The body fat index is an important data for measuring health and is considered to be more accurate and useful than the body mass index. Fat is accumulated in connective tissue known as adipose tissue. You will gain fat if you consume more calories than your body burns, which increases your risk for obesity and chronic diseases such as certain types of cancer, arthritis, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Determining body fat is therefore a useful criterion for monitoring the progress of a diet and exercise program. There are several tools that can measure body fat index, but they vary in terms of accuracy, accessibility and price. Among them, the adipometer is the tool that is available everywhere, although it is not easy to use to obtain precise data.
Part 1 of 2: use a fat meter
Step 1. Seek professional help to get reliable values
When it comes to using this type of tool, experience and practice are essential, as the accuracy of the results depends on the accuracy of the procedure. Competent professionals have performed at least 50 to 100 tests in secure research settings. An expert is more likely to take measurements at the same point over time, giving you reliable values that can help you track your progress.
Step 2. Ask a friend to help you
If you cannot contact a professional to be tested, remember that it is difficult, if not impossible, to measure skin folds on your own in certain areas of the body, such as the back.
Step 3. Learn about how a fat monitor works
This instrument does not directly measure the percentage of fat, but the thickness of skin folds at different points of the body (from three to ten). This information is then added to a formula that estimates the amount of fat present as a percentage. The accuracy of the adipometer depends both on the experience of the person using it and on the formula used for the calculation.
Step 4. Choose a well-formulated equation
There are over 100 types of calculations that can be used to obtain body fat percentage through the skinfold test. Each calculation is specific to groups of people selected according to criteria such as age, gender, ethnicity and level of physical activity, which affects the different areas of the body where fat tends to accumulate. accumulate. If you enter the same data in different equations, you will get very variable results in terms of percentage points.
- The most used equations are those of Jackson & Pollock, of Parrillo and that used by the American naval forces.
- To choose the right formula for you, you should work with a sports trainer and use the results as a yardstick for tracking your progress. Otherwise, skip the equation entirely and use only the actual thickness measured with the adipometer.
- You can also find many body fat calculators on the Internet. Therefore, it is very easy to obtain data using a few or more measurements of the thickness of the skin folds.
Step 5. Monitor your progress
At the start of a fitness program aimed at reducing body fat, you should have baseline data. Keep these details in a log (a workout diary or a fitness app) and also write down the data of your physical activity routines (to know the number of kilometers you have walked and the number of training sessions. weightlifting you did).
- The range considered healthy by body fat percentage varies by gender, age and level of fitness. Women who have more than 32% fat and men with more than 26% are considered obese.
- If you are trying to lose weight, measure your skin folds weekly and change your workout plan to improve your results. If you want to keep your current body composition, it is advisable that you do monthly checks.
- Get a fat meter. There are many different models on the market. Preferably, an experienced doctor should give you a pinch test and have the top quality tools available. If you want to measure the thickness of your skin folds yourself, know that the price of fat meters can range from a few euros to a few hundred euros. You can find these tools in different stores.
- You could go for a higher quality fat monitor, which is of course more expensive. The cheaper ones may not apply the amount of constant pressure needed to provide controlled tension and to get reliable results. Some highly recommended brands are Slim Guide, Lange, Lafayette, Harpenden, and Accu-Measure.
Part 2 of 2: do the pinch test
Step 1. Choose the type of test
To measure the thickness of skin folds, know that there are three, four, seven and even ten detection points on the body. The use of multiple control points does not guarantee greater accuracy in the calculation of the percentage of body fat. Indeed, the result depends mainly on the precision with which the subject takes the measurements and the type of formula used.
Step 2. Identify the points you want to measure
The most important factor is to be constant and to always measure the same precise point, following the same direction (horizontal or vertical). Usually, the right side of a standing person's body is the part used. Skin folds are measured at these common places.
- The triceps: Have the person bend the elbow 90 degrees and make a mark in the middle between the shoulder and the elbow. Next, measure the vertical fold (the adipometer should be at 90 degrees) at this point, making sure that the patient's arm is out to the side in a natural position.
- Biceps: Let the patient extend the arm in a natural position alongside the body and take into account the vertical fold in the front of the arm, midway between the shoulder and the elbow cavity.
- The subscapularis muscle: in this area, take a diagonal measurement (the adipometer should be kept at an angle of 45 degrees) to the back. The exact point is located just below the scapula.
- Thigh: consider the vertical fold of the leg when the patient is standing. The detection point is located halfway between the kneecap and the groin.
- The iliac crest: ask the subject to hold the arm straight in front of the body. Take the fold of skin with a horizontal grip just above the hip bone, sideways to the body.
- The abdominal region: in this case, take a vertical grip of about 2 or 3 cm to the right of the navel.
- Calf: Have the patient place one foot on a platform or chair, so that the knee is at a 90 degree angle. Measure the thickness of the vertical skin fold that is in the hollow of the calf, where the circumference is greater.
- Chest: Here, take a diagonal grip halfway between the nipple and the upper part of the pectoral muscle, near the armpit.
- The axillary region: this area is located at the upper part of the chest. The sensing point should be entered vertically, exactly below the center of the armpit and perpendicular to the nipple.
- The supraspinal zone: at this point you should take a diagonal grip in the area of intersection of the vertical line that is created between the spine (the anterior part of the iliac crest, i.e. the protrusion of the pelvic bone) and the front part of the armpit and the horizontal line of the upper part of the iliac crest. In some reference systems, this region is also referred to as suprailiac.
Step 3. Pinch the fold and pull it out
If you are using a fat meter on your own body, shape a C with the thumb and forefinger of your left hand and grab a large fold of skin until you feel pain. Then pull this away from the body. Make sure you always pinch the same amount of skin, and in the same area, when taking other measurements.
You should not exclude the pinched parts of the skin, and at the same time take into account the underlying muscles
Step 4. Hold the adipometer with your right hand
Do this by holding the top handle with your thumb and the bottom handle with your index finger. Place the forceps of the tool on the skin fold without leaving it with your left hand. With your right thumb, press a specific point on the device until you hear a light click. This sound indicates that you have correctly measured the thickness of the fold and that the pliers have automatically gripped the skin. Repeat the procedure three times for each detection point to obtain accurate data. If these differ (usually only 1 or 2 mm), calculate and record the average of the three measurements taken.
Remember to measure the middle part of the crease that is between the fingers of the left hand
Step 5. Record the data on a sheet
Remember to take the average of the three measurements in an orderly fashion to avoid confusion during calculations. It is best to use a laptop and back up all the data, so that you can compare it over time.
Step 6. Take into account the average value of the three measurements
Do this for each point as you enter data into the formula. After you get the percentage, write that down in your journal or fitness app.
- Never use a fat monitor right after a workout.
- It takes time and practice to learn how to properly use this tool to calculate body fat percentage.
- Monitor and measure body fat by counting only on the thickness of the skin folds and not by calculating the percentage of body fat. This way you will get more reliable results.
- Be sure to always use the same type of adipometer, measure the same points on the body, and use the same equation or calculator.
- Most often, body composition varies slightly throughout the day due to water retention. For this reason, you should always take measurements at the same time of day.
- You can find dozens of charts that will help you convert skinfold thickness to body fat percentage. However, the most reliable are those that take into account a person's gender and age.
- The percentage of normal body fat varies with age, gender and level of physical activity.
- There are several models of adipometer to assess the thickness of body fat on different parts of the body.
- The accuracy of these instruments varies up to a maximum of 4%.