How to work out your body fat % … (part 2)
In part 1 of this blog, I covered a number of approaches you could take to effectively measuring your body fat % and potential justifications of doing so. I purposefully sat on the fence for most of this as a way of giving you more of an overview but in this post I want to share with you my personal experiences on the topic.
So here goes…
Back in 2015 I had a fantastic opportunity to use the resources at the University of Stirling to see how my competition prep diet would alter my body comp readings on both an 8-site skin fold calliper reading (Done by an ISAK tutor), DEXA scan and RMR (Resting metabolic rate) using a chamber (Image below).
They took readings both at the start and the end of my competition prep, which over the course of 16 weeks saw me lose a total of 10kg in bodyweight on the scales.
One of the BIGGEST changing factors that changed my mind-set on body fat % and people throwing crazy numbers around was the HUGE differentiate in readings at the very end of my dieting phase between both my callipers and DEXA scan.
The numbers on my skin fold calliper reading if I remember correctly came out between 3-4%, whilst my DEXA scan came out between 14-16% (I’m trying to find the exact figures and data I had). Which goes to show how different measurements can be and why having X% of body fat is so context dependent and not necessarily a true representation.
Aside from that and whilst not relevant for this blog the other staggering reading actually came from my resting heart rate from the RMR testing. At 16 weeks out, my resting HR if I remember correctly was sat at 68bpm, whilst my final reading just before my show read 33bpm, which is a huge shift in resting heart rate, which I think took the sport scientists undertaking the study by surprise I think.
Other important considerations need to be made between males and females as the physiological makeup of females will mean they naturally carry a higher percentage of body fat.
Again, take Leanne for example, who underwent the same process as I did with testing in 2015 for her competitions and look at her BF% readings based upon her DEXA scans. Most people would tell you, you need to be sub 10% body fat in order to see abs, when the reality is it’s how that individual looks, feels, performs and recovers that’s going to be the most essential measure for progress.
My final point before we look at how best to gauge, track and monitor your feedback is I’ve found with clients that when I have used skinfold calliper readings in the past they can get too caught up in the numbers and if for example I have somebody on a dieting phase and all of their readings across each body fat site goes down but one or two don’t or even go up, they end up overthinking, stressing and often overanalysing and I’ve even found myself at some points in the past telling people a slightly different story to what the callipers are reading.
I can clearly see they are leaner and all of the other feedback markers are heading in the right direction, but I know if I tell them the readings I’ve got aren’t exactly what they want to hear (Also the likelihood it’s my inaccuracy and the changes in fluctuations as mentioned above) then I know the mind set shift and impact that’ll have will only be negative rather positive. Similarly, if people come in and I know they aren’t where they need to be, or they haven’t done the work required sometimes these numbers are another reality check that they need to re-align themselves to their goals and take a look at their discipline and willingness to achieve the results they’ve laid out.
Again, CONTEXT is key here which is why below I’ve outlined some of the tracking methods we use to analyse body composition progress, rather than just solely relying on bodyweight and body fat %.
Stop worrying about reaching a certain level % of body fat.
Stop worrying about what everybody else’s body fat % is.
Using body fat % readings as a tool but remember the huge fluctuations that may occur which is why context is key.
So to answer the first questions highlighted at the start:
What’s your current body fat %? It’s pretty irrelevant and depends on the measure your using.
What body fat % do you need to have to see abs? It depends, focus on how you look not a % on a reading.
What body fat % are you on stage? It depends.
How much body fat % do I need to lose? It depends, look and judge progress based off of all of your feedback markers.
I’ve seen X person on Instagram saying they sit at sub 10% body fat all year round, how can I get to that level? Everybody is completely unique and from reading this blog hopefully you can see your body fat % isn’t a gold standard reading.
What to do instead?
Focus on painting the biggest picture possible by tracking and basing feedback on some of the feedback checklist I’ve provided above as that’ll give you a far more accurate representation of the progress you are making.
If you’re going on holiday and want to look good on the beach, it’s how you LOOK in the mirror and how you feel in your clothes that’ll dictate your progress and similarly if your entering a bodybuilding competition, it’s a bodybuilding competition not a body fat % measuring contest.
Having as many feedback tools as possible can be hugely insightful, but as I’ve outlined above, they can also have their downsides. Much like bodyweight, if your readings don’t head in the direction that you want or expected to, and you’ve been doing absolutely EVERYTHING you’re supposed to it can be incredibly disheartening, we become incredibly irrational and we start to question ourselves and those negative thoughts can start to creep in.
My advice to you? Paint the biggest picture possible when tracking your progress and the next step you see somebody telling you they have sub 10% body fat, take the points I’ve highlighted above and understand that number is quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
If you feel ready, you’re committed to change and you want to achieve a set of results you never though would ever be possible, head on over and apply for our #Leanwithalife The 12 Week Online Coaching Programme.
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