BMI vs. Body Fat Percentage: Which is the Better Measure of Progress?

Should you use BMI or body fat percentage to track fitness progress?

Tracking your progress along your health and fitness journey keeps you motivated to continue working towards your goals. Typically, many people focus on weight or BMI alone to track progress, but it has been debated whether Body Mass Index (BMI) or Body Fat Percentage is the superior measure. While both offer insights into your health, progress and physique, their accuracy and relevance vary significantly.

Understanding BMI

BMI is a widely used metric that indicates a person’s health based on their height and weight. It’s a popular choice due to its simplicity, but it has proven to be a flawed measure. 

Simply put, BMI fails to differentiate between muscle and fat, because it’s calculated using body weight. Less fat and more muscle tend to point towards a better level of health; however, BMI can’t tell the difference between the two. 

In some cases this can lead to people with higher muscle mass being miscategorised as overweight or even obese. This is a major limitation, especially for athletes or people who regularly strength train.

It can also be an issue for those who are working towards fat loss goals, as it is possible to shed inches or fat, even if your overall weight remains the same. This is why BMI isn’t the most accurate reflection of health and fitness progress.

Understanding Body Fat Percentage

Body Fat Percentage provides a better understanding of body composition, which can more accurately reflect levels of health and fitness. This metric measures the proportion of fat mass to total body weight. By focusing on fat specifically, it offers a more accurate representation of someone’s true physical condition.

Body Fat Percentage is a better tool for discerning between lean muscle mass and adipose tissue, offering valuable information for tailoring fitness and nutrition plans, and monitoring progress along the way. It can also serve as an indicator to measure risk for potential health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

BMI vs Body Fat Percentage in Health Assessments

While BMI serves as a quick and straightforward metric for population health studies, it falls short when applied to individuals and various body types.

BMI overlooks the distribution of fat in the body, a critical factor in assessing health risks. Two people with the same BMI may have vastly different body compositions, leading to an inaccurate representation of their overall health.

Precision matters, especially when guiding personal fitness journeys and health decisions. Relying solely on BMI may be misleading when it comes to determining your health.

Body Fat Percentage offers a more detailed picture, allowing you to make informed choices about your fitness routine and dietary habits. This measure is particularly useful for those working towards specific fitness goals, such as body recomposition.

For example, two people who are both 165cm tall and weigh 60kg would both have a BMI of 22, which is considered healthy. However, if one of them has 30% body fat and the other has 20% body fat, they have different levels of health risk. Although they have the same BMI, the person with less body fat is healthier and has a lower risk for obesity-related diseases.

Choosing the Right Metric: A Holistic Approach

BMI may be a quick screening tool for potential health risks, but for a deeper dive into body composition, and a more accurate representation of progress, Body Fat Percentage is the superior measure. Pairing these metrics with other health indicators, such as waist circumference, waist to hip ratio and waist to height ratio, creates a well-rounded assessment strategy.

Measuring and tracking progress with Bodymapp allows you to move away from focusing on a singular metric and better understand your body composition and health in detail. The app allows you to complete a 3D body scan using your iPhone and track up to 20 different measures of your body – including body fat percentage, BMR, waist circumference, waist to hip ratio and more. 

Download Bodymapp here to measure your body composition and track your health and fitness progress from the comfort of your own home.