5.15 Percent Body Fat

The last term to know is the percent body fat. The percent body fat is quite a helpful measurement to monitor as you get yourself healthy. While the BMI is the best means to monitor overall progress while losing weight, it is not a perfect for everyone. For example, bodybuilders are usually “obese”, according to their BMI, because of their large weight related to their huge muscle mass. Yet male body builders can get their percent body fat down to 2-3%, which is incredibly low! Certainly, these “obese bodybuilders” with a very low percent body fat are more likely to be in good heart healthy shape compared to someone who is truly obese with a high body fat percentage.

Also, lowering your percent body fat is generally thought to result in a better overall physique and appearance of your body.

There are 4 main ways to measure your body fat:

1. The Simple Formula

This formula is quite accurate and very easy compared to the other methods. Here is the equation and some examples:

Percent Body Fat

2. The pinch test

This is a subjective way to measure your body fat. Just grab a hold of the side of your abdominal fat like this and the thicker it is, the higher your percent body fat. There are special calipers that were used in the past to measure this more accurately, but you don’t need to go that far. Take a look at this person versus this person…

The pinch test

3. The Navy Formula

This one is a little extensive, but accurate. Measure your height, waist circumference, neck circumference and hip circumference (women only). Plug the numbers into the this equation and you can get your percent body fat

For men (using inches): Fat % = 86.01 x LOG (abdomen – neck) – 70.041 x LOG (height) + 36.76

For men (using centimeters): Fat % = 86.010 x LOG (abdomen – neck) – 70.041 x LOG (height) + 30.30

For women (using inches): Fat % = 163.2 x LOG (abdomen + hip – neck) – 97.684 x LOG (height) – 78.387

For women (using centimeters): Fat % = 163.2 x LOG (abdomen + hip – neck) – 97.684 x LOG (height) – 104.91

4. Use a body fat scale

You can find this in many gyms. It uses your weight, height and a special technology called “Biometric Impedance Analysis”. This actually sends a small electrical impulse throughout your body. Electrical activity moves slower through fat tissue and faster through muscle tissue. So these scales measure how long it takes for that electrical impulse to travel through your body and from this information your percent body fat can be determined. These scales are not thought to be very accurate in general. This is what one looks like:

Use a body fat scale

So what are the healthy numbers to look for using your body fat percentage? Men have a lower body fat percentage in general compared to women. Your minimum goal should be to achieve at least an average body fat percentage and if you set your goals high, try to get into the fitness of athletic category. Here are the categories:

body fat chart

Source: American Council on Exercise (ACE)


Percent Body Fat Calculator – Navy Formula

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