Anyone who is attempting to lose weight or get in better shape will more than likely be tempted to go by the number they see on a scale and what they see in the mirror. While both are good ways to determine just how much progress you’ve made in your diet and exercise regime, it’s also essential that you understand the best way to measure your overall health and the amount of body fat that you should have for your gender, weight and age.
Bio-Electrical Impedance Analysis
What bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIA) does is measure your body composition, which is the measurement of body fat as it relates to lean body mass. You might not be aware of it, but your body composition is a vital part of accurately assessing your nutrition level and health.
With BIA you can get an accurate measurement of your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a number of other health complications. BIA also measures the body mass and fluid that helps determine your current state of health. The information gained through BIA can go a long way in early intervention and prevention.
Many people find themselves frustrated when they weigh themselves on the scale every week and see that they haven’t lost any weight, have actually gained weight or didn’t lose as much weight as they’d planned on. BIA keeps an eye on your lean fat free weight and fat weight, which is more effective than going off of what you see on the scale.
How BIA Works
BIA simply involves two electrodes being placed on your right hand and your right foot. A small electrical current is channeled through your body, and the amount of the water in your body affects the electric current. The electrodes measure how the signal is obstructed through multiple types of tissue. What’s significant about this is that your tissues have massive amounts of electrolytes and fluid that are conductive to the electric current while bone and fat tend to impede the electric signal. What BIA does is measure how resistant the electric current is as it is channeled through your body and gives estimates of the amount of water currently in your body. This information is then used to determine how much body fat you have.
Levels of Accuracy
It’s important to bear in mind that no method of body composition measurement is completely accurate. The margin of error for BIA is roughly four percent, which can be compared to the skinfold caliper method. For the hydrostatic weighting method, the margin for error is 2.5 percent, which is the same for the “bod pod” method. Should you decide to switch to BIA to keep track of your fitness goals, it’s essential that you continue using it since the measurements have such a high level of accuracy. Switching back and forth from methods can give you a skewed view of how on track you are with your fitness goals.
Healthy Ranges of Body Fat
Normal and healthy amounts of body fat will depend on your gender, age and current fitness level. Remember that having too little body fat can be just as dangerous to your health as having too much body fat.
The optimum range of body fat for men who are between the ages of 20 and 40 is anywhere between eight and 18 percent. Men who are over the age of 40 have a range between 11 and 25 percent. Men who have more than 30 percent body fat are considered to be obese.
Women have to remember that they usually have a higher healthy range of body fat than men because fat is required for producing estrogen and successfully bearing children. The healthy range of body fat for women who are between the ages of 20 and 40 is 21 and 33 percent. Women who are 40 and older have a healthy body fat range between 23 and 36 percent. A woman will more than likely be considered obese if she has more than 40 percent body fat.
If you are an athlete, then you might be aiming for a lower percentage of body fat for a man or woman your age. For instance, if you run professionally you may aim for anywhere between four and ten percent body fat if you are a male and between seven and 13 percent if you are a woman. Any extra fat that you have might impede your performance while running. The lowest amount of body fat that your body needs to function properly is known as essential fat. For men, the essential body fat required for minimum health is five percent and for women it’s eight percent.
Maintaining a Good Level of Body Fat
One of the best thing that you can do for yourself and your body is to keep a close eye on your calories so that you can be sure that you’re taking in the same amount of calories that you’re burning. If you’re trying to lower your body fat, then you’ll want to start eating fewer calories than you use in order that your body can start burning fat.
Strength training is another good way to burn fat while building lean muscle. One of the great things about strength training is that you can burn calories while you’re doing the exercise as well as after you’ve finished your workout since the tissues of your muscles are metabolically active. It doesn’t matter if you train with your own body weight, dumbbells or resistance machines, you’ll still be building muscle.
The next time you step on the scale or look at yourself in the mirror, ask yourself if you’re getting an accurate measurement of your body composition and if you have an optimum amount of body fat for someone your age.