Body Fat Percentage - Scales Vs. Calipers

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Joined: Feb 11
Posts: 1,220

Posted: 11 Mar 2012, 13:56
Couldn't find any info on the forums on this, so here goes. I was just wondering if anyone has the scales that calculate body fat % and has also done the skin caliper test.
I'm wondering how close they actually were. An acquaintance told me hers was only off by 1%. The reason I ask is that over the past 9 months, I have gradually gotten my BF% down from 32% to 20% and I just can't imagine that I have only 20% BF. I work out 1-2 hours daily but just don't feel like my body looks tight - like I would expect a female w/ 20% BF to look Smile

Joined: Mar 12
Posts: 3

Posted: 11 Mar 2012, 15:05
really I think the best thing is to go get a hydrostatic test done. It is the only accurate way to test that.

Joined: May 11
Posts: 382

Posted: 12 Mar 2012, 01:17
I'm not sure how accurate scales are to skin fold caliper tests. I don't know how a scale would be able to tell what the body composition is of the person standing on it. Just a couple months ago I had the hydrostatic body fat done. It's the one where you are weighed in water. It's done to within 1.5% accuracy. It was awesome! It is like $40 but well worth it in my opinion. In November I had my bf measurement done with the caliper an I was 27%. At the end of February I was 21.7% in the tub. I think the caliper must have been off quite a bit.

Joined: Jul 11
Posts: 343

Posted: 12 Mar 2012, 04:56
the scales that have body monitors are quite good to show the trend, their precisiono depends on a number of factors such as the model of course and the person. Generally the error can be higher for women than for men and I have read that for the best models it is +-4% so you might expect an actual BF in the range of 16-24%.

Calipers also are not superaccurate because they depend on the ability of the persons taking the measures.

In the end the most important thing is to monitor whether your BF is decreasing or increasing so I do not think that having a measure that is accurate to within 1% should be a priority also because the same body fat percentage can "look" different on different people. 20% or so for a woman seems pretty good actually and maybe slightly on the high side for a man.

Joined: Jan 11
Posts: 382

Posted: 12 Mar 2012, 07:38
Forget trying to track your body fat %. Anything you use is either not consistently reliable or subjective. As I understand it even the weigh yourself in water method will vary depending on your level of hydration at the time.
Pain is a by-product of a good time.

Joined: Jan 12
Posts: 275

Posted: 12 Mar 2012, 14:16
I have a scale that does it. Bioelectrical Impedance or something like that. How they work (to my understanding) you nave to be barefoot and not have eaten or drank for 3 hours before or it will throw it off. An electric pulse wave is sent up thru your body. You don't feel anything. And since fat has a difference density than water/other tissue the rate it travels can be measured to determine the body fat %.
Mine varies between 35% and 37% on my scale. I got it done professionally in a bodpod and it was 35%. I'd say the scale is accurate. But I really hate to admit it b/c that makes me obese and I feel like I'm in decent shape!

Joined: Jan 11
Posts: 339

Posted: 12 Mar 2012, 14:42
Yep, Jess. I have the same. I have a Tanita Ironman BC-554. And you explained it perfectly. Hydration is also key in addition to when you weigh. I think they're great, but mine is a little more expensive than others. My scale has a regular mode and an athlete's mode. When I got it last May I was at 51% bf, now I'm about 29%. Working on building up the muscle on mine.

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