Testing/Measuring Body Fat Percent
Research from East Tennessee State University shows that many body fat tests are hopelessly inaccurate.
In other words, a body fat test could show that your fat levels haven’t changed, even though you’re really losing one or two pounds of fat each week.
Even worse, the exercise and diet program you’re on could be causing you to lose muscle without you even realizing, simply because the information you’re being given about your body fat percentage is not accurate.
Your body is made up of different types of tissue, such as fat, bone, and muscle. When most people decide that they want to improve the way they look, they’re really aiming for one of two goals.
– Lose Fat But Preserve Lean Muscle Mass
– Gain Muscle Without Raising Body Fat Levels
These goals even apply to people who say they don’t want to lose weight, or build muscle, but just want to look “more toned”. After all, what’s a more toned body, if it’s not one with slightly less fat, and a little more muscle?
Although many people rely on the scales to measure the success of their diet or nutrition program, what the scales don’t tell you is whether the weight you’re losing comes from fat or muscle. In dieting men, for example, three pounds out of every 10 lost comes from muscle rather than fat.
Why Muscle Loss Matters
Muscle is a more “active” tissue than fat. When you exercise intensely, for example, your body continues to burn calories after the workout has finished. And this “afterburn” effect is directly linked to the amount of muscle you have. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn after your workout.
In an attempt to eliminate the problems associated with just measuring body weight, many health clubs, hospitals, and personal trainers use various devices that are supposed to accurately measure your body fat.
Body Fat Tests
Two of the most popular methods available for testing body fat levels are skinfold measurements and bioelectrical impedance.
Skinfold measurements have been in use since the early 1900’s. Skinfold readings measure the thickness of the fat underneath your skin, and use this figure to estimate your total body fat percentage.
Bioelectrical impedance units involve placing electrodes on different parts of your body – usually the hand, wrist, foot, or ankle (there are also scales available, which are a little more convenient). They send a low-level electrical current through your body.
Because muscle contains more water than fat, it conducts electricity at a different rate. The unit then uses this information to estimate how much body fat you have. Some devices also give information on your metabolic rate.
Bioelectrical impedance units are becoming more popular, mainly because they’re easy to use and aren’t as invasive as skinfold calipers.
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