Calculate Body Fat: 6 Efficient and Useful Ways

Body fat is the fat stored in all the foods we eat. The body then uses this stored fat for insulation and energy. Isn’t it Interesting? Do you know how to calculate body fat? Let’s know about this.

1. What Is Body Fat?

Specifically, body fat refers to the Adipose tissue (a connective tissue including lipid-rich cells), which plays a significant role in metabolism. Measuring body fat percentage does not refer to simply checking your weight. For instance, a person suffering from obesity and healthy bodybuilding may have the same weight but will not have the same body fat percentage.

2. How You Can Calculate Body Fat Percentage?

Since we have already steered clear of the statement that the body fat calculator does not merely look at your weight, but is much more than that, let’s look at all the different ways in which you can figure out how much body fat you have.

A close-up of a skinny wooden doll standing in a greyish background.
Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash Copyrights 2017

2.1. Use a Body Fat Scale

Body fat scales encompass Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA1) technology. This means that the moment you step on the scale, an electrical current passes via one of your legs to your pelvis and drops down from the other leg.

Water and muscles conduct more electricity than body fat – hence, if the scale senses more resistance, more body fat is recorded.

The scale produces an equation after combining data collected from recording your height, weight, gender specifications, and age. The equation then helps provide you with the calculated body fat percentage.

The accuracy of this method to calculate body fat may not be desirably accurate as there are a few factors that may affect them:

  1. The food consumed last
  2. Extent and time of the last exercise
  3. Body’s hydration level

2.2. Use a Measuring Tape

A measuring tape wrapped around a fork at the side of the screen in the yellow background.
Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash Copyrights 2021

One of the easiest ways to calculate body fat is by using a tape measure, the kind you use to take measurements when sewing. Make sure you know your height accurately in inches.

2.2.1. Calculating for Women

Ask someone to assist you in calculating body fat with this method, as you need to get specific measurements, and hindrance in any of the measurements will lead to a miscalculation in calculating body fat.2.2

Measure the circumference of your neck region, hips, and waist – make sure none of these are enhanced or clenched unnaturally.

To calculate body fat percentage, follow the mentioned calculations: add the measurements of your hips and waist. Proceed to subtract the neck’s measurement from the value obtained after adding the other two.

For instance, let’s say your neck’s measurement is 13, hips are 36, and waist is 26.

Your calculated body fat will be 36 + 26 = 62 and then, 62 – 13 = 49.

This is termed your circumference value.

2.2.2. Calculating for Men

Again, you can ask someone to assist you with this to calculate body fat. Accurately measure your abdomen and neck. From the measurement of your abdomen, subtract the neck’s measured value.

2.2.3. Things to Be Careful About

  1. When using the measuring tape to calculate body fat, make sure that it makes contact with your skin and does not press it.
  2. To get accurate measurements, it is suggested that you calculate an average value, that is, take two measurements of the same regions and then divide these by 2. Use the obtained value.

2.3. SkinFold Calipers Method

A picture of Skinfold Calipers and a heart sign made on it. Skinfold calipers are used to calculate body fat.
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash Copyrights 2021

The test carried out in this method to calculate body fat is referred to as the Skin-Fold test, and the tool used to do it is known as Calipers. What you do in this method is gently pinch various areas of your body to calculate your body fat.

The method to calculate body fat is the most cost-effective and requires you to invest significantly less time.

Here’s how you can calculate body fat with this method:

  1. Make sure to measure the fatty area of all the parts. For women, take measurements of the fatty region of your triceps, thigh, and supra iliac – a part that is right above your hip bone. For men, take measurements of your chest, abdomen, and thighs.
  2. There are two ways to convert the numbers into body fat percentages: either refer to the instructions provided on the calipers’ packaging or take the help of skinfold calculators, which are present online to steer clear of doing the mathematics.
  3. Make sure to measure only one side, preferably your right side, to have consistency.
  4. When you pinch, keep in mind to mark about 1 cm above it.
  5. For more accuracy, take two measurements and calculate the average value to calculate body fat.

2.4. Plethysmography

The method of plethysmography to calculate body fat requires you to get undressed and go inside a chamber that is shaped like an egg; this chamber is known as the BOD POD2. This chamber will determine your body density by measuring your volume and body weight. This data is then processed to determine your body fat percentage.

This method has been deemed to be highly accurate out of the various ways used.

Make sure to carry out this process in a professional setting with the help of experts.

2.5. Hydrodensitometry

A view from underwater. Hydrodensitometry (underwater weighing) is a method used for calculating body fat.
Photo by Silas Baisch on Unsplash Copyrights 2019

As the name suggests, this method of calculating body fat uses water and then your body’s density in order to obtain the body fat percentage.

