There are several different ways to measure and evaluate the amount of fat in your body. Measurement can be conducted in a clinical setting, through technology like BodPod, DEXA scanning or hydrostatic underwater weighing. Those who want a more convenient route can also do it at home by using a body fat scale.
How Do Body Fat Scales Work and Are They Accurate?
Body fat scales work by using a technology called bioelectrical impedance analysis. A small, imperceptible electrical current is sent through one foot, up the leg and then down the other leg. Fat is a poor electrical conductor when compared to other tissues like muscle, so the more resistance the electrical current encounters, the higher the fat volume.
A Consumer Reports study of body fat scales estimated that the scales were accurate by up to 80% of the time. Other studies found that different scales yield varying readings and that these frequently differ from standard protocols of fat measurement. The scales tend to be less accurate for elderly people, children, highly trained athletes, and those with osteoporosis. However, it has been noted that in spite of the inaccuracies, the scales can still be used to monitor progress if you standardize the way you perform each test. This means consistently testing your body fat percentage under the same conditions.
The Top 5 Best Body Fat Scales
Pairing the machine with the companion app is fairly effortless. iOS users should have no trouble, but for Android 6.0 users make sure your location is turned on in order to link the scale to the app. This is not mentioned in the instructions.
After the scale is connected to the app, you setup your profile, and transferring data is simple from there. All you have to do is turn on Bluetooth, pair, and step on the scale. The scale will automatically transfer your information to the app privately.
Our measurements were consistent for weight and body fat, although some other customers have stated that the scale doesn’t zero out properly unless you first put some weight on it, step off, and then step back on for a second reading. This appears to be isolated to a small number of users though.
The app, which can be downloaded from both iTunes and Google Play, is easy to use. Entries in the Weight Gurus app can be saved, deleted or transferred to other services like Fitbit or Google Fit. Attractive graphs are available within the app to help track progress over time, in addition to the many fitness tracking features available in the other compatible services. Some users report issues with Fitbit compatibility, but it seems this has been resolved by an update to the app.
Overall, this is a very attractive and accurate scale with a feature set that dwarfs most others in this price range. Our testing showed consistent results, and the multiple different fitness tracking apps make it extremely easy to monitor progress and spot potential outliers or bad readings and remove them from the data set. Combine that with excellent customer service, and you have yourself a winner.
The weighing process takes no more than five seconds which is better than most, but it can be finicky. In our testing the results are consistent over time, but there are a number of things that can throw it off. A couple of things to keep an eye on: 1) the surface its on; 2) your distribution of weight (must be perfectly centered); 3) how much water you've consumed that day and when; 4) if you are wearing any metallic jewelry.
To get the most accurate readings be sure the scale is on a hard flat surface, your weight is perfectly centered with your feet lined up on the sensors, and any metal jewelry is removed. As with all BIA scales, you should weight yourself at the same time of day every day, preferably on an empty stomach. If you drink a lot of water before weighing, this can throw off the reading. All these variables remaining constant, we received mostly accurate readings over time with this scale.
The best part about Fitbit tracking is that even if you get an inaccurate reading from time to time, the data is all stored online and outliers can be removed to maintain a consistent trend. At the end of the day, it’s the long term trend that matters the most and not day to day fluctuations. Aria automatically syncs to your Fitbit dashboard at each weigh-in making it very easy to stay on track and keep yourself motivated.
On a whole, this is a very well designed scale with a nice feature set, but ease of use and the Fitbit fitness tracking apps are where it excels. While it is relatively expensive compared to competing scales, this is still a good value for those who value simplicity.
You needn’t tap the scale to use it like some others. You step on, and in a few seconds you’ll be provided with the measurements. Your measurements can then be synced to the smartphone app via bluetooth, although this is sometimes easier said than done. Some users report issues with the bluetooth connectivity.
Concurrently, the app could use some enhancements. There are a few grammatical errors, making it clear that this is a foreign product that was not properly translated to English. It also does not connect to any other fitness tracking apps like Fitbit or Apple Health (yet).
One key concern among many buyers is security. A while back, some of the more tech savvy users discovered that the app had access to a wide range of sensitive information on the phone, including call logs and photos. The concerns were heard and the app has since been updated, but it's worth mentioning.
In terms of accuracy, this scale is above average in our testing. Readings appear mostly accurate but can fluctuate slightly from day to day. Weight readings are very consistent, but most other readings can bounce around a bit. Still, it is feature packed, attractive looking, and provides good accuracy for the price.
The fact that this scale takes readings from both the hands and the feet eliminates some of the inaccuracies that occur with feet only measurements, since some people carry more fat in different parts of the body.This scale is very directionally accurate (it can track small changes in body fat up or down), but there are no options for configuring your specific body type, and it uses assumptions based on your age and gender to do the calculations. This means some users, particularly those with less common body types, may see inaccurate results depending on a number of factors. Unfortunately, you cannot change the settings to accommodate for this. This body composition monitor is really meant for fitness athletes who need a high degree of accuracy when tracking body fat changes.
In our testing, after the initial setup is complete this scale provides very consistent results over time. There are some limitations as always, but it is one of the more accurate body fat scales on the market today. That said, the price is also quite a bit higher than many other scales, especially considering it does not have bluetooth connectivity or a mobile app to help track progress. This makes it a good fit for athletes or fitness competitors, but possibly not for more casual users.
The readings are at the same accuracy level you’d get at a professional fitness center, making it a good scale for professional fitness athletes. Nonetheless, amateurs might not value this level of accuracy considering the high price tag.
Like other Tanita body composition monitors, it uses Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA), which is acknowledged as one of the most accessible and reliable methods of screening body fat. The difference between this device and some of the lower cost scales on the market is the ability to measure different segments of the body independently. Typically body fat scales only take readings from the feet, which can lead to inaccurate results depending on a number of factors. That is not the case with the Tanita BC-558.
