Weight and Resistance Training - Bodyfat percentage question for the personal trainers

11-16-2005, 10:24 PM
I would love input from personal trainers or anyone else!

A very strange thing has happened to me...I got my bodyfat percentage tested last week. I jog/walked for 15 minutes oior to the test as I waited for the trainer to finish up with her last client. She used the calipers and came up with 22 percent body fat! :?: Don't get me wrong...I would LOVE to be at that percentage but in reality I am sure I am nearly DOUBLE that :o

So, she says that the exercise I did prior to the measuring could have caused that alteration in measurements and that I should come back next week. Fast forward to today (next week :) ) and she measures me and checks the calculations three times, just like last time and comes up with 24 percent :dizzy:

At this point, she is very puzzled and frustrated, saying something like this has NEVER happened to her in all her 15 years as a trainer doing body fat measurements. She's going to consult with another trainer and is having me come back in a month to check it all out.

Thoughts? Comments? Experiences?

11-17-2005, 08:17 AM
Yes, exercise does affect the readings.

How is she measuring your body fat? OK, you said calipers, but how many sites?

I don't know your weight and height, but if you are very heavy (like your realy reading is >35%, caliper readings can be really inaccurate, but she's doing something wrong if it's consistently coming up 20-24%. It's very hard to find where the fat stops and muscle starts if there is a lot of fat.

If you think you are more like 40% body fat, calipers aren't going to give a very accurate reading. If you live anywhere near a BodPod or dunk tank facility, that would be your best bet. Otherwise, my suggestion is to ignore it until you are lean enough to see some muscle definition- then your trainer can get a better reading. Use tape measure circumference as a measure of progress until then :)


11-17-2005, 11:26 AM
Yes, exercise does affect the readings.

Why is this, Mel?

11-17-2005, 11:36 AM
I bet the amount of water you are carrying will affect the readings.

Like Mel said, let your eye be your guide. Healthwise, if you aren't carrying excess abdominal fat you should be fine.

I plan on dieting until i can see my abs.

11-17-2005, 12:35 PM
During and after exercise, you skin holds more water. It's really only noticeable (to the calipers) if your body fat is in the teens or below.

11-17-2005, 01:16 PM
Short of a dunk tank, like Mel was talking about, there isn't any totally reliable way to measure body fat. Most methods have a 3% +/- degree of accuracy, though it sounds like yours may be way, WAY off, Yogini. :dizzy:

Fat comes in a lot of different varieties. Some people have squishy fat that is easy to shake loose from the underlying muscle and measure with calipers, but some people have rock hard fat that you can't budge. You wouldn't even be able to make a dent if you tried to poke your finger in their sides. And it's just about impossible to caliper someone like that, in my experience. It's no fun for anyone concerned to be grappling around trying to get a grip on fat that's tight as a drum.

The funny thing that I noticed as I was losing weight was that the tight fat turned to jello before it disappeared. I read once that's because the first fat to go is the intramuscular fat that is marbled throughout your muscle. Once that's burned off, the overlying fat isn't anchored to the muscle any longer and gets all loose and squishy. Don't know if it's true, but it makes sense. :)

Anyway, Mel's right - your BF % doesn't really matter a whole heck of a lot until you get close to a normal weight range and by then it should be a whole lot easier to measure.

11-17-2005, 03:10 PM
DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) is probably the best method, but it is not readily available. I think the machine costs something like $100,000.

11-17-2005, 04:15 PM
Isn't DEXA the one they do the bone scans on to check for osteoporos?


11-17-2005, 04:48 PM
Thanks for the input! I am a physically active, strong 5'10" and 273 pounds...certainly not the fattest person she's ever tested (she told me as much) but for some reason, my results are not accurate.

I am of the "firm fat" variety (except for the insides of the thighs and inner "jiggly" part of the upper arms :( ) and I *do* notice that it becomes softer as I lose. I'll just keep on working at this (fitness/nutrition etc.) and get retested next month and every month after that.

11-17-2005, 05:36 PM
Sarah, yes, DEXA is what they use for scans for osteoporosis. I wonder if they can just slip a body fat scan in there when they do the osteoporosis test next year. :D

Hey, I have a question re: measuring body fat. If you're working on a fitness program, how often should you have your body fat measured?

11-17-2005, 08:22 PM
Interestingly, this board is the only one I am aware of where people are pursuing weight loss through strength training. Most lifters seem to be either naturally lean, or they are pursuing strength goals without any regard to bodyfat levels.

I think that generally speaking, you can split that pretty consistently along gender lines. In the main, it's the guys are after strength regardless of bodyfat (as in the clip I just watched of a 1200-lb squat by a guy who looked like a sumo wrestler) and women are more concerned about losing weight and have simply found this to be a more efficient way to do it.

There are always exceptions, of course, like Priscilla Ribic, one of the strongest women in the world and one who never has to worry about bodyfat. :) I would love to be both, but I'm finding it tough to pursue both simultaneously.

11-29-2005, 02:11 PM
I bought a scale that measures body fat through electrical impedence... it was pretty cheap and it's been accurate with me (the same-ish as the caliper test, and the same-ish as my [very lean] boyfriend's caliper test.

I haven't made enough progress to see the number go down, yet, but it might be an option for you.

11-29-2005, 02:12 PM
Thanks! I think I'm putting that on mhy wish list!

11-29-2005, 06:20 PM
I have a handheld unit and the directions even warn that very muscular individuals will get inflated readings. The further your body composition differs from the "typical" individuals they measured to standardize the device the less accurate the reading. I doubt they dunked too many 41 year old, 6'4" 290# men when they did their research.

IMHO, fitting into smaller clothing is my best gauge of leanness (I have gone from a 54" to a 42" waist). Progress photos are good as well.

11-29-2005, 06:37 PM
My trainer uses electrical impedence in my gym, the method where you lie down with a lead on your foot and another on your hand. I get mine done every 2 months or so, and each time its dropped my 1.5% or so. My trainer is almost certain it reads too high on me (I am not so convinced, he hasn't seen me with my clothes off!!!!) It's the change I look at rather than the numbers.

Meg it's interesting what you said about the "squishy fat" My tummy fat is now really loose and I thought it was just me being silly when I describe it as being floppy just as it's decided to pack it's bags! My thighs are particularly bad fat wise, but the weight training is really helping their appearance, so they don't look *quite* as bad!!!!