Before You Buy a Body Fat Monitor

Mid section view of a woman holding her belly
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The scales don't tell you the whole picture. Your weight is less important than your percentage of body fat when it comes to appearance, fitness, and health. Tracking your percentage of body fat is better than measuring your weight to show how you are doing with diet and exercise.

Home Body Fat Monitors

To take your body fat percentage yourself at home, you can use one of the bioelectrical impedance devices for a measurement that is about as consistent and accurate as hydrostatic weighing.

These devices are as easy to use as your bathroom scale. In fact, many models look like bathroom scales and will tell you your weight at the same time. Or you can learn to use body fat calipers, which can be trickier to get a consistent reading.

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)

With the bioelectrical impedance analysis method, a device sends a tiny electrical charge through your hands or feet. It uses the data it gets from that to determine how much of you is fat and how much of you is water. Muscles and lean tissues are mostly water. To do the calculation, the unit needs to know your gender, age, and weight. These units should not be used by anybody with a pacemaker, but should be safe for most other people.

    Features of BIA Fat Monitors

    One of your first choices may be to get a fat monitor that is also a scale, or you may want a device that only measures body fat.

    You can find handheld devices if you don't want one that also acts as a scale.

    Look for memory features so don't have to enter your basic data each time and so you can review past readings. Some devices will link to an app or the internet via WiFi or Bluetooth, making it easy to see graphs and record your readings automatically.

      Some models support multiple users, which is handy when more than one person in the family is tracking their weight and body fat.

    If you are an athlete of low body fat/high muscle mass you should get a unit with an athlete setting to get more accurate measurement. If you have a child to measure, get a unit with a child setting.

      Getting Accurate Readings with BIA Monitors

      You must not be dehydrated when you use a BIA monitor. Do not use first thing in the morning or immediately after a workout or after consuming alcohol. Use it three hours after a meal and after voiding your bladder. Women may experience fluctuations when they are retaining water during their menstrual cycle, and you may get inaccurate readings if you are on diuretics. You need to weigh yourself without clothes when you use a BIA scale.

        Skinfold Caliper Method

        With the caliper method, you take pinches of your skin at three points on your body and calculate the fat percentage from those readings. Electronic calipers sense the right pressure and do the calculations for you, plus store data for multiple users.

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