General Question

choreplay's avatar

How do I calculate my percent of body fat?

Asked by choreplay (6285 points ) February 7th, 2013

How do I do this at home without special equipment?

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4 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I can give you a body mass index estimate if you want to tell me your height and weight. You can pm me with that if you want.

gailcalled's avatar

A really easy rough-and-ready one is the pinch test. Pinch the flesh at your waist line. If you have an inch or more, that’s too much.

Shenandoah's avatar

There are seven main methods that you can use, each with varying levels of accuracy and cost:

1) Take a Look – This might be my favorite method, although it requires a trained eye and isn’t exact. By having an accurate list of pictures and comparing a picture of yourself, you can determine somewhat closely what your body fat percentage is. This is a great article I’ve found for accurate portrayal of body fat percentage. Make sure to note the difference in the two men, both at 10% body fat further down the page.

2) Body Fat Calipers – Pick up a set of calipers for $5. Pull the fat away from your muscles, pinch them with the caliper, take the measurements, and look at a chart to figure out your body fat percentage. Some recommend using one test site, some multiple. In my experience, I have found that these calipers tend to underestimate body fat percentage (mine tell me that i’m 9 or 10% when I’m really 12%, and Staci’s say she’s 17% when she’s more like 20%), but are surprisingly accurate considering how cheap they are. Check out more information on caliper use.

3) The measurement method – By taking measurements (like the US Navy measurement or the YMCA measurement), you can calculate your body fat percentage. I have found, as have others, that this method isn’t incredibly accurate as it can very easily overestimate your body fat. Considering it only takes a few points of data, this is not surprising.

4) Body fat scales and monitors – An electrical current is sent through your body and uses “biometrical impedance analysis.” I don’t really like this method, as I find the number that it spits out to be horribly inaccurate; because they send an electrical current through your body, the amount of water you are carrying can drastically adjust this number.

5) The Bod Pod – The method calculates your body fat percentage by using air displacement to measure your body mass, volume, and density. This is also pretty darn accurate, but also pretty darn expensive at usually around $75 per session. Find a bod pod location by putting in your location in the right hand column.

6) Water displacement – Although very accurate (within 1–3% percent), it’s expensive, tedious, and a huge pain in the butt. If anybody has any experience with a water displacement test, please share your story in the comments.

7) DEXA Scanning- This is considered the most accurate method, as it actually takes a full dual X-ray of your body composition and gives you numbers. You can get this done at a health facility, and involves you lying on an X-Ray table for about 10 minutes. It’s typically very expensive, anywhere from $100—$250 per session.

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