How to measure body fat percentage

There are various ways to measure the body fat percentage but let’s start by seeing what this is.

That’s the percentage of the weight of your body that’s fat. It changes when you gain or lose fat or muscle. And let’s see how to calculate it.

Skinfold Calipers

They are fairly common way of measuring the body fat percentage. They measure how thick the subcutaneous fat (aka the fat under the skin) at some specific body locations. Usually one takes measurements at 3 or 7 different places on the body (those regions are different for men and women).
For the 3-site measurement in women are used the area above the hip bone, the triceps and the thigh (or abdomen). While the 7-site measurement is used the area beneath the shoulder blade, the area near the armpit and the chest are also used as reference points.
For the 3-site measurement in men are used the chest, the thigh and the abdomen, the triceps and the area beneath the scapula. While when the 7-site measurement is performed the areas beneath the shoulder blade and the areas near the armpit are also used for taking measurements.

Calipers are affordable and allow for quickly measurements; they can be used at home or at other places but require some practice and a little bit of knowledge.

Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (or DXA)

This method uses X-rays with two different energies. While you are taking a DXA scan you need to lie down on your back for about 10 minutes and during this time the X-ray scans your body.
The DXA allows for accurate and fairly detailed information but it’s often unavailable to the average person or are somehow expensive.

Hydrostatic Weighing

It estimates the composition of the body based on the density of the body. To perform the hydrostatic weighing you’ll need to fully exhale and submerge yourself under water. You’ll also be weighted when you are standing on dry land. The amount of air which is in your lungs after
you exhale is also measured. Then all this information is put into specific equations which determine the body density and then this is used for determining the body fat percentage. This is an accurate and quick method but for some people it may be impossible to fully submerge
themselves under water.

Other methods

Bod Pod (or Air Displacement Plethysmography) can also be used and it also uses the density of your body to determine your body fat percentage but, unlike the hydrostatic weighing, it uses air not water.

Another method is the BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) which uses small electrical currents.

In conclusion

There are many methods of determining the body fat percentage but the most convenient and available one for the general public is the caliper method. There are also some formulas and calculators that you can find online to measure the body fat percentage.


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