How to Measure Your Body Fat
How Many Calories Should I Eat?
In order to determine how many calories you should be consuming...whether your goal is to
burn fat or build muscle...you have to know how many calories you burn right now. That seems simple
enough, but in order to figure that out you have to know how much of your body is made up of
muscle, bones, organs and how much is body fat. The bottom line question: how much body fat are you
Calculating Body Fat
How much of your body weight is made up of fat can be determined because fat is less dense than your lean muscle
Hydrostatic Weighing: this is the most accurate way to calculate how much of your body consists
of fat. This involves being dunked into a special water tank and weighed...something that isn’t available to most
Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA): this is another very accurate test, this one using an
X-ray to calculate body fat. The equipment involved is extremely expensive and only a skilled technician can run
Skinfold Measurements: using body fat calipers, you measure folds in your skin and the
underlying fat. Measurements are generally taken at 7 specific points on the body, most accurately done by someone
trained in the process. It is possible to modify this process for home use with your own body fat calipers and a
buddy, or modifying the process to take in only 3 measurements.
Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis: this process involves sending a small electrical current
through your body. Because the current flows through fat at a different rate than muscle and bone, the speed of the
current can be used to determine your body fat percentage. This test is offered by some gyms, fitness centers and
doctors’ offices, but you can get a decent estimate from a household scale if it offers this feature.
Using the Body Fat Measurement
The best way to use the body fat measurement is as an estimate and a relative guide rather than thinking of it
as a 100% scientific number—especially if you are measuring yourself. As long as you use the SAME method each
time and are consistent in applying the method than you can use it to “measure” your progress.
For example, if you use the skinfold measurement method, use the same calipers and measure in the exact same
points each time. If you go to a gym for skinfold measurements, it is best to have the same trainer or tech measure
you each time.
Similarly, using your BIA scale, stand in the same place and measure at as close to the same time of day as
possible, for example first thing in the morning before you have anything to eat or drink, wearing the same
clothing each time.
Determine which way you want to measure your body fat. Once you have that number you will be able to calculate
how many calories your body consumes at rest and how many calories you need to consume to either
burn fat or gain muscle.