I very often read comments like "I am happy with the new [weigth lifting] routine because I am gaining weigth fast" (I undertand that means muscle mass or there would be no hapiness about that increase) or "hey, this works for me because I am losing fat".

Such comments mean that (a) either the authors have no idea about the difference between water retention and fat tissue and muscle mass, or (b) they are tracking their body fat percentage daily by means of some easy method.

Assuming the latter, what is that method? I find waist tape measurements quite inaccurate, the measure is very easily affected by body posture or how much you press while holding the tape against you body.


1 Answer 1


What you are referring to is called the body fat percentage. There are numerous ways to track it with varying degrees of accuracy.

  1. Skinfold calipers where you measure the skinfold of different points on your body (calves, quad, stomach, etc.), take those numbers and use them to generate an estimated BF%.

  2. The navy body fat calculator which does a rough estimate based on your height, waist, and neck circumference.

  3. Weight scales that estimate your body fat, though their efficacy is very variable (even more so than the other methods).

  4. The most accurate reading you can get is through a hydrostatic tank, though it's also the most expensive and inconvenient option.

As with anything there are pros and cons to each, and the ideal option depends a lot on your preference. Navy is the cheapest and fastest approach. Scales are expensive but easy. Calipers are time consuming but cheap and fairly accurate. Hydrostatic is expensive and potentially time consuming but also the most accurate.

Now, there is no need to track your BF% daily, because that is simply too much trouble for too little insight. There are so many variables going into this that, much like weight, you'll see a lot of small fluctuations in the day-to-day that are meaningless so if you insist on daily tracking you'll be best off averaging all results in a week and recording that new averaged value.

  • 1
    Or, if you want to get sophisticated, you could look at the "moving average". That would give a daily data point to track, if that's your goal, while still minimizing noise.
    – Tyler
    Mar 4, 2015 at 0:55
  • @Tyler I am going to try one single measure a day at the suprailiac skinfold, and the spreadsheet will take care of the last 5 days moving average. That seems an easy approach.
    – Mephisto
    Mar 7, 2015 at 11:13

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