Calculating Body Fat

Week four of carb cycling is coming to an end, and I have to say I’m relieved.  The ups and downs of low/moderate/high days were starting to wear on me.  The low carb days were especially difficult, and it was starting to make me irritable and fatigued.

The good news is, I do think I made some progress.  I’ll take my 30 day measurements and after photos this weekend to compare, but I do feel like I was able to lean out a little bit.  I am not at all where I need to be yet, but this was always intended to be a trial-run to see how my body reacted, so I know what to do closer to competition time when I really need to drop fat.

I finally got around to getting my body fat measured, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Since I’ve never had it done, I really had no idea what my percentage would be.

A Personal Trainer at the gym where I teach did the skin fold measurements for me.  Calipers are not as reliable as some methods, like hydro static weighing, but they are much more accessible and inexpensive, and give you a fairly accurate calculation.

After measuring all seven sites, my body fat was calculated at 17%. That’s within the range considered an “athlete.”

Overall, I’m very pleased with the results. I was hoping to be under 20%, but didn’t expect to be much under that.

What does 17% body fat mean, exactly? Well, if I weigh 116 pounds, it means 20 pounds of that is fat, and the other 96 pounds is lean body mass (organs, muscle, tissue, bones.)

Knowing this information is important, because if you are trying to reach a goal weight or body fat percentage, it tells you how many pounds you need to lose to get there.  It is also a good indicator of your body composition. For example, even if you are not overweight, you could have a high percent body fat (sometimes called “skinny fat”) which would be more indicative of your overall health, than your weight.

Knowing that right now I am at 17%, I can calculate where I want to be by competition time, and how many pounds I need to lose to get there.

A body fat percentage of 12-13% is considered “essential” for women, meaning anything under that is probably unhealthy except in the most elite athlete.  I figure for the Arnold I want to be about 14% body fat.

To calculate my weight at 14% body fat, I would subtract my desired % from 100 (100%-14%=86%) and then divide my current lean body weight by that number.

96 lbs/.86= 111.6 lbs

I rounded up, so my goal weight for competition is 112 pounds. That means by March I need to lose four pounds.  It doesn’t sound like much, but the trick will be losing fat from the right places, like the backs of my arms, and the upper parts of my legs.

Overall I feel more confident knowing where I am, where I need to be, and what I have to do to get there.

If you’ve never had your body fat measured I encourage you to do it.  It’s a great resource for understanding your own body and health.  A qualified Personal Trainer at just about any gym should be able to do this for you at a relatively low cost.


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