How to Measure Body Fat (accurately within 1%)Nov 29, 2021
What is Body Fat Percentage?
Wikipedia says it better than I can:
"The body fat percentage (BFP) of a human or other living being is the total mass of fat divided by total body mass, multiplied by 100; body fat includes essential body fat and storage body fat. Essential is necessary to maintain life and reproductive functions. The percentage of essential body fat for women is greater than that for men, due to the demands of childbearing and other hormonal functions. Storage body fat consists of fat accumulation in adipose tissue, part of which protects internal organs in the chest and abdomen. A number of methods are available for determining body fat percentage, such as measurement with calipers or through the use of bioelectrical impedance analysis.
The body fat percentage is a measure of fitness level, since it is the only body measurement which directly calculates a person's relative body composition without regard to height or weight. The widely used body mass index (BMI) provides a measure that allows the comparison of the adiposity of individuals of different heights and weights. While BMI largely increases as adiposity increases, due to differences in body composition, other indicators of body fat give more accurate results; for example, individuals with greater muscle mass or larger bones will have higher BMIs. As such, BMI is a useful indicator of overall fitness for a large group of people, but a poor tool for determining the health of an individual.
This is what Body Fat looks like on Men
Why Body Fat Percentage is the 'Gold Standard' of Fitness
As mentioned above, folks who have a lot of mass - fat or muscle have high BMI ratings and are labeled 'overweight'. If you lift for even a single year the correct way - your BMI will make it appear like you are unhealthy or out of normal "range". Of course folks with more muscle than the average Joe are not unhealthy! In fact, a solid ratio of lean mass to fat is the pinnacle of fitness and health. So in a nutshell, BMI is a bad and dated system that should be done away with.
Body Fat Percentage is better, accurate and easy. Those with lower body fat are at a much reduced risk of cardiovascular related illness. People who are clinically obese (which is as high as 40% in the USA as of just last year 2020!) have a 4x increased risk of heart related ailments. 4x!!! So despite various movements, fat is not healthy or ideal.
If someone struggles with their weight, part of this can certainly be a genetic component. But if as a society we encourage people to be obese and be comfortable with it, then we are doing ourselves a massive disservice. It is disrespectful to our mind, body and soul. It is disrespectful to society and the massive toll it puts on our healthcare system - in a similar fashion that alcohol and drug abuse do.
What is Ideal?
What do I prefer?
I prefer that my clients hang out where they can eat until they are satisfied and full. For most guys, this is 10% - which is prominent six pack level. Guys can eat until full, not stuffed, but full. I prefer that my clients stick to a meal plan that works but have the ability to smash a pizza or a triple scoop ice cream on a Friday or Saturday night cheat day and not feel guilty. There is no need to feel guilty because you can only eat so much in one cheat meal.
Most men if they follow the Godlike Game Plan (5 days strength training per week at 1 hour per day and 3 short 20-minute HIIT sessions) can easily maintain 10% body fat. Same for girls - but 20%, because girls are roughly double the body fat. Once you drop to this body fat, it is easy to maintain generally with 2,600-3,200 calories for men. That is plenty of good food to keep us healthy and satisfied.
So I prefer to be lean year round and sometimes even shredded. Being lean feels good. Shredded can feel great too - if you aren't starving. Shredded to me is 7%. Some folks can maintain that easier than others - particularly lifelong athletes. I personally don't like to go much lower than 7% because it is not sustainable for the most folks. Nearly everyone feels very hungry and like shit when they are 5-6% body fat. I work out to feel good, not hungry and moody. Being hungry makes me mad and I'm not too fun to be around.
In conclusion, not everyone can cruise at 7% and be non-OCD with their diet, but virtually all men can hang out at 10% and have a good amount of leeway. Then, if one wants to shred for summer, it only takes a month to a month and a half to get to 7%. If one wants to bulk, I recommend they do it until they can't see their six pack which is around 14-15%. After this, simply cut back down and cruise at 10%. In this way 10% is lean and looks great, but we can get RIPPED if we want or bulk without looking like a certified water buffalo.
How to Measure your Body Fat
The Harvard Study
Some years back, Harvard Medical School conducted a study on a basic indicator of strength and the relationship to a marked decrease in cardiovascular disease/incident. In fact, men who could perform 40 pushups in a row had a 96% reaction in cardiovascular related illnesses! The pushup is a basic indicator of strength - in similar fashion to the squat, pull-up and picking something up from the ground that is heavy. I.E. the deadlift (my favorite).
It has gotten to the point in the U.S. where 40% of Americans are clinically obese. This is insane!
Obesity dramatically increases the risk of developing diseases and bad conditions such as:
- Coronary heart disease
- Sleep apnea
- High blood pressure
Being fit and lean is a lifestyle. It is a very sustainable one, because this is how we were made to be. We were made to feel good and full of energy. We weren't made to feel lethargic, in pain and weak like obesity can make us feel. We were made to look pleasing to the eye and to others. People used to die from lack of calories, now most people in America and other wealthy countries die more from excess calories.
Many are overfed and undernourished. Refined and concentrated 'food-like' factory products contribute significantly to obesity along with alcohol. Alcohol basically has empty carbohydrate calories and blunts fat oxidation - along with a host of psychological and societal problems that we won't even get into...
It is very hard to get fat from eating lean protein, fruits/vegetables and potatoes and rice. Go ahead and try it! It is quite filling and tough to do. Refined wheat, sugar, oils/fats that are in processed things, that is easy to get fat off of. It is super easy to drink 1,000 calories in soda in the form of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. These junk foods were designed to be addicted.
Someone recently told me the certain brand of nacho flavored corn chips we all love had a 5 year "research" period where scientists refined the product to be as addicting as possible. Is it true? I don't know I'll probably google it after I'm finished writing here, lol... What I do know, is that I can easily smash a whole bag of chips and still be hungry. Processed food isn't satisfying like whole food.
I cannot smash much more than a full plate of a lean protein like chicken with jasmine rice and spinach/kale. It is filling. Long story short, if we eat from the earth - our organism is fortified, satisfied and appreciates the nutrients. If we eat from the factory, we generally feel like shit. We tend to keep eating as this isn't real nourishment, merely frankenfood designed to keep us shoveling the bullshit in our mouth.
Stay strong and stay smart out there guys!
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