• 1 Minute Read

Ever curious about your exact about of lean muscle and body fat? Many of us are, but what ways can we accurately measure it? We can get a fairly accurate BMI based on height, weight, gender, etc., but there are ways to get a better reading; some are reliable, some are expensive; some are neither.

As the New Year approaches and people are putting together their "wish lists," perhaps you'd like to know where you are with body fat as a way to check in at the end of the year. Here are some options:

Body Fat Scale

For as cheap as $20, you can get an at-home scale that uses bioelectrical impedance (BIA) to read lean mass, bone mass, and body fat. An issue with these is that they are not very reliable. Drinking a lot of water before you get on the scale can skew the results by as much as 10 percent.

Pinch Test

Many gyms and trainers offer the "pinch test," aka calipers, to assess body fat. While they can provide decent results, they are also prone to "user error" and you are still compared against a standard measurement chart. If you get your own, forgo the cheap, all-plastic calipers. Invest in the highest quality you can afford for more accurate results.

Bod Pod

Used by professional athletes, this machine works by measuring how much air you displace in the tube. It can be spendy and time-consuming, and it is known to have difficulties assessing small, muscular women, but it can be one of the most accurate ways to measure body fat.

Dexa Scan

Typically used in medical settings to measure bone density, this x-ray can also measure fat (though new studies question its formulaic accuracy). Also, it can cost thousands of dollars for a full work-up.

Hydrostatic Weighing

Called the "dunk test," this requires you to jump in a pool, curl up on a stool underwater and expel your breath. It can be very difficult to perform accurately, but its results are the often called the best, and the best place to have this done is your local college or university.

Both Worlds

Some gyms are now offering a service that combines the ease of use of BIA machines with hydrostatic accuracy. A major supplier of this technology is InBody, and though the machines are expensive, testing isn't. Talk with your gym to see if this service is available. This service can be as much as 98 percent aligned with the more spendy hyrdostatic services, so it's worth a look.

Tell us, are you a number cruncher when it comes to body fat or do you let that part go? Do you just rely on how your jeans fit or what the scale says?

Weight Loss->Body composition
Dec 6, 2012
Ryan Newhouse - health writer, MyNetDiary

Start Your Free
Food Diary Today

Sign up Devices