T Nation

Appearing Fatter at a Lower Body Fat Percentage?

Alright so I found this old photo. Can someone explain why I look possibly fatter now at a lower body fat %? They were both checked using skinfold calipers by the same person…only difference I think first pic he used 9 point (to demonatrate in front of other trainers for shits n giggles since they only usually do 3-4 point required) and 2nd pic 4 point. If curious I’m 5’7".

May 2017
~26% bf

September 2020
~23% bf

June 2011
~13% bf

Lighting and hair?

Lol damn bro I was hoping it wouldn’t be hard to compare both because 2nd does look dark and was waiting for first comment about it.Alright I’m going to try to crop and see if I can do similar lighting

How is it now?

You don’t look fatter at all, you’ve gained muscle.

Do you think guys ~20%bf + who have muscle…muscle pushes out fat thus giving a bulky fat appearance instead of smaller framed fat appearance? Im sure with shirt on…I look fatter now than that first pic.

3% is EASILY within the margin of error when using calipers to determine body fat percentage. I can’t emphasize the “easily” part enough.

In the first pic, you look like a fat guy.

In the second pic, you look like a fat guy who lifts weights.


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You dont look fatter , you look the same BF but atleast you can tell in the second pic that your actually lifting or atleast working some manual labour , not just sitting on the couch eating cheetos

I would also say 26% is a very generous % for the first photo i would have said 32+ by looking . . . and i dont mean that offensively , just an observation!

This… because you are correct.

I actually think even now I’m more than 23% bf…maybe 25-30%. Scales/handhelds are the worst in my opinion. I checked my bodyfat on a scale at anytime fitness. Not only did it ask for my height/weight but it used it to calculate in my opinion. It put me at 38.6% bf. Coincidentally my bmi is 38.

Let’s just say the body fat measurements were correct, which I don’t think they are even close, but let’s pretend.

23% body fat at 236 is fatter than 26% body fat at 200 lbs. The former results in 54 lbs of fat, the latter results in 52 lbs of fat. You can add fat to your body, and get a lower BF percentage if your total weight goes up enough.

I think both estimates are actually lower. Do calipers show the least body fat reading…and scales/handhelds the most? Caliper had me at 23%ish scale had me at 38-39% lol. I think I’m somewhere between 25-30% realistically.

Yeah I noticed this a year or two back and thought it was fascinating. That’s because bf% isn’t the number but ratio of fat weight to total body weight. And the other 33lbs lean body mass gain…I’d estimate 15lbs is muscle the other is glycogen/tendon/etc.

I would average the scale and the caliper. That puts you at about 31%, and I think that is close to right.

My scale says I am 21%, and caliper by a trainer has me at 11%. I think I am right in the middle at about 16%. No way in hell am I at 11%, but I do have some abs, so I also doubt 21%.

Probably about right. The good news is that losing fat where you are now is pretty easy for most people. Small changes can get you good results. It gets a lot harder to lose fat the leaner you get. You might be able to trim 10% BF off pretty easily, and have a huge impact on how you look.

Greg Doucette pro bodybuilder with a masters in kinesiology on youtube said whatever we are on calipers add 5% to that and thats what we probably are…or I guess at the most? There are some exceptions…he measured another bodybuilder in front of him at 15% on calipers but estimated with his eyes(he knows what estimate someones bf % is from doing so many shows, seeing other guys, etc) that he is probably more like 13%. I also added a pic from 2011…calipers said that is around 13 percent back than and I have abs…I don’t think I’m 18%bf there. The fattesst I ever been on calipers was 2008…I was 220’s…15lbs less than now…reading at 29.4%bf.

What weight by looking at me do you think I should aim for to look not fat anymore? I’ve been told 180 and would look pretty lean…I’ve also heard lose 20-30lbs…for right now I don’t care about looking lean just not noticeably fat

I appreciate the simplicity and honesty of this question. I would say sub-200 you would not look “fat”, especially by today’s standards. Especially in clothes. I would say 180 or so if you want to not look a bit pudgy without a shirt.*

*That said, almost every “normal” person these days looks pretty pudgy when they take off their shirt. I’m usually a bit taken aback when I see someone who look exercises somewhat regularly and looks fine in clothes, but sans shirt looks pretty weak and pudgy.

I’ve seen that…I’ve even been that my body has been through many looks lol. I was 17.7% on calipers at 174lbs…with shirt I looked normal slim with broad shoulders…without shirt a slim/fat look…yet I was fitting into medium shirts. Weak/pudgy looks is low muscle/decent amount of fat…with a shirt on it creates the illusion of a small slim frame. I’m the opposite right now…I look chunkier with shirt on.

I have a friend who is 5’7" 140’s maybe…close to my 3rd pic in 2011. He doesn’t lift…does cardio if he does go to the gym…the other day he told me he wants to lose 25lbs to put him at good BMI range for 5’7"…he has 15%bf slightly pudgy look without shirt. He reminds me of me before I started lifting…obsessed and only putting importance on appearing lean physically and numerically. BMI is dumb…even when I was 160ish in 2010 I was asking people how much more weight I should lose(i was coming down from 190 3 months prior) because my BMI says I’m overweight…they said not to worry about that…and that I’m tripping and to stop acting like a girl…and to add muscle

I’m 5’7" and 200lbs. That’s a pumped pic of me in the avatar with good lighting but even without those caveats I’m not fat but my BMI sucks. Don’t put any stock into that horse shit. I stand by that you’re underestimating your body fat but who cares about a percentage anyway? I don’t.

You look equally as out of shape in both pics if you want my honest opinion. You obviously have more muscle in the second pic but I wouldn’t say any less fat. No offense, but until you drastically reduce your BF why even focus on a number?

Yeah true man…not underestimating just comparing and curious about overall average number to calculate fat loss, etc. Why the hell do people take pumped up pics…they’re inaccurate…I look swoll af if pumped and look less fat but I know it’s fake so I don’t even bother with a snap I always take them cold…you have good amount of muscle and lean…keep up good work…