Estimating bodyfat percentage

In the last chapter, I made mention of how your starting bodyfat percentage will affect many things in terms of how you set up this diet. Which means that it's time to talk about how to actually find out how much bodyfat you have. I should mention right now that, from this point forwards in the book, I'll be dividing dieters into different groups. Some of this division will be based upon starting bodyfat level, some of it will depend on activity (or lack thereof).

There are a number of methods of estimating bodyfat percentage (note the use of the word 'estimating'; that's all i t i s, an estimate) ranging from lo-tech to high-tech and accurate to horribly inaccurate. Which you use depends on your goals and what you have access to. I won't bore you listing all of them, rather I'll focus on which ones I think are worth pursuing in this specific case.

Relatively lean individuals, athletes or bodybuilders, should either know what their bodyfat percentage is or have some reasonable method of estimating it. Calipers would be my preferred method. If you know about calipers, I don't need to give you any more information; and if you don't, it won't do me any good to explain them. Another possible method, although fraught with potential problems are the bioelectrical impedance bodyfat scales (Tanita is a common brand). The problem is that these devices are drastically affected by hydration, a large glass of water or a big piss can alter the number. In general, I don't think they are that accurate but assuming you control for hydration, they can at least give you a starting point. I bring up the hydration issue because it will be affected greatly with this diet, making these types of scales nearly worthless.

Now, what about everybody else? Frankly, if you're not that lean and not currently very active, there's a fairly easy way to get a rough estimate of your bodyfat percentage and that is by using something called the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is supposed to be a measure of fatness but it's really not, what it does is relate height and weight with certain BMI ranges (supposedly) being associated with health or not. The problem with BMI is that it doesn't factor bodyfat percentage into account.

That is, say we have two individuals who are 6 feet tall and weigh 200 lbs. But say one is an athlete and has 10% bodyfat and the other is not and has 30% bodyfat. They will have the same BMI value but it's fairly clear (it should be anyhow) that they are not going to be in the same boat in terms of health risk or anything else. Basically, BMI makes no distinction between fat mass and LBM and since active individuals typically have more LBM (and hence less fat) at any given bodyweight, BMI is not accurate for them.

However, recent research has given us a way to use BMI to get a rough idea of bodyfat percentage. It won't be exact but since we're only looking for estimates, it's workable. But I must repeat: active individuals MUST find a different method (i.e. calipers or a Tanita scale or something) to estimate bodyfat, they can NOT use the BMI method.

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