Get undressed and sit on a chair that is safely submerged in water. When your body exerts a buoyant force on the water, at that instant, your body’s weight, also referred to as the density, will be calculated. This recorded weight is then used to calculate the body fat percentage.

This method is also considered to be of high accuracy, also referred to as the ‘gold standard’ by some.

While the method promises the utmost accuracy, it must also be kept in mind that it has to be carried out at an advanced, expert facility. Additionally, going through a test that goes on underwater may not be comfortable for all.

2.6. CT Scan

A view of white ceiling light on dark room for CT Scan.
Photo by ray rui on Unsplash Copyrights 2018

Considered to be the most accurate method for calculating body fat percentage, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI3) or Computerized Tomography (CT4) scans involve gathering cross-sectional images of your body.

This method is quite accurate – almost the most accurate, but the downside remains very costly.

3. What Is BMI?

Body Mass Index BMI is a number that lets you know if you are underweight, have normal weight, or have excess body fat, that is overweight.

4. The Difference between BMI and Body Fat Percentage

However, it is very different from body fat percentages as it does not disclose the information for the same.

To further clear out the difference between the two, here’s an example: Suppose you are a healthy person with a well-built body. In this case, your BMI 5value will be high due to the presence of all the muscles. But, your body fat percentage will be below.

5. Ideal Body Fat

The ideal body fat range varies with age and with the variation of male-female. A woman between 21-39 years of age will have a healthy body fat of 21%-32%. When females age between 40-59 years, their ideal body fat must be under 23%-33%.

For the gender male, healthy body fat for the age of 20-39 remains under 8%-19%, and for males aged between 40-59 is to be under 11%-21%.

6. Maintaining Healthy Body Fat

  1. Notch up your water intake and stay well hydrated throughout the day.
  2. Include healthy fruits and vegetables in your diet and maintain a good level of nutrients.
  3. Exercise and stretch regularly.
  4. Additionally, mental health plays an essential role in maintaining all the other factors.

7. Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight

A jar of healthy salad in it for a healthy diet treat. A person putting sunflower seeds on top of the salad in the jar.
Photo by Mariana Medvedeva on Unsplash Copyrights 2017

Like maintaining healthy body fat, it is equally important to take care of your body weight. It should be kept in mind that you need not always lose weight or get skinny to be termed healthy – it all varies with age, height, and other physical-biological aspects.

Here’s how you can have and maintain a healthy weight:

7.1. Do Regular Physical Activities

Get adequate physical activity done regularly. Ideally, you should spend about 150 minutes exercising, walking, or cycling. Other than that, you can opt for 75 minutes of pure, vigorous exercising – swimming, running

7.2. Indulge in Some Sport

You may opt for strength training twice a week, such as lifting weights.

7.3 . Follow a Disciplined Diet

Follow a disciplined diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. Try to cut out or minimize the intake of processed food.

7.4. Be Careful about How Much You Are Eating

While cutting out fast food or food from restaurants may not be a possibility for everybody, you can still attempt to be careful about the portion of what you are eating.

7.5. Plan Your Diet

Get in touch with a dietician to understand and finally develop a diet and exercise plan that best suits you.

A close-up of a person's foot wearing sports and running the stairs for exercising.
Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash Copyrights 2016

The bottom line remains that you should maintain a healthy weight and a healthy body fat level. This also means that you make efforts to minimize the bad cholesterol, which will then save you from life-threatening health problems – especially heart diseases.

Men and women, their height and weight, and other factors relating to health – both physical and mental are what directly influence the value you obtain when you calculate body fat.

8. Frequently Asked Questions

8.1. What is the cheapest way to calculate body fat?

Skin-fold calipers are the most cost-effective way and require you to invest significantly less time in calculating body fat.

8.2. How can I remove body fat naturally?

There are many ways to maintain and remove body fat mentioned in this article. Some of them are- staying hydrated, following a healthy diet, and exercising.

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  2. Nickerson, Brett S., et al. “Agreement between 2 segmental bioimpedance devices, BOD POD, and DXA in obese adults.” Journal of Clinical Densitometry 23.1 (2020): 138-148. ↩︎
  3. Wald, Lawrence L., et al. “Low‐cost and portable MRI.” Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging 52.3 (2020): 686-696. ↩︎
  4. Kovács, Anita, et al. “The sensitivity and specificity of chest CT in the diagnosis of COVID-19.” European Radiology 31 (2021): 2819-2824. ↩︎
  5. Soeroto, Arto Yuwono, et al. “Effect of increased BMI and obesity on the outcome of COVID-19 adult patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews 14.6 (2020): 1897-1904. ↩︎

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Jahnavi Dass

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