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In the Absence of Calipers, how do *you* Measure your Body Fat %?

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  • In the Absence of Calipers, how do *you* Measure your Body Fat %?

    I understand that calipers are probably the most accurate way to measure body fat, but in the absence of them which method have you guys found to be the most accurate?

    To illustrate my problem, I measure 28.6% on my electric scale, and 21% from tape measurements on this calculator: Body Fat Calculator

    That's a big difference, so, considering I don't have access to a gym, I'm wondering which I should go by?
    Taking an average would probably be the most sensible, but I still don't think this would be particularly helpful considering the massive difference between the percentages.

    I guess I'm wondering if anyone has had the 'proper' caliper body fat % and compared it to either the electric scale's % or the tape measure %, to see how much they deviate?

  • #2
    OK first, calipers aren't that accurate. They are a decently accurate and easily accessible though. A "accurate" measurement requires a "BodPod," water tank, an Xray or an Autopsy (seriously).

    The electronic scale is completely worthless and shouldn't even be looked at, except to provide amusement.

    Tape tests when properly administered are fairly accurate.

    My results:
    HealthCentral Tape Test: 4.6%
    Army Tape: 4%
    Caliper Test: 5.5%
    Electronic Scale: 18%, yeah worthless.

    Actual is probably closer to 7% because of fat distribution. So all the tape test and caliper tests are fairly close and a good way to track your progress.

    GNC has a plastic caliper for about $15, comes with directions and a chart. It's OK, but can be tricky to get repeatable results.
    Last edited by Wanderlust; 06-17-2012, 03:13 PM. Reason: clarity
    "Go For Broke"
    Fat Kine-230/24% @ 6'2"
    Small Kine-168/9%
    Now- 200/8%
    Goal- 210/6%

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    • #3
      Feed your measurements into a website like this one.
      Disclaimer: I eat 'meat and vegetables' ala Primal, although I don't agree with the carb curve. I like Perfect Health Diet and WAPF Lactofermentation a lot.

      Griff's cholesterol primer
      5,000 Cal Fat <> 5,000 Cal Carbs
      Winterbike: What I eat every day is what other people eat to treat themselves.
      TQP: I find for me that nutrition is much more important than what I do in the gym.
      bloodorchid is always right

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      • #4
        The impedance scales deviate a lot from calipers. The impedance ones can also change based on hydration levels etc. They can be used to give you a trend but not accurate. I have found the site that magicmerl posted and others like it are more accurate than scales.
        or check out this site http://www.leighpeele.com/body-fat-p...nd-percentages
        Last edited by Dirlot; 06-17-2012, 04:10 PM.
        Eating primal is not a diet, it is a way of life.
        PS
        Don't forget to play!

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        • #5
          I guess it depends a little on what your goals are.

          Visual comparison through pictures, tape measurements, and weight can all help you see whether or not weight gained/lost is fat or muscle.

          This is probably about as accurate as anyone needs to get for practical purposes (if you do have a reason for needing more accuracy, I'd be interested in knowing if you are willing to share -- curiosity only). You can use these tools to make sure that your body fat percentage is moving in the right direction and that you're not dropping too much muscle mass.

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          • #6
            I use online calculators, but ONLY the ones that call for wrist/calf measurements. For my body personally, I can get a spread from 27% to over 40% depending on what measurements they (don't) ask for. My bones are huge, so if they don't specifically ask for a wrist measurement I know they are going to just assume I am built like an "average woman" with just gobs and gobs of fat, instead of a large, solid woman with a moderate amount of fat.

            So basically, some measurement-calculators are decent, but I would only recommend the ones that want a wide variety of measurements, including lean/bony parts. This one is my go-to.

            _-J o u r n a l_--------- ---- ---- --- --- -- -- -

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Gravyboat View Post
              I use online calculators, but ONLY the ones that call for wrist/calf measurements. For my body personally, I can get a spread from 27% to over 40% depending on what measurements they (don't) ask for. My bones are huge, so if they don't specifically ask for a wrist measurement I know they are going to just assume I am built like an "average woman" with just gobs and gobs of fat, instead of a large, solid woman with a moderate amount of fat.

