When most people think of making drastic changes to their body through exercise, they immediately think of the extra pounds that they want to lose. They will set goals based on “pounds of weight lost”, which is perfectly fine! The scale can be an excellent source of motivation. But it can just as easily be a source of discouragement. When the number on the scale isn’t changing each morning, lots of people feel as though they aren’t seeing any results. This can often lead to people getting so disappointed they stop working out altogether.
This is where body fat percentage comes in. Tracking your own body fat percentage is one of the most important tools that you can use to monitor your progress during any workout program. There are so many contributing factors that affect the numbers on the scale (body fat loss, muscle gain, fluid balance and hydration, sodium intake) that the picture painted by the scale can get real confusing real fast.
How Does One Measure Their Body Fat Percentage?
First off, let me say that the best time to record your body fat percentage is first thing in the morning. When you haven’t eaten anything, drank anything or exercised yet, your body is at a stable state in which you can repeatedly get the best, consistent measurements.
There are a couple of different ways that one can track their own body fat percentage. One of the most convenient ways is they can get a scale that does it for them. These types of scales work by sending a pulse through your lower body, measuring the resistance, and then there are formulas that the scale uses to calculate your body fat percentage. These formulas are based upon your age and height, so it is more of a rough, really rough estimation of your body fat.
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of this method. These scales don’t take into account a lot of different aspects of your physical shape. For instance it doesn’t consider the amount of muscle mass you have, your own muscle distribution, your fitness level, or anything else along those lines. The scales can even give you confusing results due to the fact that your feet may be real damp or real dry!
There are also similar devices that can be used to measure your body fat percentage in a quick convenient fashion that you hold out in front of you and it sends pulses through your arms and gives you a number based on the resistance. Again, not a big fan, but if you’re looking for a super quick way to do it, then these tools could be for you.
Best Way to Track Body Fat Percentage!
If you want to take a step up from the other “scanners” I mentioned, one great option is to check with your local Complete Nutrition or 5 Star Nutrition. They typically have a piece of equipment called the “InBody” which actually does allow you to easily program in your exact height and attempts to measure various body segments during the process. Again, these scans are subject to significant fluctuations, so the best thing you can do is try to keep the circumstances of your day the same each time you go get scanned. For instance, maybe first thing in the morning on Saturday if you haven’t drank a lot and haven’t worked out that morning. Food, water, training, all of those factors can skew your results if they aren’t the same as the previous time you were scanned.
One of the easiest methods of measuring body fat in the comfort of your home is by using body fat calipers. You can get digital fancy ones or cheap manual versions, but they all work very well and give you the most consistent way to track your body fat loss when following a particular program.
There are no fancy formulas on the manual calipers, but there are plenty of sites with software you can use to calculate your body fat percentage. The software that I will be using is provided for free by Linear Software. You can click here to access Linear Software’s body fat calculator! This site is very helpful as there are various different methods to use to take your measurements, and it has videos as well to show how to take the measurements. You should try a few different methods the first time you do it so that you can verify you are getting a body fat percentage reading in the right ballpark. After that you can choose one method you feel like you can follow consistently to track your changing body. I am going to be using the Jackson/Pollack 3 method mentioned on the Linear Software site. It’s quick and easy and only requires 3 measurements (chest/abdomen/thigh).
It’s about Body Fat, not Weight!
So I hope this review has be helpful and allows you to monitor the progress that you are making in your fitness more accurately. Do yourself a huge favor and don’t worry about stepping on the scale each morning. That number you see isn’t a true indication of the results you are getting, but a decrease in body fat percentage is!
Would love to hear below some of your own experiences in tracking your body fat percentage versus weight! Please leave comments!