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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Importance of Body Fat Percent

Throughout your exercise programme, you'll want to keep an accurate record of your progress to see how you're doing. This can work in two ways, either it will be good motivation when you're doing well, or it could act as a mild kick up the bum if your results are showing you're not being as strict with your diet as you could be, or not drinking as much water as you could be, or not pushing yourself in your workouts, etc.

There are two main reference points you want to record: Bodyweight, and Body Composition.

Bodyweight is the simplest of the two, and all you need to take it is a standard set of bathroom scales. Here are a few tips to get the most accurate and consistent reading:

- Always stand on the scales first thing in the morning, before breakfast and after visiting the bathroom.
- Place your scales on a hard, uncarpeted floor to avoid the carpet pushing up against the bottom and increasing the reading.
- If you don't take the reading nude, be sure to wear as little clothing as possible, and always wear the same outfit at each weigh in.

The scales on their own are a really poor indication of changes in your body, and that's where your Body Composition comes in. If we take another reading, your Body Fat Percent, we can make sure we're losing the wobbly stuff and not the body shaping muscle.

For example, let's say you've lost 10 lbs over the past six weeks. You see it in the scales, but you don't see it in the mirror. Immediately you wonder why. How can you lose the best part of a stone and not look any different?

It's ok, you kept track of your body fat percent so you can see exactly what the scales aren't telling you. On calculation you find you actually lost 2 lbs of fat, and 8 lbs of muscle. Now you know why you don't look any better... It turns out the vast majority of your loss was the stuff that improves your body shape!

No problem, you know now where you went wrong, and can work that little bit harder on your resistance training, to get back that muscle lost and switch your body back into fat burning mode!

Let's turn that scenario around. Let's say after six weeks of hard slog you stepped on the scales, and to your horror, you'd lost half a pound, or even gained weight! But your clothes don't fit anymore. You've been trying on dresses that are 2 sizes smaller. Your waist is much tighter. You have definition beginning to show around your upper arms and shoulders. It doesn't make any sense! Well after working out your body fat percent, you find it actually makes perfect sense. You've actually been replacing fat with muscle, so it's no wonder you're so much slimmer and more toned, despite the scales not really registering a change.

So enough talk about the importance of body composition testing, lets talk about how it's done.

There are actually several ways to work out your body fat percent, some requiring complicated machinery and teams of guys in lab coats, and some requiring just a humble tape measure. They will all differ in their reading, and disputes as to accuracy are... shall we say... not unheard of. However, the actual measurement you get is not as important as the changes in that measurement over time.

For example, if you chose the tape measure as your weapon of choice, and the formula you chose to work out your body fat percent said you were 28%, whether you actually are 28% body fat or not isn't that important. What it has done is given you a reference point to track changes in your body fat percent, i.e. the actual number is not as important as seeing a downward trend over several weeks.

Once we have your body fat percent, it's just a matter of separating the fat from the lean tissue. So let's say Jane weighed in at 180 lbs, and her body fat percent was 28%. First of all, to work out how many pounds of fat she's carrying, we need to multiply her body weight by her body fat percent, and then divide by 100:

180 (lbs) x 28 (%) = 5040
5040 / 100 = 50.4 lbs (Body fat)

So we now know that out of Jane's 180 lbs, 50 lbs is body fat. Now by subtracting the fat lbs from her overall bodyweight, we're left with our lean body mass:

180 - 50 = 130 lbs

So at 180 lbs and 28% body fat, Jane is carrying 130 lbs of lean tissue, and 50 lbs of body fat.

Now let's say after two weeks, Jane hops on the scales and gets out the tape measure to find she now weighs 177 lbs and is 27% body fat. By running through the formula again, she can now see exactly how she's progressing:

177 (lbs) x 26 (%) = 4602
4602 / 100 = 46 lbs (Body fat)
177 - 46 = 131 lbs

So after two weeks, Jane can now see she's lost 4lbs of fat and added 1lb of body shaping, fat burning muscle.

All in all, a good result for Jane! To get a good idea of what's going on with your body, I'd recommend checking your body composition, along with your weight, every fortnight.

Anthony Punshon is a Worthing boot camp expert. To get a FREE WEEK of boot camp go to Worthing West Sussex Boot Camp.

Anthony has helped hundreds of people get lean and toned with his programmes and at his boot camp in Worthing. To get in the best shape of your life visit

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