Measure body fat, quickly and accurately with the Tanita Scale.

By Greg Shepard
Published: Summer 1998
Body fat measurements are far more important than body weight. It is more indicative of athletic fitness and general health than simply seeing how much you weigh. Most coaches realize this but lack a reliable and/or convenient way to measure body fat. The general public needs more education on the health implications of body fat measurements.

To say “I gained twenty pounds or I lost twenty pounds” can vary widely in supposed benefit to an athlete or non-athlete. If an athlete gained twenty pounds but half of that was fat, that obviously is undesirable. If nineteen pounds of the twenty were lean muscle mass then the benefit should be great. If an overweight-middle-age woman loses twenty pounds but half of that was muscle tissue, then she should not be happy.

Wrestlers, who want to lose weight, desperately need to monitor body fat. The vast majority of wrestlers lose too much muscle tissue when they lose body weight. This is dangerous, ineffective, and counter productive. When a wrestler loses weight, at least 90% should be fat pounds. Weight losses should be closely monitored with body fat measurements. This should provide a distinct advantage over anyone’s competition

How Do You Measure Body Fat?

There are seven different methods to measure body fat. Hydrostatic or underwater weighing is one popular method which is considered accurate. The problem with this method is the cost. It certainly is not practical for high schools or most colleges. Other disadvantages of this system is the hassle of stripping down and submerging yourself in a tank. It is also difficult to administer and takes about 10 minutes to test.

DEXA is another accurate way to test body fat. I had this done on myself to compare the DEXA results with the hydrostatic method and the new Tanita Analyzer. All three were essentially the same. DEXA’s system uses x-rays and is extremely expensive.

Skin calipers are the most popular method because of the cost. They are inexpensive but not very accurate. Another problem is the difficulty of reproducing results. In other words, there can be a wide variance of results between testers or even the same tester.

Ultrasonic systems are accurate and priced right but there is some burden to the subject and moderately difficult to operate. Also, testing cannot be done in under a minute like the new Tanita Scales. The IRI or infrared method has a lower price but has an accuracy problem. BIA or Bio-electrical Impedance Analysis is accurate but has a medium price and cannot be tested in under a minute.

The Tanita Analyzer uses the BIA process which sends a mild electrical current through the body to measure the impedance, or resistance to that current. Biological tissues (muscle, fat, bone connective tissue) act either as conductors of, or insulators to, the current. The current will flow through the path of least resistance. Muscle tissue, which contains about 73% water, acts as a good conductor for the current, while fat tissue, which contains very little water, is an insulator. Therefore, the current will travel around the fat, and through the water in the muscle.
The more fatty the tissue in the body, the harder the current must work to travel around that fat along the muscular structure. In this case, the resistance to the current generates a higher impedance value, which in turn reflects a higher value for body fat. The impedance value is then plugged into an equation (along with height, weight, sex, physical stature) which calculates body density and percent body fat. To ensure a high level of accuracy, this equation is correlated to DEXA (Dual Energy X-RAY Absorptiometry) and underwater weighing (Hydrodensitometry).


The new Tanita Analyzer is now the way to go for high schools and college/pro strength coaches. First, and most important, they are highly accurate when compared to DEXA or underwater weighing. They are also extremely accurate on an immediate retest. Therefore, when another retest is done days or weeks later, you will get a highly accurate difference.

The new Tanita Analyzers are easy to operate by anyone (student aide, or coach). All you do is step barefoot on the Tanita Analyzers and in just a matter of seconds, you get an accurate, reliable body fat measurement.

Here’s what I suggest. For small groups like five or so football players, five or so wrestlers and five or so coaches while measuring body fat about once a month, get the TBF-521 Tanita Analyzer for the best buy. It only costs $299.00.

The TBF-305 Tanita Analyzer is best for larger groups. If whole teams or P.E. classes need to be tested, you need this commercial unit. The cost for TBF-305 Tanita Commercial Analyzer is $2,199.00.

I would recommend keeping both these units under lock and key. Do not leave them out where someone could abuse it or steal it. Call our toll free number 1-800-628-9737 to order or if you have questions.