You need to measure your body fat percentage accurately in order to measure your progress in the gym. Here are the best ways to do this with maximum accuracy.
Body building involves burning body fat and increasing lean body mass. This is the reason you have to lose tummy fat if you are ever going to get a six pack. In the process, you need to monitor your progress and see if you are making progress. You can only do so by measuring your body fat percentage periodically. The following are the best ways for you to measure your body fat percentage. They are ranked according to their accuracy and reliability.
Neither Body Mass Index (BMI) nor weighing scales, skinfold thickness or waist hip ratio tells the whole story when it comes to measuring body fat. This is because some people can have very large fat deposits and still look healthy when subjected to these anthropometric measurements. We need to use more advanced ways of determining how much fat has been stored in the body and how much is being burned. More technical ways will give better and more accurate results and they may actually help you to build the lean muscle you aim for in the long-term. These are:
#1. Bioelectrical impedance Analysis (BIA)
Bioelectrical impedance analysis is one of the most reliable methods to determine not only body fat percentage, but also the composition of other elements. This is why this method is employed by people who aim to maintain good health as well as build muscle. The machines range from simple ones that have electrodes located under each foot, to those that have hand holds with electrodes, too. Lean body tissue is said to conduct electricity quicker than fat tissue. When tiny electrical impulses are sent to the body through the electrodes, faster response is achieved if there is more lean muscle than fat.
The advantage with the BIA method is that the machines are readily available. One can get one to keep at home or you can buy a scale that has this feature. Most gyms and personal trainers also have one at their workout stations. The machine also need no particular expertise as one need only press a button and the results show on the screen. However, this method also has shortcomings. Its accuracy is greatly affected by hydration levels and mealtimes. This is because water is also a good conductor of electric impulses and a decent meal will pile on the fats.
#2. Dual Energy X ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)
Simply known as the DEXA method, this is a reliable way to measure body composition including fat content. DEXA was originally developed to measure bone mineral mass. However, the measurement also involves measuring the composition of overlying tissue. Thus, it gives the most accurate measurements of the latter. It divides the body composition into fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM).
The method is very fast and safe to use even for infants and children as young as four years of age. It uses ionizing radiation to give fast results. However, this method has limitations too. Like all dual component methods, it relies on the fat-free mass being constant. This may not hold true since changes occur in composition of the three main components – water, protein and minerals – over time. The ratios are not the same in infants as they are at puberty and in adulthood. Also, underlying health issues can really undermine the reliability of this method.
This method involved distinguishing between fat mass and fat-free mass. Different densities are then assigned to each of the two. The body density and body mass are then determined. The density of fat is relatively constant when compared to that of fat-free mass. This is measured Hydro densitometry which involved measuring body mass underwater. The new alternative to hydro-densitometry is measuring using the air displacement method. Patients with diseases that cause too much water retention and under-mineralization may not find this method effective. This is because the lean body mass density is considerably decreased and this may lead to overestimating the fat mass density.
The patient is asked to sit on a small machine. This measures body density by determining how much air has been displaced. When this is done, the expert can then calculate body composition. The method is suited to subjects of any age, and it is more comfortable than other methods. The method is reliable but also very costly, so you may not find this available at your local gym.
#5. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
One may think of this method in a totally medical sense but it is another way to measure body fat. The method is reliable in calculating the volume rather than the mass of adipose tissue in the body. The imaging addresses hydrogen nuclei in water or fat cells.
The data is then used to discern the tissue types and their locations in the body. The MRI will also calculate regional tissue volumes thus giving exact volumes of adipose tissue. The method is, however, hard to use in comparison with the above methods. To calculate percentage of body fat, one will have to assume the fat composition of adipose tissue is constant and the value of fat density.
Get Your Measurements Right
The BIA method is by far the most accessible and comfortable method for most people who aim to build muscle. An average of weekly readings is recommended for best results when it comes to body building. Although techniques for measuring body fat percentage are never fully accurate, they can provide a useful indication of progress. They can certainly tell you whether your body fat percentage is going up or down…and that is what you really need to know.