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Q. My Body Fat Readings are confusing - they're not consistant. Why is this?

Lot's of people (especially women) experience fluctuations in their body fat readings on a week to week basis. This includes gaining and dropping a few percentage points over the course of a week while doing BFL. This post attempts to identify some of the standard reasons that your Body Fat readings could be jumping around. :-)

Things to remember:

Body fat ratings are not always accurate. They can be between a few and several percentages off. Unless you are SURE you did it in the same spot, and that you averaged a few sets of readings together, the most likely culprit is the inaccuracy issue.

Hydration can REALLY throw off body fat readings. If you are de-hydrated - your body attempts to hold onto water and that can make you look like you have a higher body fat rating than before. Changes in a person's hydration levels can be due to failure to drink enough water, hormonal changes, food, caffeine or alcohol consumption, strenuous exercise, stress or illness, or taking prescription drugs.

If you are using callipers - the fat under the skin being tested may NOT be proportional to the -total- body fat. Also: Proper technique requires training. Even under the best of circumstances, individual differences in measurement techniques are common, and consequently the amount of tissue picked up to form the skin fold can vary.

Just look at the numbers of ways you can measure body fat. If one method were 100% accurate, there probably wouldn't be so MANY to choose from. The only 100% sure way to know the muscle to fat composition of the human body is an autopsy. Somehow I don’t think any of us want to volunteer!

Take Away:
While Body Fat readings are a more accurate measurement of overall conditioning and health than just a scale measurement, it doesn't pay to track each week's numbers religiously. What you should be looking for is a trend, specifically over time. :-)

Resources:
http://www.shapeup.org/bodylab/tools/index.asp
http://www.brianmac.demon.co.uk/fat.htm
http://www.weight-loss-i.com/body-fat-percentage.htm
http://www.healthchecksystems.com/bodyfat.htm
http://www.healthchecksystems.com/bodyfatmeasure.htm

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