Your body fat percentage is the proportion of fat in your body which lies just underneath the skin and surrounds some of the internal organs. Your body shape and clothes size is directly affected by the percentage of fat, because muscle tissue is much more compact than fat e.g. the same weight of fat in one of your arms takes up at least twice the space of muscle underneath the skin! An unhealthy amount of body fat can significantly impact on your body shape and health and with “January Fever” in full swing, many people are keep to shape up and feel better. Body fat measurements are just one measurement of health and as a health professional. I would never measure body fat alone when assess a client’s overall body composition and health. The waist circumference measurement (where the excess is located) and Body Mass Index (weight in relation to height) are also important indicators to use in combination when setting weight loss / weight maintenance / weight gain goals. Surprising for some, it’s possible to be a healthy weight on the scales, yet carry too much fat around the tummy area which isn’t good for overall wellbeing.
Measuring changes in body fat percentage, rather than just measuring changes in weight, can be very motivational when improving one’s lifestyle. It is realistic for some to eat healthily, engage in regular exercise, lose body fat and even maintain your original weight, yet drop one or two jeans sizes whilst becoming more lean.
How body fat is measured?
Bioelectrical Impedance technology is incorporated into a digital weighing scales. The individual stands on the special sensors on the scales which sends a 100% pain free electrical current via the soles of the feet. The signal travels quickly through lean tissue, whereas fat is a poor conductor of electricity resulting in a higher fat percentage reading. Brands such as Tanita are quite expensive, but used by health professionals to achieve the highest level of accuracy.
Fat % Targets
The ranges for a healthy body fat reading vary depending upon age and gender i.e. females 20-39 yr 21-33% fat is healthy and for males 40-59 yr 11-22% is healthy. If the levels of fat are too low, this can negatively impact on the production of hormones, bone health and can increase risk of injury to the kidneys in the case of contact sports. If there is too much fat in the body, it can cause a fatty liver, clog up the heart and blood vessels leading to a blockage (heart attack or stroke) and is also directly linked with certain cancers amongst men and women.
This method involves a plastic or metal skinfold callipers to “pinch the inch” in eight various sites on the body. A gauge on the callipers measures the thickness of each pinch. It is recommended that this test is carried out by a professional who has been trained to ISAK standards (3 days of training!). The results are measured in millimetres of fat and conversion tables to convert mm to percentage fat are not recommended by ISAK and consultant physiologists. Other methods of body fat measurements include bod pods, DEXA scanners and hydrostatic weighing tanks which are mainly used in research settings. Contact the office for assessments and personalised nutrition advice.
How much body fat is healthy?