1 Calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure
Your body fat percentage is simply the percentage of fat your body contains. If you weigh 140 pounds and are 10% fat, it means that your body consists of 14 pounds of fat and 126 pounds lean body mass (bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood).
A certain amount of fat is essential to bodily functions. Fat regulates body temperature, cushions and insulates organs and tissues and is the main form of the body’s energy storage.
Body Mass Index (BMI) – The BMI is the ratio of your weight to the square of your height. The number is proportional to your body shape. Generally, the number is small for thin people and large for fat people. People with a BMI 25 or greater are considered overweight, unless they have a very muscular body. The BMI does not consider the fat/muscle ratio, and a healthy, muscular individual with a low percentage of body fat may be classified obese using the BMI formula. This is a well-known deficiency of the BMI formula. If your BMI is 25 or greater, and your Waist-to-Height ratio is less than 0.5 and your Percent Body Fat is in the “athlete” or “fitness” category, you are probably muscular and not fat.
Waist-to-Height Ratio – The Waist-to-Height ratio is determined by dividing the waist circumference by the height. Waist-to-Height ratios of 0.5 or greater are indicative of intra-abdominal fat for both men and women and are associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. A study found that persons with a normal BMI but a large waist circumference, corresponding approximately to a Waist-to-Height ratio of 0.55, had a 20% higher mortality risk than persons with a normal waist size.
Percent Body Fat – The percent body fat is calculated using the formulas developed by Hodgdon and Beckett at the Naval Health Research Center in 1984. The formulas require the measurements to be in centimeters with an accuracy of 0.5 cm. However, the form above has been adjusted to accept measurements in inches. Men and women require different methods for measuring because men accumulate fat mostly in the abdomen (the “apple” body shape or “beer belly”), while women accumulate fat in their abdomen and hips (the “pear” body shape). The equations take this into consideration.
So what problems reside with the BMI formula? First, it doesn’t take into account your lean body mass.
Let’s illustrate how this comes into play.
Say you have two men, both of whom stand 5’7” tall and weigh 195 pounds. The first man is very heavy set. He doesn’t do much activity at all and works an office job. As such, he has packed on a few pounds of fat over the years and would be described as quite robust.
The second man weighs the same amount, but standing these two men side by side, you see stark contrasts. The second man takes up much less space because the weight he has on his frame is dense muscle. He’s athletic, works out regularly and keeps his body fat to a low level.
Because muscle mass tissue takes up far less space compared to body fat tissue, the 195 pound inactive man is much larger than the 195 pound active man.
But yet, when you plug their numbers into a BMI calculator, both men come back with a BMI of 30.5, putting them in the obese category.
While the first man may in fact be considered obese, the second man is far from it. But yet, my medical standards, that’s what they place him in. He may only have a few pounds of fat on his frame, but yet, he’s classified the same as someone who’s easily 30% or more total body fat weight.
A BMI calculator does not give you an accurate representation of what your body weight composition is. Is it primarily fat weight? Or is it lean muscle mass weight? That makes a big difference in terms of your overall health as well as performance.
And, from a progress-tracking standpoint, you can also run into issues with a BMI weight loss calculator. Again, let’s look at an example.
Say you have two people, Sarah and Susie. Sarah is interested in losing weight as quickly as possible and goes on a 1000 calorie diet plan. She doesn’t care that it isn’t necessarily healthy – she just wants that weight off in a hurry. She ends up losing 10 pounds, but 8 pounds of that is lean muscle mass and only 2 pounds of it is body fat.
Susie on the other hand, knows better. She wants to stay healthy as she focuses on fat loss. She uses a moderate calorie reduced diet of 1600 calories per day and begins a strength training program. Susie loses 4 pounds of body fat but also gains 5 pounds of lean muscle mass weight.
By BMI calculator standards, Sarah is the healthier one of the two. Her total body weight has gone done while Susie’s has actually gone up. But yet, when looking at things from a BMI standard, this isn’t the story it tells. If both women are strictly using BMI calculators as a way of assessing their results, chances are, Susie will be rather frustrated, while Sarah may think this is a healthy way to diet (which it’s not!).
Finally the last big problem with a BMI calculator is that it doesn’t help you accurately figure out your total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE. Lean muscle mass is very metabolically active tissue, so someone who has a lot of lean muscle will experience a much higher resting metabolic rate.
Going back to our example of the two men at 195 pounds, the one that maintains a higher total amount of body fat may only burn around 2400 calories per day for instance.
The one who is 195 pounds of lean muscle mass may have a total daily energy expenditure much closer to 3000 calories or even higher.
When trying to assess how many calories each of these individuals should be taking in for weight loss purposes, as you can see, this will make a big difference. If they eat the same diet, one will either underfeed while the other does fine or the other will overfeed while the other does fine.
A BMI calculator is not a useful tool for figuring out how to base your Mensfitclub diet on, so should not be utilized for this purpose.
All in all, a BMI calculator is not a great way to determine your overall health, the progress you are making on your program, or how many calories you need to eat per day. While it can give you a general sense of your overall body weight compared to others for average individuals, for those who are active and carry lean muscle mass, it tends to be very inaccurate.