This weekend, I got my body fat percentage tested. To be real, I’m more of an “ignorance is bliss” type of person when it comes to weight/body fat/etc. I think these numbers can be valuable if you’re looking to reach a specific goal, but since I’m not currently going after a specific weight or body fat percentage goal, I’ve been going by how I feel. If I feel energized and my skin looks clear, I’m usually doing ok. It’s when my pants start to get tight and my face starts breaking out that I know it’s time to scale back a little and can do it in an intuitive way. Anyway, when I saw that the Body Fat Test was going to be at Orangetheory, I decided to give it a whirl. It’s been SO long (a couple of years) since I’ve had my body fat tested, and I have to admit, I was a little curious. Also, I’ve never done hydrostatic testing, which is one of the most accurate methods. (I’ve done the bod pod, caliper testing, and the handheld devices in the past.)
My friend Jolen (who also coaches at Orangethoery) is the new owner of the San Diego dunk truck. I was pretty stoked to get some information about my body composition, especially since I have been hitting strength and cardio consistently since we’ve lived here. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and as someone who gets mildly claustrophobic, I was worried that I’d be shut into a giant water tank. Thankfully, it was nothing like that.
Here’s How the Body Fat Test Dunk Tank Worked
-I changed into my swimsuit and had my height and weight checked.
-After that, I got into the water scale, which is really like a large bathtub. The water temperature was glorious, too: 90 degrees.
-Jolen talked me through the process:
1) You strap your legs down using a weighted belt.
2) Plug your nose and deeply exhale as you go back into the water.
3) The goal is to exhale ALL of the air out of your lungs and then come back up. (So after you think you’ve exhaled everything, continue to breathe out as any air left in the body is registered as fat.)
-After 4 times under, I was able to change and get my results.
I figured that since this method is supposed to be extremely accurate that I would get a higher number. Turns out, it was much lower than I expected (like 5% lower!). I didn’t argue with it. I took it, and ran haha. While I do prefer to go by how I feel, it’s going to be nice to have a baseline. I’d love to get tested again in 3 months or so and see how or if that number has changed.
If you’re local, Jolen’s info is here if you’d like to get tested. It’s fast, reasonably-priced ($45 for your first test and $35 for each following test) and insightful!
Other Methods of Calculating Body Fat Percentage
Calipers. This method is commonly used by personal trainers as it’s pretty straightforward and fairly accurate. The problem is that with clients who have a lot of weight to lose or significant excess skin, this method is not as dependable. Also, it’s important to make sure the same trainer tests you each time as everyone has their unique method and spots they like to pinch. (I personally prefer chest, abdominal, triceps, thigh, subscapular and Iliac crest measurements).
Scales. There are scales that use biolectrical impedance to measure body fat. This sounds scary, but all that it means is that they send a small electrical current (which you cannot feel) through your body. Fat resists this current, so the scales are able to get an idea of body fat percentage. I’ve researched around and found that they’re about 80% accurate, but various factors can impact your results, including sodium levels and dehydration.
DEXA scans. These sound AMAZING, but they’re very hard to find. They are supposed to be as accurate as hydrostatic weighing, but also provide insight for bone density. You can read more about DEXA scans here, but the article suggests that it may be possible to get these scans at local universities for around $100.
Bod Pod. I did this a couple of times in Valdosta on base and loved it. The Bod Pod is an air displacement plethysmograph which gives a measurement of body volume and weight. Basically, you get into a egg-shaped pod and in about two minutes, the device can estimate fat and lean mass from your volume and weight. It’s a very accurate measurement and not invasive. You wear a little swim cap, some snug-fitting clothes, and sit in the pod for a couple of minutes. Bod Pods can be a little harder to find, but are a reasonably-priced option.(On base, it was freeeeeeeee!)
Some Tips for Testing Body Fat Percentage
-Whatever method you decide to use, use the same method each time. Don’t compare caliper measurements to scale measurements to Bod Pod measurements. If you’re using the same method consistently, you’ll get a much better picture of overall progress.
-Don’t test too frequently. It can be discouraging, especially when other aspects are going well. I recommend waiting a few months before testing body fat percentage again, as little factors on a daily basis can affect this number. It will give you a better idea of overall patterns and adjustments that can be made.
-Body fat percentage is important, but a small picture of overall health. Focus on all aspects of health including a clean diet, solid fitness routine, good sleep habits, minimizing alcohol intake, and mental health.
Have you had your body fat percentage checked? What method did you use??