T Nation

Bodyfat testing

Okay, here’s the deal. I got one of those free sets of calipers from Netrition and tested my bodyfat %. Now I know that everyone always thinks that they’re bodyfat just can’t be that high…but my bodyfat just can’t be this high! I tested out at like 20%! I’m an ectomorph, for pete’s sake, and I can see four abs, albeit they’re a bit blurry. (The Netrition instructions say to take a suprailiac measurement, and it is true that I carry some love handles that are disporportionately flabby to the rest of my body.) So what’s the deal? Are these calipers just way off, or am I just way off? Also, I don’t get the whole thing about taking one’s age into consideration when calculating bodyfat. According to the table, when I turn 40 I’m going to suddenly gain another percent…WTF? Anyone who can shed some scientific light on the matter for me, it would be much appreciated!

Char–You should take about 7 measurments in seven places. Check the net and various skin fold articles. There are several formulas. If you don’t want to bother, then check your fat and immediately get a hydrostatic test. That will calibrate your calipers, ie if you have 8mm and 20% fat, hydro sez 17%, then you’re 3% off and adjust accordingly. Yes, as we get older our fat deposits and needs increase as our bone density and LBM decreases. That’s kinda why we’re all here! The chart is correct.

One site is not going to work for skinfolds. There are hundreds of skinfold equations out there, but if your measuring yourself, you can’t get any measurements. I’ve got access to a couple of different equations, but the key is to pick one and use it all the time. One equation that you can use is the Jackson-Pollack 3 site equation (chest,abdomen,thigh) because you can get all the sites by yourself. Check out http://www.gncproperformance.com/stout_qa_0014.asp for the specifics on where to take the skinfolds and what equation to use. I’ve got a better 6 site equation, but it takes two people. Good luck!

As far as the increase in percentage as you age, internal body fat around organs increases with age. It isn’t determined just by subcutaneous fat.-Professor X

Thanks for the replies, guys. Professor, nice to see you back on the board. What with Bodz and you back, it kinda seems like old home week… I understand the comments about aging and bone density, internal fat deposits, etc. I realize that this is what happens with normal folk - but what about T-men? After all, we eat better than normal (thus it stands to reason that we wouldn’t accumulate as much internal fat as others) and weightlifting has been proven to (largely) stave off bone density loss through aging. So that’s why I’m questioning the table. Does anyone have any research showing that these changes happen in weightlifters, or that they happen to the same degree as in the general populace? Just curious. And Jason, I’m going to try that 3-place measurement. Thanks for the tip.

I believe in a concept called “Compression of Morbidity”. If you train hard, eat smart, rest and relax sometimes, you can stave off a lot of the loss of function that you see with old people. Therefore, real T-men and women will not have the same loss of function as the rest of the sheeple in the world. T-men will live a fully functional life and then in a very short time period, they get sick and die. Researchers have shown in rats, that when given sterile perfect living conditions, the rats all live long and highly functional (minimal disease and morbidity) lives. Obviously, we don’t live in sterile conditions and we cannot control every single morsel of food in our body, but we can do better than the average person. So ask yourself a few questions. 1) Am I slower than I was when I was 20? 2) Can I still jump as high? 3) Do I still have the same waist size? 4) Could I still participate in all the activities I did when I was 20? 5) Do I get sick and injured more often now? If the answers to those questions look like you’re slower, can’t jump as high, fatter, not as versatile athletically, and more often sick then you have to ask yourself if you have really trained hard and eat right? If you have trained your hardest and eaten correctly and you still have changed, then use the body fat scale that says you get fatter as you age. If you have not had a loss of function, then use the 20 year old scale. Just for perspective, keep track of the sum of the skinfolds. In the long run, that is what matters to the bodybuilder because that is the fat that you see. So what if you gain a few ounces of interadbominal fat around the organs; no ones going to see it. Oh and one more thing, if you can see your abs, then you’re not at risk of any health problems from being overfat.

“Compression of morbidity”, huh? That’s pretty good… I always like a new way of saying that T-Folk are superior to civilians! I checked out that site you recommended, and will try the formula given. 'Preciate it. As for the other stuff, I see your point. I would say that in my own case, I’m a bit slower and a fair amount fatter (but still pretty lean - when I was 20 I looked like Timbo) than when I was 20… on the other hand I’m stronger and get sick less often. Waist size - up by about 2 inches. Reflexes are a little slower, but running speed over long distances is faster. Can probably jump as high or higher now (due to greater leg strength). And I can still participate in everything just fine. So it’s a mixed bag. And yeah, I will never ever have to worry about fat-related disease. That’s not what I was writing about at all. It just piqued my pride that the damn calipers are saying 20%!

Accuracy and body composition do not go hand in hand, especially when it comes to techniques for self-monitoring (i.e. skinfolds and bio-electrical impedance). What bodybuilders need is a device that is precise and reliable. It should give you the same measure each time (as long as you are not changing body composition or with impedance you have to control your fluid intake). Anyways, even if you find that the 3 site equation does not give you the results that you want, there is no way for you to find out if it is really right or wrong (unless you want to get dissected and I’m assuming that you don’t). Even if you got into a research study and they measured you using the gold standard four compartment model (measuring body density by hydrostatic weighing and correcting that with a measure of total body water by deuterium dilution and bone mineral content by DXA), there is still room for error. What you need from these calipers is a measurement that will tell you if you change. If you lose 2 lbs and you’ve done it right so that those were 2 fat lbs, you want to see that lose of 2 fat lbs in your body composition measurement. My 2 cents. Hope it helps.