How to Measure Body Fat

Patient Expert

**Understanding Body Fat **
If your body is to function properly it must have a certain [amount of

body fat](http://www.healthyforms.com/helpful-tools/body-fat-percentage.php). Body fat helps to regulate body temperature, protects the

organs, and is the main component for the body's energy storage. A

healthy amount of body fat is important for our well-being.

If you wish to lose weight, it is a good idea to determine what

percentage of your weight is body fat. Before making a determination as

to how much weight you want to lose, it is important to recall that yourotal body weight is a combination of body fat and lean body mass.

Should someone decide to lose weight, I assume she means fat. Learn why Your Lean-to-Fat Ratio is More Important than BMI.

Too much body fat can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol,

heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Too little body fat can deprive

your body of stored energy and eventually cause your body to use muscle

protein as fuel.

Measuring Body Fat Percentage
There are a few ways to measure your percentage of body fat. The

different methods help to set baseline values for body composition. Some

are more accurate than others and all have pros and cons. The mostmportant thing about measuring body fat is to get consistent results.

Skin calipers are probably the most accessible [method for measuring body

fat](http://dailyburn.com/life/health/how-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/) and are inexpensive to buy. Many gyms will have a pair available and

trainers who are experienced in their use.

Fold assessments can be done on different body sites by pinching the

skin and using the caliper to measure the thickness of the folds. A

formula is applied to the numbers and body composition can be

determined. Common areas for measurement are the chest, arms, abdominals

and thighs. For people who are 35 pounds or more overweight,

skin folds may not fit well in the caliper and the accuracy will be

less.

Skin fold assessments can be done quickly, but the margin for error

varies depending on the level of experience of the user.

Bioelectric Impedance Analysis, or BIA, measures the opposition to the

flow of an electric current through the body. Muscles are highly

conductive because of the amount of water they hold. Fat has a lower

water content and is therefore less conductive. Because water balance

is intricate to the BIA test, a person's level of hydration can effect

the accuracy of the results.

Bioelectrical impedance monitors are fairly inexpensive and easy to use.

They do not require much more than the pressing of a button and

measurements can be attained in seconds. Therefore, users do not need

any particular experience.

Although the simplicity of administration is attractive, the accuracy of

the readings can be a problem. Beyond the level of hydration, other

factors that can effect accuracy are meal times and workouts. Recent

meals can influence results and exercise can lead to a reading of lower

body fat. It is important to take readings at similar times and under

similar conditions for the best results.

Continue to my next post, "More Ways to Measure Body Fat

where we explore additional approaches for collecting measurements.

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