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Jan 27 / Jeremy & Kim

Tracking Progress – Body Fat Caliper

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accu-measure body fat caliperOnce you’ve committed to losing fat it is important that you are able to track your progress.  Knowing that you are finding success in your fat loss methods is great motivation to keep going while finding out if you’re not making much progress is important so that you can tweak your fat loss plan.  Most people simply rely on a scale to tell them about their progress.  This is ok as long as you follow the rules of our previous tracking progress blog post, Rules of the Scale.  But there is a better way to tracking your progress and it will not cost you a lot of money.  It’s called a body fat caliper.

The reason why the body fat caliper is superior to the scale is that it will tell you exactly how much fat you have lost.  Whereas a scale may show a decrease in weight, you are not quite sure if that decrease is the result of losing fat or losing lean mass.  The body fat caliper will let you know if the weight you are losing is fat.

Once you get your body fat caliper, head to this website to learn how and where to measure for body fat.  I recommend this site because it provides examples of how and where to take the measurements and it gives you multiple body caliper methods for measuring body fat.  Follow the directions exactly.  If it says one inch to the right of the navel, then measure exactly one inch to the right of the navel.  Missing the location will dramatically change your results.  Try out a few of the different methods.  Some you can do on your own; others are easier if you have someone helping you take measurements.  If privacy is a concern than just pick the ones you can do on your own and stick with it as you track your progress.  I would not recommend using a different method each time you check your progress.  Consistency is key in tracking fat loss progress.

Key things you need to know about Body Fat Calipers:

  1. Accu-measure body fat calipers are widely considered to be the best brand for self testing. Accu-measure body fat caliperI’ve provided a link above so you can check it out on Amazon.
  2. Calculating your body fat caliper results into an exact body fat percentage is tricky.  I wouldn’t worry too much about your BF%.  Instead, just focus on your results to see if your measurements are going down.
  3. Just like using the scale, pick a specific time of one day of the week and only measure yourself at that time on that day.  Give your body time to adjust to your efforts.
  4. Do not measure yourself immediately after exercising, especially if your exercise involved resistance training.  Intense exercise can affect the size of your muscles and the tightness of your skin for up to a few hours after you exercise.  Do it before you exercise so you do not skew your results.
  5. The most accurate results are usually achieved by having someone else take your measurements. The most consistent accurate results come from having the same person take your measurements every time.

Using a body fat caliper will help you better understand the real story of your fat loss.  Combined with your weekly results on a scale you can better understand what changes occurred in your body because of your hard work.  If you scale hardly moved an ounce, but your caliper results showed a loss of fat then you know you made progress towards your fat loss goals and probably developed some additional lean mass as well.

Let us know if you use a body fat caliper in the comments section below.  Do you have more tips to add to the five above?

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  1. I’ve been using Accu-Measure body fat calipers, a scale, a thermometer, and tape measure since the new year. You’re right that the readings don’t need to be accurate, but they should be consistent to ensure you are getting where you want to go.

  2. I like the body fat caliper and a measuring tape. I have bioelectric body fat testers as well, but they’re widely inconsistent. I took a reading Saturday (a day after fasting) and was 13%. On Sunday (a day after refueling), I was back down to 10% presumably because my body had more glycogen and was probably storing more water. However, in that one day, my measurements obviously stayed the same. Bottom line, the number doesn’t matter as much as the measurements and what you see in the mirror.

  3. Waist, Hips, and Thighs / Feb 24 2011

    I really dislike those things because like the scale you fall in love with let me see where Im at by the scale or caliper. I go by how I look with my shirt off and how my clothes fit. I used to worry about my weight and body fat percentage now its just a thing of the past. Being able to see yourself and know you are low BFP or need to cut back is good enough for me.


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