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What IS my percent body fat?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I've been researching percent body fat today - trying to figure out where my percent body fat falls on the charts. Am I in a healthy range? Am I in the athletic range? (I'd like that.) It has been an interesting adventure, just finding ONE definitive chart that gives me the information I need. And then there's the problem of whether the number I have for body fat is correct.

My Tanita scale measures my body fat at about 22% these days. The handy dandy little indicator on the scale now says that for my age I am underfat. However, I've heard that can happen if you are very fit. The first question, though, is whether my scale is accurate. From my reading, I find that if you are dehydrated, the scale will overestimate your body fat. I weigh myself first thing in the morning, when I am least hydrated. If I weigh myself in the middle of the day, my body fat has shown as low as 17% on the scale. Which is right???

So, I did a couple of the circumference calculators online. The US Navy Calculator which takes measurements of your neck, waist, and hip, as well as height and weight says I'm at 19.7% body fat. Another calculator which takes measurements of wrist, forearm, and hip says I'm at 25.7%. WOW, that's quite the discrepancy. Which is right???

And now to the charts. Some charts say that at 22% body fat, I'm in the fitness range. Some charts say I'm underfat. And those based on age, say that for my age I'm underfat. I should be 23%, I guess. However, which chart should I use? The ones that have age, don't take into consideration fitness, and the ones that have fitness don't take into consideration age. Grrrrrr.... Of course, if I believe one of the circumference measurements instead of my scale I'm at nearly 26% so I'm not underfat according to my age....

It's getting very frustrating. I just want a definitive answer. Where am I???

It looks like I could be on the edge of dangerously low body fat. I don't want to do that, as that increases risk for osteoporosis, but I'm not sure if I'm really dangerously low, or if I'm just very fit, or what my real body fat percent is, even!

So, I looked into who in my area has something to measure body fat using hydrostatic weighing - the most accurate method out there. I found that there's an institute of sports medicine about 60 miles from me that has a bod pod - one of the hydrostatic weighing devices. (It uses air instead of water, though, and it's supposed to be VERY accurate.) It's $80 for two tests. I think I'm going to save up and get tested. Maybe they'll be able to tell me what my percent really is, and whether it is healthy for me.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You're right the hydrostatic weighing is the best. However, be aware that what you eat and how hydrated you are effect these too. Back in the day when I was slim I had this done and you have a liquid diet for two days before the test, consume mylicon to reduce bowel gas and drink water until you pee three hours before so that you are fully hydrated. I was told also to have a bone density test (DEXA) also so that they could estimate body frame density.

    Honestly when it was all done it was still frustrating as when you are on the low end thing change so rapidly. I really understand the desire for good feedback.
    2976 days ago
    I would love to get that done too! I have not placed any confidence in the absolute number my Tanita scale shows, but do look at it on a relative basis.

    It said 44% when I was 174 pounds (= 76.56 fat pounds) as compared to 40% at 160 (= 64 fat pounds). That would seem to imply that 12.56 of the 14 pounds I have lost were from fat. WOO HOO!!! That seems fairly consistent with the fact that my clothes are getting looser but the scale hasn't moved much.

    If you do find a good answer to what an athletic 45 year old woman should aim for, please let me know! I would love to shoot for that number as well.

    3007 days ago
    Wow, your research is very interesting. I wish you luck with the hydrostatic test; I am focusing on staying fit and dropping pounds. I hesitate to place so much weight, no pun intended, on numbers and measurements. they are necessary to help you gauge where your body is at but I like the feeling of energy, and health.
    3007 days ago
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