Your percentage of body fat is a great indication of your overall health, perhaps even more than your general weight. These are the best and most accurate ways to measure your body fat percentage.
Body Fat Scales
An example of such a scale is the Tanita. These scales utilize BIA (bioelectrical impedance) to measure the fat, lean mass, and water contained in the body through a current that goes from metal beneath your feet, all the way through the body. It utilizes a timer to judge the amount of time it takes. This method is relatively affordable and you can use them individually, however, they’re well known to be unreliable.
Handheld BIA Device
You’ll find these devices, such as the Omron, in gyms. They follow the same basic idea as body fat percentage scales, however there are issues with the reliability for their readings and can fluctuate a lot, depending on how much you’re hydrated. You only need to grab and hold the handles of the device, so it’s simple to use, but they can be expensive.
This is also well known as “the pinch test” and involves someone else taking a set of calipers and using them to measure your skin’s thickness at different areas of your body. The numbers are gathered and entered into a formula which calculates the fat percentage of your body based on factors such as gender and age. Generally, these are regarded as relatively accurate, but results wildly vary and a lot depends on who administers the test to you, and their skill. Also, subcutaneous fat is all calipers can measure, and it’s something that requires at least two people to perform.
A DEXA Scan
These scans use dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (hence DEXA) to measure the density of your bones. All you need to do is lie on a table and receive an X-ray over your entire body, but the formulas of DEXA and their accuracy have recently been questioned. It also is great for measuring healthy and young men, but is not accurate for other genders and groups.
The Bod Pod
These machines look like they’re straight out of science fiction, and while they’re a top pick among athletes and other sports professionals for analyzing body fat, they are very expensive. They work by analyzing the air that’s displaced as you’re inside of the pod, and enters that data into an equation that measures lean muscle mass, fat, and resting metabolic rate. As you enter the Bod Pod, you’ll have to wear a swim cap and swimsuit and sit still for a few minutes. The machine is very accurate, but still may give misreadings, especially for young and fit females. You’ll also need to find one at a specialized facility such as a university.
For this measure of body fat, you’ll jump into water and hold yourself on a stool in a certain position so you’re fully underwater. Then, you breathe out and expel air and stay still as a machine takes its readings. While it’s very accurate and is considered to be the golden standard when it comes to measuring fat, the process may be panic-inducing to some people and difficult to perform. You will also need to find facilities that have the equipment and ability to operate the machine.