T Nation

Looking for Advice on Measuring Body Fat %


#1

really don’t what im doing?

mid 30s male 5’11" 195lbs looking to get in better shape lift weights 3-4 days a week. just started doing jumprope for cardio after my workout.

my question is how do I calculate my body fat % or even better how do I know if I look bad or out of shape. Like I said I weigh 195 lbs at 5’11" feet I used some formula and it said I was 25% body fat then I used a caliper and it said 15 % so im confused I probably did both wrong??


#2

Mirror and scales dude.


#3

The number on a bodyfat measurement is only useful for tracking direction of progress, it can’t tell you where you are.

If calipers say 15% today, and 12% in 3 months, great, right direction, but calipers saying 15% today DOES NOT mean you are 15% today.

Some tests are more consistent that others, calipers are probably the best every-day measurement tool, bodyscans or full submersion tests are arguably more accurate, but still not perfect and obviously more expensive / less convenient. Scales that use height and weight are garbage.

That said, I would ask why you want to know what the number is? If a test says your bodyfat is 8%, but you look fat, do you suddenly look good because 8%? Conversely if you look awesome and a test says 20%? You get my point.

The number, for its own sake, is meaningless.

Use the mirror to track ‘getting in better shape’, use calipers infrequently (but consistently), along with tape measure to put down markers to track progress.

Measuring your waist, chest, arms, thighs etc along with your weight is a reasonable way to track progress if you want to be more meticulous than just using the mirror.


#4

Exactly.

Kenny Croxdale


#5

Calipers

Unless you know how to use them and have performed hundreds of measurement, it is unlikely that you’re going to obtain an accurate measurement…

The measurement will be way off.

A good technician can obtain a fairly accurate reading with a fairly cheap set of calipers.

Submersion

This method is not as accurate as most have been lead to believe.

The foundation of this testing method is built on dissection of 5 cadavers.

  1. The Law of Large Numbers

The most accurate data and statistics are based on large survey populations.

The lower the number surveyed, the less accurate the data is.

Dissecting 5 cadavers is not enough to provide any real degree of accuracy.

  1. Residual Lung Capacity

Many submersion test don’t measure Residual Lung Capacity.

Unless, Residual Lung Capacity is measure, the measurement is grossly inaccurate.

Great Point!

Pro Bodybuilders and the judges don’t know or care about body fat percentage.

All that matter is how you look.

Definitely!

Kenny Croxdale


#6

Don’t. Measuring bodyfat percentage is a literal waste of time and energy. I explained more in Point 2 here.

I get the idea of using them as a tracking tool for comparison, but you still have the issue of inaccuracy. There’s always a margin of error, so if it shows a 4% difference over time, you still don’t actually know anything other than there’s some general downward trend. There are more simple ways to see “yep I’m making progress” (like the scale and how clothes fit).

Take pictures once a month and compare them. Posting them here in the forum can also help get objective opinions.


#7

Don’t. Instead:

  1. Look in mirror
  2. Are you happy with the amount of bodyfat you’re carrying?
    ->If yes, maintain or bulk
    ->If no, cut

Rinse and repeat.


#9

Do you want to be bigger or leaner?

You arent so skinny that anyone is going to say you HAVE to bulk.

You arent so fat that anyone will say you definitely need to be leaner.

Assuming your goal is getting in ‘better shape’ doing either sensibly will achieve this.


#10

What is your goal physique and when do you want to get there? If you want “lean soccer player/swimmer” by June then start your cut.

If you want “linebacker” 3 years from now that’ll take some eating.

This is all about what you want.


#11

I had a dunk tank and DEXA within a week of each other. DEXA was <11%, and submersion <5%. (my first dunk tank test was around 7ish, and I had gotten leaner by test#2, so it was directionally consistent). In my opinion, the dunk tank was so wildly inaccurate, it served no purpose. (the tester warned me I was getting too lean, unhealthy levels lol).

And while I find DEXA to be very consistent, it’s not without it’s margin of error. I had an “odd” reading on my arms, where they were reading much higher in relation to my overall%. I had done extensive triceps volume a couple days prior, and they were amazingly sore. Assume there was fluid retention/lactic acid that was being read as fat.

I’ve also found that if you’re objective, you pretty much “know” if you’re leaner. Everyone’s body is unique, but tracking your vascularity, abdominal separation, obliques, etc. tend to give a a good indicator of where you’re trending. I rarely have a “surprise” when I get tested… I usually know with 1% of where I’ll be (assuming I’m being objective).


#12

I want to look like a linebacker. Not a lean swimmer. A few questions how many calories? Macro breakdown %? Calories per day? Will my gut get fat if if i bulk?


#13

? How many shredded linebackers have you ever seen? What are you currently at weight wise, what’s your strength level at on big compound lifts (it that’s a goal for you), how much do you currently eat in a day? How much are you looking to gain and what program are you currently running? Also, how long have you been training and what is your background in terms of sports or activities?


#14

These are all questions that have been asked a thousand times on these forums. The search function is your friend. Not to mention the thousands of articles on the site


#15

jesus christ. you’re asking to be spoonfed. How much reading did you do before starting this thread.

I swear, people need to learn to use forums better, just in general.

Hey, I’ve got a question! I COULD read pre-existing forums to find the answers to my questions, but man. That would take a lot of reading. Instead, I’ll ask other people to put the work in for me!

All that being said, I’ll tell you what you need to hear.

Nobody can answer your questions directly because we don’t know what, and how much, you eat now. Everyone has a different metabolism. Everyone responds to the various macronutrients differently. There is no such thing as 1 diet for everyone.

Your gut will get fat if you eat too much. It won’t if you don’t. What you have to do is lift heavy and consistently, over months and years, and figure out how much you need to eat to continually gain size and strength without adding fat mass. It’s hard. It takes time and effort. That’s why you see very few large, lean people in the world. People want a 30 or 90 day solution to totally reform their body. Doesn’t work that way.

Anyway, this is about as much as I can help you. If you really want direct help, specific calorie counts, and all that, you’ll need to hire a nutritionist or diet coach.


#16

Did you intentionally contort your body like that to try and appear leaner? That’s the weirdest fucking pose I’ve seen.


#17

it’s kind of like what girls do when they send you a selfie, right? Like, they find the weirdest fucking pose because they think it hides whatever flaw they’re insecure about. But it totally doesn’t work, because all you can think about is ‘what the fuck is she hiding, omg she’s totally not gonna look hot in person if she has to do that weird shit’


#18

Congrats OP, you managed to not only ask one irritating question, but two in the same thread.

Golf clap


#19

And then deletes the pictures in question and his profile picture

Hint: we can still see posts that you delete dude


#20

Well. Another one run off. I tried to be nice. It was going okay until:

How much do I eat?
What macros?
How do I train?

As if that’s not the entire reason for the existence of training sites and forums. There’s thousands of posts and articles on these very topics.

OP if you’re still there, you will need to work really hard and do alot of trial and error consistently over a long time frame to get what you want. It will be frustrating as hell. Good luck.