What is a Body Fat Meter?

Rachel Burkot
Rachel Burkot
A body fat meter can be used to determine how much of a person's body is made up of fat.
A body fat meter can be used to determine how much of a person's body is made up of fat.

A body fat meter is a tool used to measure the percentage of a person’s body that is made up of fat. Clinical tools will provide accurate body fat readings, but they may be expensive. Cheaper body fat meters measure body fat using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), which involves the meter passing a small, painless electric current through the person’s body, then calculating resistance. The person’s age, sex, height and weight are considered and used to determine an estimated value of the person’s body fat percentage.

A body fat meter can give information on whether a person is leading a healthy lifestyle or needs changes in diet or exercise.
A body fat meter can give information on whether a person is leading a healthy lifestyle or needs changes in diet or exercise.

A body fat percentage meter measures the complete volume of water in a person’s body, and muscle contains more water than fat. The percentage of body fat is then calculated from these measurements. Since every body fat meter works slightly differently, discrepancies can exist between meters; patients may get slightly different readings with different meters, and inconsistencies are not unlikely. All body fat readings, however, should be in the same general area. To verify body fat meter accuracy, compare one meter’s reading with a meter from a doctor’s office.

It is mandatory for wrestlers to maintain low levels of body fat.
It is mandatory for wrestlers to maintain low levels of body fat.

A body fat meter can give an indication as to whether the person is leading an all-around healthy lifestyle or if changes in diet or exercise are recommended. Fitness is about more than managing weight, and a good fitness program reduces body fat while increasing muscle. Crash diets are never encouraged because they deplete muscle. It is important to know how much weight is muscle and how much is fat, which is where a body fat meter comes in handy.

Skin is pinched between the thumb and forefinger when taking a skinfold measurement.
Skin is pinched between the thumb and forefinger when taking a skinfold measurement.

Body fat meters are also useful for tracking a person’s progress when he or she is on a diet or exercise regimen. Testing body fat percentage regularly can keep the person on track for that target weight. Most meters are small and portable, so they can be used easily at home or taken just as conveniently to a gym. They are easy to use and provide a reading in seconds. Most meters provide readings to the tenth of a percentage.

The first time a body fat meter is used, the person should put in information such as age, sex, height and weight. This information is then stored in the meter and referenced when the percentage is calculated. The reading is typically displayed in LCD format, and some meters provide a picture of how the percentage of body fat relates to the person’s size and figure. Some types of meters even have separate storage settings for up to ten different people.

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Discussion Comments

anon273918

Can this body fat meter tell the difference between fat and lymphatic fluid? I suffer from Lymphedema and I just got the referral to go get it drained (about 100 pounds). Do you know the abuse I have suffered from doctors and the public who think this is fat?

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    • A body fat meter can be used to determine how much of a person's body is made up of fat.
      By: vpardi
      A body fat meter can be used to determine how much of a person's body is made up of fat.
    • A body fat meter can give information on whether a person is leading a healthy lifestyle or needs changes in diet or exercise.
      By: ohmega1982
      A body fat meter can give information on whether a person is leading a healthy lifestyle or needs changes in diet or exercise.
    • It is mandatory for wrestlers to maintain low levels of body fat.
      By: Earl Robbins
      It is mandatory for wrestlers to maintain low levels of body fat.
    • Skin is pinched between the thumb and forefinger when taking a skinfold measurement.
      By: Robert Hoetink
      Skin is pinched between the thumb and forefinger when taking a skinfold measurement.