There are a number of ways that people measure their body fat in an effort to monitor their dietary and fitness plans. This is good as a supplement to using the scale, in order to help differentiate real weight loss versus the loss of water—or worse—muscle tissue. It’s not uncommon for men to believe they’ve lost weight, when a change in a diet plan is really just shedding watery tension. Visa versa, a gain on the scales may also be different than what a person initially thinks.
Calipers are a common introductory method to get a grasp of the body-fat ratio. It’s not uncommon to be subjected to calipers as an initial body-fat test at a gym. This involves pinching an area of skin in a location that commonly builds fat—this could be the “flabby” part of the arms, stomach, or thighs. Many consider these tests to be fairly inaccurate, and used primarily to help entice new gym memberships by making a quick example out of your excess fat and offering treatment through a gym contract. Water retention is a variable that can throw a caliper reading off, as it’s possible a couple cups of coffee or excess hydration could throw off the accuracy of the test. The margin of error can be as high as ten percent.
The next common method is Tanita scales. These are specialized scales that use something called Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis to measure fat levels in comparison to lean tissue. This is performed by sending a tiny electrical current into the body. As a sort of fat-based sonar device, it detects body-fat based upon locations where fat blocks the signal. A physical trainer typically knows formulas to interpret this information to measure overall body-fat levels. It’s somewhat more accurate than calipers.
Other techniques include underwater weighing. This is where a person is weighed outside of water, and then is submerged into water, exhales, and weighed again on a specialized scale. This is based on the principle that fat floats, and the scale is designed to detect this difference in measurements. Certain gyms will perform hydrostatic underwater weighing.
Probably the most available and accurate method is the Tanita scales, which almost any gym contains. Ask for an evaluation, and make sure the reading is accurate by monitoring your own water levels and keeping a suggested level of hydration for the test—while avoiding foods or products that may increase watery tension. This way, you can get the most accurate results to match your fitness plan.