One of the most accurate ways to know if you're making progress in your fitness or diet regimen is to measure and track your body fat. Many people interested in losing weight and becoming leaner tend to use a normal scale to determine whether or not they've reached their fitness goal. However, this can be detrimental in the long run to your overall image as well as skew your actual reading of where you are in your path towards a healthier weight. While muscle weighs more than fat, your scale doesn't discriminate between the two. Thus, you could be getting leaner by building more muscle and losing fat, however your scale might accurately say you've gained weight, even though it's the good kind!
The healthy body fat range for men is 18 to 25 percent while for women it's usually between 25 and 31 percent. In order to learn more about your own percentage of body fat, try one of these four trusted methods.
Skin Fold Caliper
One of the cheapest and easiest methods to do at home, the skin fold caliper is a small tool that you use to measure the thickness of a fold of body fat. The reading, giving in millimeters, is then compared to a body chart that graphs your age and gender along with the body fat percentage to give you a better idea of whether you're in a healthy zone or not. There are several types of caliper tests. Some test only one area, or "site", of your body (such as your stomach) while others might take several readings all over to give you a more accurate idea. When skilled at using the caliper this can be a highly dependable method. However there are many variables that need to be controlled for in order to get reliable results. If you use one test site, you need to always do so, and if you use more than one to get your reading it's better to get the help of a skilled fitness professional.
Bioelectric Impedance Analysis
This special scale measures your body's opposition, or impedance, to a small electrical current running through the body. Because muscle has such high water content and is therefore more conductive, those with leaner body masses will experience less opposition while those with higher percentages of body fat will experience more. Based on the percentage of impedance, the BIA scale gives you an estimation of your body mass and body fat percentages. Easy to administer and less inexpensive, the scale retails for around $50.
Considered the most accurate method of body fat measuring, hydrostatic weighing requires you to be submerged in a lift inside a tank of water. This procedure must be done in a specialized facility such as a research lab, university, or hospital, and costs between 100 and 150 dollars, which is prohibitive to some. Hydrostatic weighing measures the specific density of muscle and fat in the body to give you what is considered the Gold Standard of readings.