Thursday, June 08, 2006

Your Weight Scale May Be Fooling You

Here’s something you should know about your weight.

Why and How to Measure Your Body Fat PercentageCopyright 2006 Lynn VanDyke

Your body fat percentage is one of the best indicators ofyour fitness and nutrition program. Many people weighthemselves and judge their results on the bathroom scale. However there is one major problem with using the scale todetermine your progress.

The best way to illustrate this is by using an example. Let’s say you have been working out for a month now. Youinitially weighed 160 pounds. You weigh yourself thismorning and you are 157 pounds. Your cannot believe thatyou’ve only lost three pounds! You become frustrated andwant to give up.

The scale shows that you lost three pounds, but it does nottell you if you lost fat or muscle. Testing your body fatpercentage will tell you how much fat you lost and how muchmuscle you’ve gained. You see even though the scale saysyou lost three pounds, you could have lost 8 pounds of fatand gained 5 pounds of muscle. That would equal a net lossof 3 pounds.

As a trainer, I always test my clients body fat percentage. There are three main ways to measure body fat. They arecalipers, bio-impedance devices and hydrostatic testing. Hydrostatic testing can be done at universities orhospitals, but tend to be more expensive than most peopleare willing to pay for a body fat test.

Calipers and bio-impedance, or hand held, devices are morecommon. Both have a margin of error of about 3-4%. Calipers are better if someone else takes the measurementsfor you and they are trained professionals. Calipermeasurements need to be taken in at least three areas(usually belly, thigh and triceps) and then average themall out to get an overall body fat percentage.

Bio-impedance devices are easy to do by yourself. It takesabout 7 seconds for a reading to register. The reading canvary depending on your body's hydration levels, sodiumlevels, temperature, and a host of other things. There aredevices that you can hold in your hands or ones you canstep on.

Overall the actual number is not as important as the rangeyou are in. You also want the overall pattern of your bodyfat percentage to decrease until you are at healthy levels. Calipers and bio-impedance devices will both give you anestimate to as to how much body fat you actually have.Here are ranges of body fat levels for women:

Essential Fat= 10-12%
Athletes= 14-20%
Fitness= 21-24%
Acceptable= 25-31%
Obese= 32% plus

Here are ranges of body fat levels for men:

Essential Fat= 2-4%
Athletes= 6-13%
Fitness= 14-17%
Acceptable= 18-25%
Obese= 25% plus

*These numbers are according to The American Council onExercise

Knowing your body fat level is a far better indicator ofyour progress. It allows you to accurately assess whetheryour fitness and nutrition program is working for you oragainst you. Simply using a bathroom scale will not letyou know how much fat you have lost or how much muscle hasbeen gained.

About the Author:Lynn VanDyke is the head trainer She will create a customfitness and nutrition program for you. Get dramatic resultswith a professionally designed workout routine and menu.Work with a master trainer and fitness nutritionist 1-on-1and finally achieve your weight loss goals! Simple andextremely effective.

For more great articles and tips on diet, weight loss and fitness – and to see reviews of the top 10 diets, visit
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