T Nation

Fat Percentages

I have used my own cheap little fat calipers in the past and have also had my % checked by a trainer at the gym that I used to go to. I think that we can all agree that using the same consistent method is very handy in helping us determine if we are infact leaner or not, even if the actual % is not completely accurate. My question is this- What are some general ideas of visible signs of a certain fat %? At 11% do you see abs clearly? At what percentage would you begin to see veins, in say the lower abs, upper leg? If I have a ripped six pack, the truth is I don’t really care If someone says I am 11% or 6% but I was just hoping that there could be some sort of consensus on the topic, considering that fat % is so often talked about.

This post really hit a nerve. Body fat percentages and their usefulness to bodybuilders and athletes in general is unquestionable. The process by which we obtain these values, however, is in the best case problematical. I have had my bodyfat calculated by impedance, caliper, and by the “golden standard” hydrostatic weighing. Even using the same experienced technician(s), my values have been quantifiably different. By the way, I’m male, 45 years old, 6’3", 265lbs, and have been lifting consistantly for 15 years. During the past year I have been on and off some form of low-carb diet (primarily the T-Dawg) with reasonable success. I have been measured five times which ranged from 12-24%! I can now see my upper two ab rows clearly and am reasonable vascular but measured 17% last week (caliper).

I really want to find a RELIABLE tool to gage whether or not I am improving my lean to fat ratio - I don’t really care if the number is correct or not, I just want to be able to get a number today and compare it to a number next week and be able to make nutrient decisions based on the results. Has anyone else found the existing measurement processes to be - well- lets just say non-repeatable? Boy, I sure feel better now, I am even feeling semi-repentant for stuffing that tech into the hydrostatic weighing chamber…

Musclehead, I fully understand your problem. I have a near infrared unit that cost $3000. I have been at this business for over 20 years. I bought the unit in 1996. I have had good success with it. BUT, I have had people that I tested, who had the same method done by someone else and were way off. It takes a skill, no matter how good the equipment. You need to ask questions, look at the body and make adjustments as needed. If a doctor tests you, they have no idea. If a personal trainer or sports nutritionist does, you have a better chance. They know the body from an asthetic position. Want to know if you are gaining or losing fat, other than the most obvious, the mirror. Buy a caliper. clamp down on the fattest part of your midsection (usually one inch to left or right of navel). Take a reading. Write it down. Do this four more times. Add the sum. Divide by 5. This is the best way to determine if you are gaining or losing, without care of your total bodyfat percentage. Just repeat whenever needed. It’s pretty reliable.

Deniz, usually 8-10% you see abs. veins are genetic, but you usually see more at 4-6%. Again, everyone is different. I had a boxer who was 2% and was ripped. I also had a wrestler who was 2% and just looked like a small kid, no veins, etc.
I have tested guys who looked 14% but ended up at 10%. Some guys who looked (because of abs) to be 8%, end up being 12%.
We all carry our fat differently. Some guys who have higher intra-muscular fat (marbling) are generally stronger. Think of yourself as a piece of beef. You might have more marbling or just one big hunk of fat on top of the muscle. Don’t worry about your total bodyfat percentage. Just look in the mirror. Hope this helps.

When i hit body opus real hard a couple of years ago i had “certified” trainer measure mine. I had a split down the middle of stomach and he measured me at 15! He then told me I was average for an adult and that HE could get me down lower. whatever

I have a tanita bodyfat scale (the non-athletic model). During the last fat loss cycle that I did, I used this in conjunction with body fat caliper measurements from the same person at my gym once a month.

At the beginning of my cycle, the tanita scale measured me at 19%(WAY OFF!) and the skin fold caipers measured me at 10.5% (More believable, since I was fairly lean with slight ab definition). By the end of my 8 week cycle, the skin fold calipers were reading me at 6.4% and the tanita scale read me at 15%-16%.

In my opinion, both were consistent at monitoring decreased fat levels. Tanita says that the scale I have may be inaccurate for athletes (they have an athletic model).

As a final note, when measured at 6.4% by the skinfold calipers, I read 8% on a Futrex 5000 infrared device at a different gym. Aleast the Futrex and the skin fold calipers were in the same ball park… what I don’t like about the futrex device is that you have to answer a bunch of questions such as activity level:1-5 workout frequency:1-5 ect…this makes you uncertain about the measurement when you answer the questions differently so make sure to answer them the same every time for more consistent data.

Hydration levels and what you eat may also change the Futrex reading…

Hope this helps!-

jhaas, the Futrex unit is not affected by hydration. It measures fat only thru near infrared light,and calculates the rest of the body, that is why the questions, but, I understand your point. The tanita scale is affected by hydration, since it sends a current thru the body.

James, the trainer who measured you was a loser. Not all of us are like that. I charge to measure your fat, you can ask all the questions you like if I’m not busy. If you decide to train with me fine, if not, fine also. But, yeah, I’ve seen those sharks also. They are usually the first ones to go back to working at burger king, when they realize its work being a trainer.

I was in no way dissing people like you bodz. that’s why I put “personal trainer” in quotes. You know the type I’m talking about, lift real light weights to cut up, bend your knees at a 90 deg angle with your back against the wall to really build your legs etc.

Thanks James :wink: