How to Calculate Your Body Fat Percentage

women measuring their waists
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Most ways of finding out your body fat percentage take special equipment, but for this method you only need one item, and it's one that you probably already have in your home - a tape measure.  This method is known as the United States Navy Circumference Method.

This technique provides an estimate of your body fat percentage. It can be quite accurate (it is used by the U.S. military, after all) but, like all other tests, the accuracy of the results depends on the accuracy of the measurements.

Pro Tip: Measure yourself several times (at least 3) and take the average of the numbers for each measurement.

Step One: The Measurements

Depending if you are a man or a woman, you'll need to take three or four measurements.  This is how you'll do it:

  • Height: taken without shoes, round up to the nearest half-inch
  • Neck: taken below the larynx sloping slightly downward at the front.  Look straight ahead, with your shoulders down and relaxed. Round up to the nearest half-inch.
  • Waist: for men at navel height, for women at the smallest point, at the end of a natural (not forced) exhale.  Round down to the nearest half-inch.
  • Hips: (women only) at the largest point.  Round down to the nearest half-inch.

Step Two: The Very Easy Arithmetic

For Men: Subtract your neck circumference from your waist circumference.  Round down to the nearest half-inch.  This is called the "circumference value", and you'll use it in the final step.

For Women: Add the waist and hip circumferences together, then subtract the neck circumference.  Round down to the nearest half-inch. This is called the "circumference value", and you'll use it in the final step.

Step Three: The Charts

To find your body fat percentage, go to this document on the U.S. Navy Web site.

  For women, page down to the last 2 pages, and for men to the two pages before that.  Find your circumference value on the left side of the chart, and then move to the right to the square under your height.  That is your estimated body fat percentage.

What Do I Do With This Information?

First find out if your body fat percentage is in the healthy range using the charts here.

You can also use this information to find out what your lean body percentage is, and also the amount of protein you need if you are using the Lean Body Method of figuring protein needs.


United States Navy Physical Readiness Program, Guide 4 Body Composition Assessment.  Accessed from the Public Web Site of the United States Navy, February 28, 2016.

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