Overall, this is one of the most accurate body composition monitors you can buy and is best suited for professionals or those who are willing to spend 10x for that accuracy. For recreational users your money may be better spent on a lower cost scale that offers features like bluetooth connectivity and fitness tracking.
What Are Some Common Problems of Bad Scales?
A bad scale not only hurts your pocket, it may also have a negative effect on your health especially if it is dishing out inaccurate measurements or readings. Here are some of the common problems of bad scales:
- More sensitive to changes and movement. This means you need to stand correctly and right smack in the middle just to get an accurate reading.
- Frequent calibration is required. This means adjusting the reading by a knob or slider so the reading isn’t above or below zero.
- If the scale is electric, a blown fuse is often the problem. If there is no display on the screen, this is likely the issue.
- If your scale is battery operated, the terminals may be bent or not making sufficient contact with the battery.
- Bad scales are often the result of poor craftsmanship or substandard manufacturing procedures. Always go for scales from reputable brands; you may end up spending a bit more but you are more likely to get the best value for your hard-earned buck.
Losing Body Fat Through Diet
Diet is the key to that slim figure you’ve always dreamed of, and by choosing the right food and consuming it in sensible proportions you are guaranteed to lose body fat. In order to shed excess weight and keep it from coming back, concentrate on making certain dietary choices which you can maintain for life. However, this does not necessarily mean foregoing your favorite foods – you can fit occasional treats into your meal plan.
- Consume less calories than what your body needs to burn for energy. You will lose about 1 pound of body fat for every 3,500 caloric deficit you create. Calorie intake varies widely, but for moderately active individuals, dieticians from Harvard Medical School suggest multiplying your weight by 15 to calculate daily expenditure. So if you weigh 155 pounds, you are likely burning 2,325 calories daily and will lose approximately 1 pound each week by consuming 1,825 calories per day.
- Go for whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates. Based on a study published in 2010 in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” this switch can reduce visceral fat in your belly by up to ten percent. Try to refrain from eating breads, pastas, tortillas and other food stuff made with white flour, and choose those made with brown rice, whole wheat, spelt and quinoa instead.
- Substitute monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats for saturated and trans fats, which are likely to cause weight gain. Saturated fats mostly come from animal products like meat, butter and cheese, while trans fats are found in baked goods and processed snack foods sometimes labeled as ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.’ For healthy unsaturated fats, choose avocados, canola oil, nuts and olives.
- For every meal, try to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables that are high in dietary fiber but low in calories. Fiber slows down digestion so you feel full a lot longer and you don’t crave for more food.
- Avoid diet sodas. Based on a review published in 2010 in the “Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine,” diet sodas have been linked to weight gain because they contain artificial sweeteners, which can trigger sugar cravings and tease you to seek out unhealthy foods. Drink plain water instead, and if you need a bit of flavor, simply add a few drops of lemon or lime.
Health Reasons for Losing Body Fat
Aside from improved appearance, experts note that losing 5 to 10 percent of your body fat offers several health benefits including the following:
A Healthier Weight. Excess body fat tends to put more strain on the heart and puts you at higher risk of health problems like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and cardiac arrest. Research has shown that for most people, losing 5 percent of body fat is enough to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and also help in lowering blood pressure. Maintaining your ideal weight can result in improved body image and greater self-esteem while also being healthy on the inside.
A Boost in Energy Level. Bear in mind that the more fat you have, the faster you get exhausted and feel the need for an energy boost. After a healthy fat-loss plan, your body will become more energy efficient so you feel much better through the course of the day. In addition, you get to save money since you won’t be needing to buy energy drinks.
Less Stress. Exercise is an excellent way to relieve stress. Combine it with a fat-loss plan that is focused on sensible eating and fitness, not just fads that tend to go out of style in a couple of years. This means you simply need to put in the work and not deal with all the confusion caused by conflicting information and consistently changing diet and fitness trends.
Better sleep and improved brain function. Fat loss through exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. It can also improve brain function through improved blood circulation and more efficient delivery of essential nutrients needed by brain cells. Moreover, if you exercise regularly, you will feel the need to rest, thereby making it more likely to experience better sleep.
Better Cardio Conditioning. Excess body weight will hold you back from the weights room and engaging in sports and fitness activities, such as a hike with friends and family. You’ll need energy to play an entire game and go the distance. It’s more likely that you will get tired easily and therefore quit faster when you are carrying around excess weight than you would otherwise if you have less body fat.
Improved Strength and Endurance. The less excess body fat you have, the more repetitions you can perform with heavier weight to continue building muscle and increasing both strength and endurance. The more body fat you carry around, the weaker you’ll feel and the faster you get tired. Consequently, you will only be able to complete less work; you may not even be able to do enough repetitions of certain exercises to achieve an optimal training stimulus to develop muscle mass and strength. This means the time you spend in the weights room is not as effective and worthwhile as it could have been if you were leaner.
Losing only 5 percent of your body fat may not sound much but it could mean that you are on your way to dropping dress size and looking better and feeling more energetic. Aside from the health benefits mentioned above, it has also been proven that weight loss can improve blood sugar control, mobility and breathing, while reducing aches and pains, the need for regular medication, and the risk of sudden death from cardiac disease, stroke or certain types of cancers.
People who have lost 5 to 10 percent of their body fat report significant improvements in quality of life which indicates that weight loss will also have a huge impact on emotional health. When it comes to weight loss, many tend to be hard on themselves and won’t be happy until they lose three or four times the necessary amount to start seeing a difference. However, it is very important to be realistic about your weight loss goals and the amount of time needed to achieve them. Do not ignore small losses as these are very important and should motivate you to lose more weight.