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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
One of the other current threads got me to wondering ... What is the best way to measure body fat percentage?

I have a Tanita - but I don't use it anymore - i don't think it is very accurate

DXA seems inconvenient and expensive

What about calipers? With detailed instructions and a nice unit - would it work?

For reference - I suspect my current BF percentage is 10%

Thanks

Will
 

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Calipers have a standard error of about +- 3.5% and that' s if the person who is measuring knows what they are doing. I got the feeling from your post that you wanted something you could do yourself though...but you can't do calipers on your own.

So that said, they are the best of the cheapest options. More accurate than scales or handheld devices. The more accurate measures (hydrostatic weighing, DXA and the Bod Pod COSMED - BOD POD: Gold Standard Body Composition for adults and children) are all pretty expensive.

Your best bet is to find someone (a personal trainer likely) who has experience measuring with calipers and have them do it. Take it with a grain of salt, knowing it could still be a little off. If you do it regularly I would use it as more of a guide ("do I seem to be going up or down") than as , "I am this % body fat". Use the same person to measure you each time if you can.
 

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I use calipers. It's not rocket science and you can do it yourself. Sure, it gets more accurate if someone with experience does it and if they get all the different parts that you can't reach on your own for even greater accuracy but all in all calipers (IMO) are the best thing out there as a DIY thing.

You don't need an expensive pair either. Just make sure to measure over a few days and at certain times of the day and be consistent. As long as you don't do 1 measurement and then take that as truth forever you should get a level of accuracy that isn't terribly off. There are plenty of resources on teh Interwebz on how to do it.
 

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As others have said DEXA, BodPod(Which I have used) Hydrostatic(I also use) are very good and very accurate. Calipers are very good too when used by someone who has experience( I use them on a regular basis). But if you want it done right you have to have someone do it for you, and you have to have a decent set of calipers those cheap plastic ones are pretty useless. If you go to have it done by someone and they show you those walk away. I use Baselines or a Lange (which can be re-calibrated).
 

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They really aren't measuring BF%. It's more how much water you are holding. Muscle is about 75% water. I used one in a gym I worked in the numbers would change if I drank a lot of water so again pretty much useless, but they are improving. Again for best bang for your buck have it done with calipers
 

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Use a mirror!!!

Pay special attention to mid section. If you don't like what you see then you're body fat is too high. :)
Bingo. unless you have a 'real' reason (research, elite), performance, how you feel, the mirror, and good scale are all you need.

As others have said, calipers are quick and easy. The CV can be high and hydration can impact the results. But a trained tech can get consistent (but maybe not accurate) results. But the change over time is what you are after anyway for personal use.

BIA's mostly suck. Hydration is a huge factor in the value you get. We have a bunch of different models and they all Suck!

I have a DXA too, and I don't use it that often. There is a current discussion about the negative impact on athletes focusing too much on the numbers and not enough on performance. It can lead to chasing your tail using inappropriate diet and exercise patterns.

We are getting a little more stringent about the use of our DXA by the athletes and how their data is used by the coaches.

But.....total overkill is the three and four compartment model (for your needs):http://jap.physiology.org/content/85/1/238.full.pdf+html

All that being said....if you are in the midwest....I have time over the summer to shoot the **** and could DXA you for free (ish) mostly...(ish).
 

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If you want a number, go with Dexa Scan. If you want to track progress, go with BIA with a Tanita scale but distrust the number and use it under the same circumstances to observe a trend over time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hi everyone - thanks for all of the replies!

To echo what sdeer said - I am trying not to lose too much weight

I have lost about 8 lbs and my FTP is up - so that is the good news

I could probably lose a couple more lbs but I don't want to go too low

So in the ideal world I would like to know the Body Fat % with some accuracy - and the DEXA would be best for this

However, I would also like a convenient way to check over time - the calipers would probably be best for serial measurements and tracking trends

I was hoping to be able to do it myself, but I could ask my wife, or my one of my training partners

The calipers might also be helpful for my training partners as we have all been thinking about a DEXA

So - any more feedback on the best brand of calipers? On Amazon.com the Lange and Harpenden calipers seem to be the best reviewed (and most expensive)

They do seem very expensive - but if three of us are considering DEXA scans the device pays for itself (Lange $210, Harpenden $360)

Thanks in advance

Will
 

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I don't worry about this too much. The moment of clarity for me was when I showed up to a race (no mountains) and this big guy with a really large belly crushed the field. I remember thinking to myself "That guy is going to have a rough day today" as there were some guys with previously good results racing that day. I told myself that it didn't really matter what my body fat percentage was if I couldn't stay with the guy off the front. Now I watch what I eat and train hard. I do use the mirror test still, but I figure that is pure vanity.
 
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