              So basically, some measurement-calculators are decent, but I would only recommend the ones that want a wide variety of measurements, including lean/bony parts. This one is my go-to.
              Me too. I use online calculators that ask for lots of measurements. I'm on the higher side for bone size and pretty darn sturdy. I do lots of weight-bearing exercise so I'm sure my bone density is also quite high. I've never broken a bone in my life. I don't even see how it could be done.
              Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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              • #8
                I just use the mirror. I count the number of clearly-visible abdominal muscles (If this number is less than 2 or greater than 8 for me, I take it as a sign that something is terribly wrong).

                Subtract the result of the count from 16. If I get super fighting shape lean (8 visible abs), I consider that to be in the 8-ish range. If I loosen up my 80/20 standards, miss gym time due to injuries, and my size 30 pants start to get tight, (2 visible abs), I call it 14. This number is consistently lower than my Tanita scale, but higher than the online tape-measure calculators. (with 2-3 percent of either). It's close to the calipers. So I don't bother with the calipers anymore.
                The Champagne of Beards

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                • #9
                  Scientifically proven: Put on a swimsuit and walk in front of me. If I follow you home you have low bodyfat.
                  I've got of one them journal thingies. One Night At McCool's

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                  • #10
                    Interesting. All of the online measurement tools say 21%, my scale says 26-27% depending on the day! I have calipers and they fall around 25%, but have not moved at all during the last 10lbs of weight loss so I am not sure I am doing it right. The scale says 14% for my hubby and he looks identical to the example of the male with 14% body fat in that blog post. I fall somewhere in between her photos of 21 and 25%. Interestingly he is a medium frame and I am a large frame (we have the same size wrists and I am a 5'2" female LOL) so I wonder if body frame size impacts accuracy of impedance readings. Our silly gym only offers the handheld impedance readings.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by NicMcCool View Post
                      Scientifically proven: Put on a swimsuit and walk in front of me. If I follow you home you have low bodyfat.
                      I was going to respond, but how could I possibly top that?

                      Seriously though, I agree that it depends on your needs and goals. Unless you have a serious medical or professional need to know your exact BF percentage, just get naked and look in the mirror.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Danielle5690 View Post
                        Unless you have a serious medical or professional need to know your exact BF percentage, just get naked and look in the mirror.
                        Personally, I just find it encouraging to see signs of progress. I've lost 40lbs but don't think I look that different in the mirror. If that's all I had to go by, I would probably have pretty crappy morale at this point. Being able to see numbers trending in the right direction is helpful, and BF% tells me more than just weight.

                        _-J o u r n a l_--------- ---- ---- --- --- -- -- -

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                        • #13
                          Can I grab my fat and fill my hand? No? I'm good. I do have rather large hands though.
                          In all of the universe there is only one person with your exact charateristics. Just like there is only one person with everybody else's characteristics. Effectively, your uniqueness makes you pretty average.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by primalswan View Post
                            Interesting. All of the online measurement tools say 21%, my scale says 26-27% depending on the day! I have calipers and they fall around 25%, but have not moved at all during the last 10lbs of weight loss so I am not sure I am doing it right. The scale says 14% for my hubby and he looks identical to the example of the male with 14% body fat in that blog post. I fall somewhere in between her photos of 21 and 25%.
                            You shouldn't have that big of a difference between the tape and calipers, you might have some technique issues. With the tape you have to make certain the tape is going around the correct area, read carefully; it might say around the waist at navel or around the waist at smallest point, and the tape has to be perpendicular to the axis of measurement (not cock-eyed).

                            The best way to use any of these tools, is a historical trend; i.e. using the same method over time and seeing the trend.
                            "Go For Broke"
                            Fat Kine-230/24% @ 6'2"
                            Small Kine-168/9%
                            Now- 200/8%
                            Goal- 210/6%

                            Comment

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