T Nation

Hand held body fat analyzer

I had my body fat % tested using a hand held device called sharperimage. It gave me a BF% of 22%. There is no way in hell I am 22%. I am 5ft 10in and weigh 180#. These hand held devices seem to be a $$$ grab. I had my BF% tested using a tanita(which is a scale like machine)it measures BF% based on whether you’re an athlete or a regular joe. Using this device I measured BF% at 15. I know in the mirror I am closer to 10-12% abs showing and vascularization of the arms and shoulders. What is the best way to measure BF%? Is it the calipers or hydrostatic weighing or some other method I am not aware of?? Thanks for any help.

First, this topics been discussed probably like no other on this forum. You should do a search for some more info and a few other peoples opinion (ranging from who cares what the number is as long as you look good, to there’s no accurate way).

I think the sharperimage product you tried is actually made by omiron. I’ve found that to be pretty innacurate too. Tanita also. The thing with electrostatic impedance measurements is that they are very dependant on how much water you are carrying. Since it sounds like you don’t own any of these machines, and are just trying it out in the store, I guess that you’ve probably eaten something already, and probably sucked down some water already. So, right away you’ve thrown off the measurement depending on how much water and how much salt was in your food. Basically, the only thing I believe that these are accurate for is if you measure yourself under the same exact conditions every time (which is basically right after you get up in the morning is the only time possible), and then just look at the trend… the actual number is going to be some percentage off, but it will stay give or take the same amount off every reading. BTW, some of the professional grade ones are a bit better, but still do depend on your hydration level.

As for calipers, I believe they are probably the most accurate that is readily available and easy (not the most accurate overall!). Girth measurement have thier place in analysis, but as a measurement of body fat thier bullshit for guys like us. However, 3 sites is wholy innacurate, unless you fit the particular body type that the formula is based on (and there are probably 100’s of formulas). 7-9 sites (and I’ve even seen some 12) is the best. However, this should be done by a trained person, and preferably using a good pair of calibrated calipers. Most of the sites you can’t get to accurately by yourself anyway, and you need to learn the correct places and orientations to take the skin-folds. Even with that said, if you can get your hands on a pair of spring loaded calipers and have a buddy do it, you’ll probably be in the ball park.

The next step up is hydrostatic weighing. The problem with this is finding a place that will do it. A decent university with a nutrition or excersize physiology program will probably have one, and it's usually a nominal fee (the place around here was $30 last time I did it). But, it's time consuming, and you have to be good at getting all the air out of your lungs, and not freaking out under water. So, it's quite accurate (although still depends on the technician), but impractical for regular use.

The best method I’ve heard is MRI. From the images, they can calculate your entire volume, and then figure out which areas are fat and then just do the math. They can also use this to calculate the percentage of skelatal muscle mass, and eliminate extra-celular water, organs, bones, etc. So then you know really how much muscle you have (there’s a paper on how to do this, and how to calculate it based on some caliper and girth measurements combined I can find if your really interested)! Once again, not real practical for every day use, but probably down to the 10ths of a percent on the calculations.

Anyway, hope this helps,

An autopsy is the best way to measure bodyfat, but if you’re not up for that go for some underwater weighing.

Dude, those bf machines are crap. I stepped on a tanita a week before my contest. It said I was 22% or something. I think I was more like 6%.

Refer to “Jason N’s” post above. He lays it all out very nicely.