When we think about weight, we mostly think about fat. I know you want to lose inches off you waist. But that does not mean, you need to lose weight! YES!, You can maintain weight and lose inches off your waist! Let’s learn how.
Our body weight is not just fat. Our body is composed of three main components – lean body mass (LBM), body fat mass (BFM), and total body water (TBW). LBM is composed of muscle mass and minerals. We also use another term called fat-free mass (FFM) which is just a sum total of lean body mass and total body water. So, why are we talking about these terms? I have created a video to explain this and more. Let’s understand the term percent body fat.
What is Percent Body Fat?
Percent body fat refers to the amount of fat in the body compared to fat-free mass. This percentage helps us understand why some people look fit even if they have a higher weight, which puts them at a higher BMI. Look at the picture below; the person on the left has the same height, weight, and BMI as the person on the right. But, they visibly look different. Why? It is because the person on the left has LOW Percent Body Fat! He has a higher muscle to fat ratio. That is why he looks fit and has less abdominal fat (which is a cardiovascular risk).
Why I should track my Percent Body Fat?
We can agree that weight or BMI is not the best measure amount of fat you have in the body. It’s not that fat is bad for you. It is our energy storage system. But excess fat is not healthy. Fat or adipose tissue secretes many chemicals (cytokines) that start an inflammatory cascade, leading to metabolic disorders such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes.
Muscle and water are good for you. Muscle provides stability and support to joints. Having more muscle also increases your metabolic rate, which helps one maintain weight easily. Water is needed for all biochemical processes in our body. So, when we are trying to lose weight, we should lose fat only and not muscle and water. Even better, one should gain lean body mass and lose fat. This will bring your percent body fat down even faster. Once that happens, you will boost your metabolism and lose inches. You may or may not lose weight, but you will look thinner and easily fit in smaller cloth sizes. That is why you should track your percent body fat when you are trying to lose weight.
How can I measure my Percent Body Fat?
There are many ways one can measure their Percent Body Fat.
It is the most basic way to measure percent body fat. You will need soft tape measure (you can get one from Amazon for less than $7). Here is what you need to do:
For men, measure circumference of neck and abdomen. Make sure you measure the largest part of each area. Use this online calculator, to get your body fat percentage.
For women, measure circumference of your neck, waist and hips. Remember to measure the widest part of each area. Use this online calculator, to get your body fat percentage.
This method is not necessarily the most accurate. The measurements could be affected by clothing, when and how much you have eaten, how tightly you pull the tape measure, etc.
Calipers are a tool that is used to pinch different areas of our body to measure body fat. There are many ways but most people use three site approach. You can get these skin-fold calipers from amazon for less than $25.
For men, measure skinfold measurement at chest, thigh and abdomen. For women, measure skinfold measurements at thigh, triceps and suprailiac. Use this online calculator to get your percent body fat.
Accuracy of this tool depends on user skill level.
Body Fat Scale
The newer body fat scale use technology called bioelectrical impedance. These scales are also called as bioelectrical impedance analyzers (BIA machines). You can get one from Amazon for as low as $30.
When you step on the scale, an electrical current passes through one leg, up to the pelvis, and down the other leg. Fat conducts fat less electricity than water and muscles. So, when the scale picks up more resistance (impedance), it calculated body fat mass using a built-in algorithm. These scale are very easy to use and fairly accurate.
Accuracy may be affected my your hydration level, when you last exercised, and when you last ate.
How can I lower by Percent Body Fat?
To lose fat and gain muscle we need a structured program that involves healthy eating and physical activity. One can not just do ab crunches, boot camps, or crash diets and expect to see lower waist size that will last. You need a approach that encompass healthy eating (not depriving of foods) and daily physical activity that you fit in your current routine.
My book, ”Don’t just lose weight, lose inches” goes over strategies to help you reach your goal in your own way. This book provides a systematic plan to help you lose fat and boost your metabolism. All food recommendation and exercises strategies are such that you can put them in your current routine. You can do most of them in the comfort of your home.
To lower your percent body fat, you need to cut down on calories. One should eat smaller meals multiple times per day and minimize high calorie ingredients. You physical activity should involve both aerobics and strength training.
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