, but I've seen a lot of variability in different photos, especially for women.

    Do you happen to have a link to a 7 point test chart/instructions? My calipers came with only a 3 point chart. I guess I could average the numbers out. I tend to do the same 3 point test on both sides of the body and then average the numbers for my results. With the calipers I generally read between 12-13% body fat, and last I checked with a height/weight/waist circumference calculator it comes out between 11 and 13% so seems fairly accurate to me (within 1% anyway).

    @Spliner1969,

    http://www.linear-software.com/online.html

    There are a number of different calculators there and they also have instructions and a link to a video at the top of the page.

    I've always used the Jackson-Pollock 3-site measurements because I do it myself and can't measure triceps, subscapular, etc. It may not be perfectly accurate, but it's repeatable and I can track trends from it. It also corresponds with my visual estimation.

    My scale does BIA when I weigh, but I don't put any stock in the measurements. The reading can fluctuate up to 2% from day to day (even though I weigh at the same time/same conditions every day) and isn't consistent with what the skinfold calipers and mirror are telling me.
  • psuLemon
    psuLemon Posts: 38,389 MFP Moderator
    rybo wrote: »
    It cracks me up that people will talk of how inaccurate BF% measuring is, then suggest comparing to some pictures. LOL

    I do too, especially consider the people who have gotten pods/dexa's done have almost always come in lower than those pictures. Genetic predisposition of fat is a huge factor.


    OP, I do the 9-point caliper test. And while calipers are not exact, they tend to be more accurate than bioimpedance machines. Dexa/hydrostatic tend to be the most accurate.
  • RoxieDawn
    RoxieDawn Posts: 15,488 Member
    rybo wrote: »
    It cracks me up that people will talk of how inaccurate BF% measuring is, then suggest comparing to some pictures. LOL

    me too..

    there is a huge variance between 15-17% up to 20 - 22% up to 25%.

    OP I do caliper tests and body measurements. The caliper test is far from perfect but the best you can get for low cost and convenience at home. My BIA scale is out in the left field on my body composition reading. Photos (monthly) are good to do as well.
  • singletrackmtbr
    singletrackmtbr Posts: 644 Member
    edited October 2016
    Do you happen to have a link to a 7 point test chart/instructions? My calipers came with only a 3 point chart. I guess I could average the numbers out. I tend to do the same 3 point test on both sides of the body and then average the numbers for my results. With the calipers I generally read between 12-13% body fat, and last I checked with a height/weight/waist circumference calculator it comes out between 11 and 13% so seems fairly accurate to me (within 1% anyway).

    Here's the one I use based upon the Jackson/Pollock method. I like this one because it has decent photos to help you measure correctly. My only gripe is you can't track here. I did create a body fat percentage metric on MFP so I can at least keep track of the total.

    http://www.free-online-calculator-use.com/skin-fold-test.html

    My understanding is the benefits of the 9-point calculator over the 7 is minimal, compared to the 7-point over the 3-point. I read that the 9 point is more relevant for professional atheletes or other extremely fit people (i.e. those with very low body fat percentage already), as the two extra points (bicep and calf) are unlikely to experience nearly the changes that the other points will for the majority of us.

    It is worth noting that you can't properly do a 7 or 9 point measurement yourself, so that may be a deal breaker for some.

  • robininfl
    robininfl Posts: 1,137 Member
    Are you guys really getting such different measurements using different methods? Maybe it is a body type thing, but they all say very close to the same body fat %. I was un-surprised using the bioimpedence machine, it just gave the reading I expected based on calipers, which was the same as the one calculated by using measurements, and looking at the pictures I'm close to the "type" 20-22%, very lean arms and legs with good muscle definition, no visible abs but not much squish either. No boobs to speak of, I imagine those can pull up the fat % quite a bit if they are big. But on the other hand I have crap bone mass, so likely less lean mass than someone else who looks visually similar, so I guess it works out.
  • lorrpb
    lorrpb Posts: 11,464 Member
    How was BF in the photos determined? On what basis are these accurate?

    I got hydrostatic testing done after I got to my goal weight. The results were at least 5% higher than the photos & my trainer's estimate.
  • singletrackmtbr
    singletrackmtbr Posts: 644 Member
    I used to use a bio impedance device. My body fat was consistently 21-26 percent. When I switched to calipers I got readings approximately 5 percent lower on a regular basis.

    Currently I'm between 12 and 13 percent by calipers, but the bio impedance device still has me at almost 19.
  • jemhh
    jemhh Posts: 14,261 Member
    lorrpb wrote: »
    How was BF in the photos determined? On what basis are these accurate?

    I got hydrostatic testing done after I got to my goal weight. The results were at least 5% higher than the photos & my trainer's estimate.

    This has always been my question. I've never seen anything stating how the bf% was determined for any of the pictures.
    robininfl wrote: »
    Are you guys really getting such different measurements using different methods? Maybe it is a body type thing, but they all say very close to the same body fat %. I was un-surprised using the bioimpedence machine, it just gave the reading I expected based on calipers, which was the same as the one calculated by using measurements, and looking at the pictures I'm close to the "type" 20-22%, very lean arms and legs with good muscle definition, no visible abs but not much squish either. No boobs to speak of, I imagine those can pull up the fat % quite a bit if they are big. But on the other hand I have crap bone mass, so likely less lean mass than someone else who looks visually similar, so I guess it works out.

    Yes, I get very different results. 10% range for me (26-36%) depending on method.
  • BusyRaeNOTBusty
    BusyRaeNOTBusty Posts: 7,166 Member
    Once, within a few months, and all at about the same weight I did a hand held electric meter (23%), body calipers done by a trainer (19%) and use a scaled (36%), and then looked at pictures (25%).

    Overall I decided not to care. It's just another number that no one will know unless I tell them. I go by how I feel and think I look. Right not I feel and look a little heavier than I prefer, but I feel like I'm making positive progress within the last few weeks, even though the numbers don't agree.
  • middlehaitch
    middlehaitch Posts: 8,483 Member
    I can never see my body in those pics, but I could swear it is a friend in the bottom left pic.
    My scale and measurements on most web sites usually have me around the 19-21% but in reality (the mirror) I am in the mid 20's.

    Cheers, h.