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Body Composition and Measuring Your Body Fat

September  2, 2012 –

The scale is a very deceiving and very often counterproductive tool to measuring our  success towards our goals. While our overall weight is important, our Body Composition is just as important.

Body Fat

You can see in the picture to the right the size of 5lbs of muscle vs. 5 lbs of fat. Body Fat Percentage is very simply the percentage of your weight that is fat. Fat can be broken down into two categories: Essential Body Fat and Storage Body Fat.

Essential Body Fat is just that. It is required for life and to maintain reproductive functions. The percentage of essential fat for a man is 3-5%, while for a woman it is 10-16%. The reason that it is different is because of the demands of childbearing and hormonal factors.

Storage Body Fat protects the organs in the chest and abdomen. The table from the American Council on Exercise recommends the following:

Changes in Body Composition

As we continue our transformations, our Body Composition changes. You may not be losing weight, but if your Body Fat Percentage is going down, then that means you are building lean muscle tissue. And Muscle Burns Fat! So this is a good thing. However, if you were to only rely on the scale, you would never know. Ah yes, data is everything.

As your Body Composition changes, you should start feeling your clothes fit different. When I was losing fat, clothes were fitting loose around my waist and hips. However, as I am doing Body Beast now and gaining weight by adding lean muscle, I am noticing that my jeans are tighter around my quads and my shirts are tighter around my chest.

Measuring Body Fat

There are numerous ways to measure body fat. If money is no object and you want extremely accurate results, you can have it measured at facility using water displacement.

A more economical (and slightly less accurate) method is using a Body Fat Caliper. This is a very widely used method and one that I use as well. This method calculates your percentage based a pinch of skin that is measured at several standardized points on the body. The number of points can be anywhere from 1 to 7. The accuracy is dependent on an individual’s body fat distribution rather than the number of sites measured. Although I recommend at least 3 points.

This method is accurate for showing your Body Composition over time. However, it is critical that the  measurements be taken in the same place every time.

I use the following interactive site to calculate my Body Fat Percentage using this method. It allows you to input the  various measurements and then gives you your percentage. I use the Jackson Pollock 3 Method .

Notice there are different charts for men and woman and that if you want to see the exact location of where to measure you can click on Caliper Sites for a video.

You can find Body Fat Calipers online or you can buy them through me HERE. I highly suggest using one. I have found that scales that claim they measure body fat are very inaccurate.

Body Mass Index (or BMI) is another (even less accurate) way to estimate body fat. BMI is calculated by taking a person’s weigh in kilograms and dividing it by the square of their height in meters. You can also plug in your numbers into the website HERE and have it spit out your BMI. :) The relationship between BMI and Body Fat can be calculated using the following formulas:

Adult Body Fat % = (1.20 x BMI) + (0.23 x Age) – (10.8 x Sex) – 5.4, where “Sex” is a 1 for makes, and 0 for females.

I found this to be really inaccurate for me, so my recommendation is to stick with the Body Fat Caliper.

Knowledge is Power

As I have said in other posts, Knowledge is power. And measuring your Body Fat Percentage is a critical piece of information. It will ensure the scale isn’t fooling you into thinking you are not making progress.

Other key things you need to do along your journey is to Take Pictures and Take Body Measurements. I have written another post that goes over these aspects HERE.

Remember, consistency is the path to progress. Consistency in Eating Clean. Consistency in Pressing Play. And Consistency in Remembering Your “WHY” as you venture on your Life Balance Journey.

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