Ever wondered what your body fat percentage was, and gone onto an online calculator to find out? Here's why that might not be such a good idea.
Not sure about you, but I've heard countless people asking each other what their body fat percentages are, or people trying to compare their muscle-to-fat ratios against one another.
"Oh, the calculator said I'm only 12% body fat!"
Or worse: "Oh no! The calculator says I'm severely underweight!"
When we want to know what our rough body fat percentages are, the first thing most of us think to do would be to search it up online and go to one of those calculators.
But in truth, these calculators are quite misleading most of the time and can lead you to think or believe things that are far from what's actually accurate and correct.
Do Body Fat Percentage Calculators Actually Work?
A lot of the time, no.
And we'll tell you why.
Body Fat Calculators Barely Have Any Information About You
These body fat percentage calculators, while they do generally ask for some information such as your height, your weight and the number of times you exercise each week, it's all very general.
Sure, height and weight are quite specific.
But you know what isn't?
Selecting a level of daily activity from:
Or to make things worse, some calculators barely ask for any information at all!
A lot of the calculators that you'll find on the internet simply ask for:
Not even your neck or waist measurements.
And while some people might argue that these calculators are only meant to serve as a very rough estimate, it's still very misleading.
Many people still fully believe whatever these calculators tell them, and aren't open to exploring or listening to any other possibilities.
Body Fat Calculators Can't See What You Actually Look Like
Back in high school, I had lots of friends who were 'skinny fat', meaning these guys had very little muscle mass, but still a relatively high amount of body fat, creating the illusion that they were slim in clothes, when in reality they were extremely out of shape.
However, when they put in their measurements and information into the body fat percentage calculators, they found that they were at either healthy, or even impressive levels of body fat!
This is due to the fact that these calculators simply cannot know how much of your weight comes from muscle mass, and how much of it is coming from body fat.
Putting in your neck and chest measurements can provide a little more information, but never enough to be accurate.
These friends of mine that were skinny fat would remain in denial that they were out of shape, simply because the calculators told them that they were within the healthy, or even 'athletic' range of body fat for males.
However the second they took their shirts off, they were quick to become insecure and try to find every way possible to could to hide their bodies.
It was clear that they knew something wasn't right, but they were continuously mislead by these calculators that provided them false reassurance.
Just like how the calculator will lead those will little or smaller amounts of muscle mass to believe that they have less body fat than they actually do, they'll lead, or tell those with higher amounts of muscle mass that they have more body fat than they actually do.
Again, your weight could come from either muscle mass or body fat, and the calculator doesn't know which one it is.
In school I also had some friends that were already quite lean with good amounts of muscle mass, being told by the calculators that they were storing more body fat than those skinny fat friends!
As you can probably imagine, those that were skinny fat didn't know a whole lot about health and fitness, and they would firmly believe that they were fitter and healthier than those that were actually in shape with good amounts of muscle mass.
Yes, it was extremely annoying.
So How Do I Know What My Body Fat Percentages Are?
Well, although these online calculators are the most easily accessible we know that they're not all that accurate, and shouldn't really be trusted most of the time.
Another easily accessible way for everyday people like you and me to know would simply be to look in the mirror.
See, while the calculators can't see what your body actually looks like, you, and others around you, can.
If you've been training for a while and think you could make a somewhat educated guess, it's probably going to be just as good of an estimate as the online calculators, if not better.
Or if you don't have the faith in yourself, you could ask a personal trainer that's well trained and has years and years of experience in the fitness industry to take a look at you and make an estimate!
You can look up body fat percentage charts online, and compare yourself to the images you see there.
I know, age, weight and height all play a part, but generally, the trained eye should be more accurate with estimations than the online calculators can be.
All in all, while the online body fat percentage calculators can serve as a quick and easily accessible way to get rough estimations of your body fat levels, they shouldn't be fully trusted.
Instead, if you really want to try and gauge your body fat levels, simply looking in the mirror and making estimates off of that is probably a better choice.
Do YOU agree with what the body fat percentage calculators tell you?