So, you have been exercising regularly and sticking to the diet plan religiously, and the good news is that you feel fitter than ever before. But the bad news is that you haven’t lost any weight.

It is at times like this that you lose faith in all the ‘experts’ who tell you how to exercise and what to eat. Why should you invest all this hard work just to see the weighing scales sit stubbornly at the same point?

But take heart, there is nothing to worry about. You might be losing fat, but gaining muscle mass and therefore you will not see any change on the weighing scale, as muscle weighs far heavier than fat.

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Which raises the question, how do you know whether you are losing fat, losing muscle or losing neither?

There are a number of ways that you can measure the change in body fat.

Visual method:

This is the most convenient, free and most commonly-used method to access body fat. It simply relies on your own observation, just remember that asking your friends ‘do you think I have lost weight?’ is not a fair question. It must be your own, objective opinion. Trying the clothing test, is the most effective way to reassure yourself that the diet is working – are your jeans a little less tight? Does your jumper feel a little baggy?

Skin fold caliper:

This is quite a cheap piece of equipment, that you can buy in most good chemists. Using the caliper, pinch any area where you want to test the fat levels (make sure you don’t pinch muscle mass or only the skin), measure the thickness with caliper and then track your body fat percentage on a chart according to your age and gender.

Bioelectric Impedance Analysis:

This machine sends an electric current through your body and the flow of the current helps to determine the body fat percentage and fat-free mass according to your height and weight. This test is highly dependent on your hydration level as water in the body helps conduct the electric current throughout the body, thus affecting the final result. And, no you won’t experience any electric shock!

DEXA scan:

Initially used to measure bone mineral density, Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry measures total body mineral, fat-free mass and fat tissue mass; thus giving a complete health analysis of the major components of your body. It also gives the accurate body fat distribution status helping you identify which body parts need to worked upon.

Hydrostatic Analysis:

This method can be expensive and time consuming, but it is performed at specialised places such as laboratories, nutrition clinics and hospitals. To get a measurement, you are submerged in a water tank. The person with high body fat gets lighter in water, as bone and muscle mass are denser than water.

Anthropometric Analysis:

This involves measuring the circumference of different body parts for men and women, such as waist, neck, hip or height, to determine the body fat percentage. These values are required for calculating body fat percentage according to a formula. This method is often criticised for inaccuracies.

Bod Pod Analysis:

This method uses air displacement levels to measure body fat percentage. It is an accurate, but expensive method to evaluate your body mass, density and volume.

So you can see, there are numerous ways to assess your body fat percentage. Now, you know how to evaluate your body fat percentage read below to know reference values for body fat percentage as used by American Council on Exercise:

Women Men
Essential Fat 10-12% 2-4%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Acceptable 25-31% 18-25%
Obese >32% >26%

 

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