Virtually everyone has a standard scale at home. So it's all too easy to lean on how much you weigh as proof that you're on track (or not) with your fitness goals. But the number of pounds flashing on an old-school bathroom scale can't tell us how much of our body is fat as opposed to lean mass. That's where body fat scales come in.
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"Body fat scales are tools to measure aspects of your body composition," explains Marvin Singh, MD, precision medicine expert from the Precisione Clinic in greater San Diego. "They commonly use a method called bioelectrical impedance analysis, which basically sends a weak current through your body to determine your body composition."
Body fat scales have exploded in popularity, which means shoppers now have tons of options to choose from. The bad news is....you have tons of options to choose from. Because they can all look very much alike, selecting the best scale can be confusing. So we've whittled it down to five can't-miss picks.
1. Best Overall: Renpho Bluetooth Body Fat Scale
An all-around winner, Renpho's model measures 13 different metrics, is FDA-certified and allows many popular fitness apps to be synced to the monitor.
You're also able to set up multiple profiles on this comprehensive body composition analyzer, which is perfect for couples who share it.
One of the many happy reviewers noted it is really sturdy, even standing up to rough handling by a toddler. Another called it "the one thing I didn't know I needed."
Weight limit: 396 lbs
Buy it: Walmart.com; Price: $25.99
2. Best on a Budget: Etekcity Body Fat Monitor Scale
If cost and ease of use are your top considerations, look to this brilliant, basic option by Etekcity. It measures BMI, muscle mass and body water while being straightforward to use.
It only connects to your mobile device via Bluetooth, but if that's not a deal-breaker, it's hard to go wrong here. Plus, it's available in two sizes and colors.
Weight limit: 400 lbs
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.99
3. Best Splurge: QardioBase2
The features of this top-tier model measure up to its sleek, upscale look. It tracks BMI, your full body composition and, oh yes, your weight. It then sends all that data to your phone, syncing via either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
It has two special modes, one for pregnancy and another for those who have implanted medical devices. It also accommodates multiple users with auto recognition.
And if you are squeamish about facing actual numbers (hey, we all are sometimes), you can set it to display emojis that convey the situation at hand.
Weight limit: 396 lbs
Buy it: Store.Qardio.com; Price: $149.99
4. Best High-Tech: Withings Body+
A great balance of price and performance, the Body+ tells you all you need to know to make meaningful decisions to improve the state of your body over time. It melds activity data (Bluetooth not required) from third-party apps and expert advice with your stats, so you have a complete picture of where you are, where you need to go and ideas about how to get there.
It has a large surface that's extra resistant to slipping — a boon if you have bigger feet.
Weight limit: 396 lbs
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $80–$99
5. Best Low-Tech: Tanita InnerScan Body Composition Monitor
This well-reviewed pick may not have every last bell and whistle, but it's definitely worthy of consideration if you like your fitness tools straightforward.
It tracks 11 measurements, including visceral fat. Made of tempered glass and transparent foot electrodes, it has a familiar bathroom scale feel. And it relays your analyses in the instinctual way: in red, yellow or green, like a traffic light.
Weight limit: 330 lbs
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $114.99
What to Look for in a Body Fat Scale
As you can see, body fat scales sport an array of features. Many of those boil down to personal preference, says Dr. Singh. "What kind of power source they use, how big it is, whether it has Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capability or not...consider what features really matter to you before making your choice."
Generally speaking, though, Anel Pla, certified personal trainer at Simplexity Fitness in New York City, points to these as key features:
1. Precision Sensors
The most important feature your digital body fat scale must possess is the ability to provide accurate results. This will rely heavily on the sensors.
2. Different Measurement and Date Options
Aside from body fat percentage, some body fat scales can also compute visceral fat (fat that hides in the spaces between the abdominal organs, which can create serious health issues), BMI, bone and muscle mass, water weight and metabolic age, among other measurements.
It's also nice if it enables you to track different goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
3. Usable on Carpet (if You Don't Have Any Hard, Flat Floors)
Many scales don't generally measure effectively when placed on carpet or uneven tile.
4. Simple Instructions
They should be easy to understand, with useful diagrams and advice on how to interpret your results.
5. Ample Profiles
There should be enough profiles (saved sets of individual information) for all household members who will regularly use the scale. A "guest" profile can be handy for visitors.
6. Tempered Glass
It stands up best to humidity, which is important if the scale will be left in a bathroom.
Tips for Using a Body Fat Scale
"Body fat scales provide rough estimates, since the results are influenced by external factors and variables that our bodies go through," notes Pla. "Nevertheless, they still come in handy in tracking your fat loss progress."
Here, she offers a checklist to ensure results are as precise and useful as possible.
- Make sure your feet are bare and clean to ensure good contact with the scale's sensor pads.
- Measure yourself at the same time of day on the same surface (a hard, level floor, unless your scale is specifically made for accuracy on carpeting.)
- Don't eat or drink for four hours beforehand.
- Try to urinate within 30 minutes previous to taking a reading.
- Don't use your scale immediately after waking up, or for 24 hours after excessive exercise or alcohol intake. Your body's water content could be uneven or atypical, which will make the reading unreliable.