There are many ways to measure body fat, unfortunately, most of them aren’t very accurate or have some sort of drawback. Following is information on several ways to measure body fat.
Using Height/Weight Tables as a Way to Measure Body Fat.This way to measure body fat simply doesn’t work. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you have an athletic build or are gaining muscle, you may not fit into the recommended weights. These charts can help you see if you are losing weight closer to the guidelines, but there is no way to determine percentage of body fat from this method.
Using BMI Calculators to Determine Body Fat Percentage. Again, Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations don’t take into consideration the amount of muscle content in your body. This tool is actually only used as a guideline to see if you are “at risk” for health problems due to weight and potential of a higher body fat percentage. You can find BMI calculators online, but the results are merely estimates.
Using Waist to Measure Percentage of Body Fat. Waist measurements alone can only tell you if you are losing fat from that area over time. It doesn’t determine actual percentage of fat in your entire body.
Using Multiple Body Measurements to Calculate Percentage of Body Fat. This method uses measurements from several areas of your body to try to determine body fat percentage. Measurements are put into a formula to determine amount of body fat. But there needs to be different formulas for different people depending on bone size and mass and muscle mass, among other factors, so you may not get very accurate results.
Using Body Fat Scales to Determine Body Fat Measurement. Body weight scales are a little more accurate than the methods listed above. They use an electrical pulses to determine muscle and fat content in your body. Since the pulses move more quickly through water, present in muscles but not fat, these readings can be affected on hydration levels in your body.
Using Skin Calipers as a Way to Measure Body Fat. Skin calipers can be accurate to determine the level of fat just under the skin, but not any fat inside your body surrounding your organs. Measurements should be taken by a professional, since the right spots need to be measured.
Using Hydrodensitometry Weighing to Calculate Body Fat. This is just underwater weighing. You are weighed normally, then dunked under water with the displacement of water measured. Since muscle weighs more than fat, those with more athletic builds would displace more water. It may be difficult to find a place to use this method. Also, bone density, actual muscle density and air in the lings can affect this measurement.
Using DEXA Scans to Determine Amount of Body Fat. This is a full body x-ray that can calculate bone mass, muscle mass and fat mass, and even location of fat deposits in your body. However DEXA scans can be costly if not covered by insurance. It is considered to be the most accurate method to measure body fat.
Ways to Measure Body Fat. The above-listed methods are the most popular ways to measure body fat. There are other methods such as MRI and CT scans that are limited and expensive. If you really must know your actual percentage of body fat, you will have to use one of the more expensive methods.
Carol Sayre; The Best Way to Measure Body Fat; CNN Health
Paige Waehner; What’s Your Body Fat?; About.com:Exercise