T Nation

Your bodyfat percentage

I’ve noticed that many people on this board who post their bodyfat percentage say that it is below 10%. i’m not trying to flame anyone, but what methods do you guys use to test BF%? it seems that most guys i see in the gyms that i go to are NOT below 10% bodyfat. i assume most of you either use Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis, or calipers. also, for the guys with Tanitas, have you experimented with taking measurements with different variables (ex: after a day of eating high/low sodium, after intaking caffine, on full/empty stomach, etc.)?

I think most people simply use the easy skinfold calipers. And you’re exactly right when you say that most people at the gym aren’t around 10% and I can’t blame you at all for feeling like everyone in this forum is bullshitting about their bodyfat %. However, most people in the gym aren’t dedicated enough to learn much about nutrition, much less apply that knowledge through proper diet and exercise. Many of the people that post in this forum are very educated in this topic compared to the typical gym-goer and not only do they apply what they know…but they love doing it as well. If they didn’t love doing it I doubt if they’d be giving free advice to others through a forum. When someone has enough knowledge and want-to regarding exercise and nutrition then maintaining a lean body-fat percentage is not all that difficult.

Bro, remember this is a BB on the web. Check out this site and other ones and the majority of people claim to be 6’ 2’’, 235 llbs @ 5% bodyfat…almost an Aryan nation type of thing. In other words a lot of BS flows here and on other boards. Who’s gonna check up on you to see whether or not you’re at 5%? Take it all with a grain of salt.

I use a $20 calipers and the 7-spot on the Rusty Iron website. I used to use the 3 spot outlined in the book that came w/the calipers but switched because the 7-spot put me 10.6% and the 3-spot said 9.4%. I’m sure the 7-spot is more accurate.

Realist,
i agree about alot of BS. ever notice when it comes time to post some pictures on other boards, there aren’t many guys with visible six packs. plus, i personally think calipers and Tanitas (BIA) are a bunch of innacurate crap. when you’re testing BF% and you have a 3-5% error range that makes a HUGE difference. especially when you’re talking <10%. i’m sure most guys on this board are in better shape/more informed than the average gym goer, but i wonder how many give accurate BF%.

Diesel, you’re right, both the calipers and especially the Tanita have too big a margin of error. My other point about body fat % is basically “who cares”. Some people throw the percentages around like they’re some sort of badge of honor. If you compete in bodybuilding, which I do, then yeah you obviously want to get down low for show time, but I’m still more concerned about how I look overall and not just focus on getting down to 4%. I want to make sure I’ve got good muscle balance, size etc. I sure as hell am not going to ask the guy next to me on stage what his fat level is and compare it to mine. What good is having a low bodyfat if you’ve got no muscle? Meaning no disrespect to some members of this board, but some of the people here who talk about being 5%, 6% whatever should work on building muscle and forget focusing on the low bodyfat. Who wants to be 6’ tall at 6% bodyfat and weigh 150 lbs. I sure as hell wouldn’t.

Strongly agree about understated bf%. I couldnt be bothered with calipers and use tanitas but have been consistently 5% with a decent 6 pack but used a different scale yesterday with an etched 6 pack, stomach veins decent christmas tree and light upper and lower glute cuts and got 11% but suspect the acutal is between the 2. I saw a good scale in a mag that I wish others would use in preference to calipers and scales that can be fiddled IE 12% must have 6 pack with constant fat cover (no lower pouch), 9% etched 6 pack and some christmas tree, 6% good glute cuts and pretty much contest ready. It gets frustrating because, for me, talk of bf closely this relates to size - 168 5’9 and my bodyfat is a noticable size. Ive been 180 and fatter and looked nothing and Ive got friends lifting at 5’9 at 170 and 165 who look like they probably lever lifted because of bodyfat and lack of all important muscle bellies that only account for a few extra pounds. And there a guys competing at 170 and my height that look real big.

Sweeeee-eeeet!!! I don’t feel so inadequate with my 16% BF anymore. As far as method, if you don’t have access to hydrostatic weighing, get hold of a pair of Harpenden calipers and do the Jackson/Pollock 7-site protocol. It’s my experience that this yields the most accurate results. As far as Tanitas, I’ve got zero faith in Bioelectrical Impedance for the simple reason that I’ve seen people do a test with this method, slug down some water, do it again, and get a much different. Too many damn variables to control.

DEISEL: I’ve posted this before; I think BF Percentage has gone the way of biceps size, penis size and how many hotties one has bedded; bragging points that you can’t lend much credence to, ESPECIALLY on the net. I look at averages using a Tanita 612 and an Omron BF analyzer (while looking in the mirror). I keep a “steady” percentage of around 15%. (By the way, I don’t know if you guys had the same experience or not; the guys REALLY bedding all the hotties in High School 1) didn’t brag OR talk about sex that much and 2) USUALLY downplayed the whole thing, even if she WAS one the hottest things in school…those same guys probably don’t say much about BF percentage either…:)–!!!)

I am pretty sure there is no sure fire way of calculating BF%. You can take many measurements with calipers, but trying to convert the numbers into a BF% using some dubious formula is fruitless, but at least the millimeter reading are objective…it taken properly that is. Last time I had it done professionally, mine was at just under 10% or so, but in reality I suspect it is anywhere from 15-20%.

it depends what your motivation is behind knowing what your bodyfat percentage is as to what kind of method you should use. if you NEED to have it absolutely accurate then you have no choice other than undergo hydrostatic testing. if you just want a rough shot then you have more choices. i started using a handheld impedance monitor a couple of years ago because it was easy convenient and very easy to use. i wasn’t interested in knowing my bodyfat to the exact percent but was just using it as a guage to see that i was making progress. impedance can be tricky though because slight variations in the testing conditions can make a huge difference in the results. i tracked mine for 18 months straight. i took two measurements a day sometimes three. i was careful to document and recreate the exact same conditions everytime i took it. i weighed myself naked before every measurement, made note of my workouts and how strong i was that day, my feeling of muscular fullness, current dietary situation, last bowel movement, visual smoothness, muscle fullness…the list goes on and on. i am an engineer by trade and pretty anal, so i left nothing to chance. i graphed the results and was amazed at what i found. i noticed that the impedance monitors (100% truly accurate or not) were amazingly consistent when used as a guage and when comparing measurements with similar conditions. an example: after lifting you will register a lower fat percentage due to fluid repartitioning. i would sometimes take a measurement right before my workout, note whether or not i felt “full” and “volumized” compare it to my actual workout performance and measurement afterwards. i would take measurements in the evening and compare high sodium days with low sodium days and visual smoothness to track water retention and water weight gain. i would see variations in the measurements during creatine cycles that aided in determining my creatine uptake. it got to the point where i had an actual quantification of the instinctive and visual indicators we all train by. alot of folks will dismiss my observations as nonsense and say that these monitors are not that sensitive, but the kind of results you get from these devices is directly related to the amount of scientific energy you put into it. you know what they say…garbage in, garbage out. i recommend the impedance monitor to everyone i talk to.