Tools to Test if You Are Overly Fat or Underweight

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Sports dietitians have many ways to assess body fat, but also there are several ways to gauge how lean you are on your own.

BMI Calculator

You may remember the old height and weight tables, which have pretty much fallen by the wayside. Now, the new gold standard used by public health officials is the body mass index (BMI calculator).

The body mass index is correlated to body fat in most normal-weight individuals but is not the best for extremely fit athletes. However, because it does not directly measure fat mass or lean mass, it is not as sensitive as other body fat measuring tools, such as bioelectric impedance, skinfold measures, or underwater weighing. In addition, the BMI has no indication of where the fat is. Is it subcutaneous, visceral, or primarily in the thighs and butt? As an athlete, you can use the BMI as a general guide, but don't consider it your best predictor of body composition.

Body mass index can be calculated using pounds and inches:

For example, a 174.5-pound, 6-foot male has a BMI of 23.6: (174.5 x

weight in pounds x 703

height in inches2

Percent

Percent Body

Percent

Body Fat

Fat African

Body Fat

BMI

Assessment

White

American

Asian

<18.5

Underweight

21

20

25

18.5-24.9

Normal

33

32

40

25-29.9

Overweight

NA

NA

NA

30 and above

Obese

39

41

41

Source: CDC and AJCN Dec 11, 2005; www.cdc.gov/NCCDPHP/DNPA/BMI/bmi-adult.htm

Source: CDC and AJCN Dec 11, 2005; www.cdc.gov/NCCDPHP/DNPA/BMI/bmi-adult.htm

Following are some examples of BMI scores for athletes from various sports. As you can see, athletes come in all sizes and shapes. However, despite wide differences in height and weight, virtually all the athletes fall between 18 and 25, which is considered normal or healthy. You will find endurance athletes at the lower end of normal and ball sport athletes at the higher end. Use this as a guide when evaluating your BMI and your body.

Athlete

Height/Weight

BMI

Landon Donovan, USA Soccer

5' 8"/148

22.5

Lance Armstrong, USA Cycling

5' 10"/158

22.7

Levi Leipheimer, USA Cycling

5' 7"/136

21.3

Shaquille O'Neal, NBA

7' 1"/325

31.6

Tom Brady, NFL

6' 4"/225

27.4

Deena Kastor, USA Track and Field

5' 4"/104

17.8

Meb Keflezighi USA Track and Field

5' 7"/127

19.9

Dan Browne, USA Track and Field

5' 9"/145

21.4

Jen Rhines, USA Track and Field

5' 3"/105

18.6

Michael Phelps, USA Swimming

6' 4"/195

23.7

Katie Smith, WNBA

5' 11"/174

24.3

Derek Jeter, MLB

6' 3"/195

24.4

Tiger Woods, PGA

6' 1"/185

24.4

Hunter Kemper, USA Triathlon

6' 3"/167

20.9

Serena Williams, USTA

5' 9"/139

20.5

Kristin Armstrong, USA Cycling

5' 6"/126

Waist measurements are becoming the new best predictor of risk for developing heart disease and diabetes. The waist measurement is indirectly assessing the amount of visceral or deep belly fat you have. This fat is dan gerous because it is most closely linked with high blood pressure, abnormal blood lipids, insulin resistance, and inflammation. In fact, elevated waist circumference is fast becoming one of the best predictors for overall health and well being.

Researchers at St. Luke's Roosevelt Obesity Research Center in New York City and Canadian researchers have reported that waist cutoffs correspond to increased risk for disease. These studies were used among nonathletes, so these values are a general guide.

Waist Circumference Male Female

Normal <35 <31

Overly fat 35-42 31-40

Waist circumference and not body mass index explains obesity-related health risk. To measure your waist, a tape measure should be snug horizontally around the level of the top of your iliac crest (hip bones), where your waist would be narrowest. Take the measurement as you exhale a normal breath. For men, waist circumference should be less than or equal to 35 inches. Women should strive for a waist circumference of up to 31 inches.

Pounds per Inch

In the 1970s and 1980s, a few formulas were developed to provide a crude calculation of ideal body weight. The Devine formula is one of those. This obviously would not work for power lifters or elite marathoners, but for the average runner, triathlete, swimmer, or ball sport athlete, it's a good place to start. Just don't use this as a gold standard to assess your body composition.

Women: 100 pounds for 5 feet, and 5 pounds for every inch thereafter.

A 5-foot, 7-inch woman would have a 135-pound ideal body weight. Men: 110 pounds for 5 feet, and 5 pounds for every additional inch. A 6-foot man would have a 170-pound ideal body weight.

Pinch and Inch

This is an old standby that may seem unscientific but may have some merit. Using your thumb and index finger, if you can pinch more than an inch of subcutaneous fat in your belly, you're overly fat.

THE EVER-EXPANDING MLB, NFL, AND NBA BALLPLAYERS: XL TO XXXL

There has been an incredible increase in the heights and weights of high school, collegiate, and professional football, basketball, and baseball players. While some of the increases may be due, in part, to designer drugs, diet also has played a role in the larger-than-life sizes of many pro athletes. The downside to this increased girth is that research suggests that many pro football players are, well, fat.

This is a sign also that you may be apple-shaped, and therefore at increased risk of heart disease and diabetes due to excess abdominal fat, which is known to increase risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic inflammation.

_subcutaneous inches in hand (1-1.5 inches is normal;

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