- What exactly is body fat?
- Body fat is a term commonly used in health and fitness. It is a popular topic on the web and in the media. If a doctor recommended that you (or someone you know) lower it, you might be wondering – what is body fat exactly?
- Body fat is a description of body composition. It refers to the part of your body that is made up of fat mass, as opposed to fat-free mass (such as bones, muscles, and organs). While body fat is necessary for body function, too much or too little of it can be dangerous for you.
- Understanding your body composition will give you an idea of how your daily choices are impacting your overall health. If you are on this page, it already confirms that you are dedicated to your wellbeing. Obesity, characterized by high levels of body fat , is a risk factor for heart disease, joint problems and diabetes. Chronic obesity can even reduce your life expectancy. Without actually discerning what is going on beneath the surface, you can only guess what your body is made of. And speculating can only lead to frustration and half-truths.
- How do you measure body fat?
- There are many ways to measure body fat that can vary in cost and accuracy. An easy method that is very inexpensive is to take skinfold measurements. You pinch different parts of your body using calipers, which you can easily find on the web. For better accuracy, you can use your height and size the circumference of certain bodily areas. This will determine your percentage with a simple tape measure and a mathematical formula.
- There are also advanced tools and technologies that can help to assess body composition. These are systems like as bioelectric impedance analysis (handheld or scale) or dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). You can also do underwater density testing. Of the tests above, the DEXA scans offer the most precise analysis.
- What is a good amount of body fat to have?
- It can be difficult to know exactly how much body fat a person is supposed to have. Especially with so many wellness programs like Weight Watchers and South Beach Diet promoting weight loss.
- The truth is, fat is a vital part of the body and humans cannot live without it. It regulates energy production and storage while insulating and protecting your organs. It can help the body adapt to different temperatures and even regulate hormones.
- Essential fat is the minimum percentage of body fat a person must have to survive. This number will vary between males and females. Men only really about need 2-5% body fat, while women require about 8-10% to sustain regular function. However, only having essential body fat levels can be dangerous. It can increase your risk of illness and injuries. You could even experience health issues if maintained extensively.
- A healthy person should have higher ratio of lean body mass to body fat. Exact variants of ‘healthy’ will vary based on a person’s ethnicity, activity levels, and environment. Please see the table below for the various healthy ranges of body fat that are typically found within the population.
Description Men Women Essential fat 2% to 5% 8% to 10% Acceptable 18% to 24% 25% to 31% Obese 25% + 32% + Average American 22% 32% Bodybuilders 3% to 8% 8% to 13% Top athletes 3% to 13% 10% to 18% Athletic individuals 14% to 17% 19% t0 24% Averages by ethnicity Men Women African- American 12%-18% 19%-22% Asian 18%-23% 25%-28% Caucasian 15%-20% 22%-26%
- Bodybuilders tend to attain the lowest percentage of body fat. However, they only achieve such this in the 12 weeks leading up to a competition. During the other times of the year, these physique participants maintain a body composition much closer to the average. Top athletes can also have lower levels of body fat as it can be favorable to their performance. This is especially true in sports such as soccer, basketball, swimming, running, or cycling.
- Body fat references
- It can be difficult to imagine what different levels of body fat may look like. While individual results will vary based on weight distribution and muscle tone , certain traits can define body composition at different stages.
- Below we have compiled a list of various body fat percentages with real-life references so that you can identify the level of leanness you desire.
Goal Men Women Ripped like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan The Barbarian 6% to 8.5% 10%-12% Defined like Ryan Reynolds Or Jessica Biel in Blade Trinity 8% to 10% 14% to 16% Cut enough for the outline of your abs to appear 9% to 13% 15% Optimal athletic performance 13% to 15% 16% to 19% US Armed forces enrolment 18% to 24% 24% to 28% Look and feel good; get compliments from friends and family. Under 19% Under 22%
- Athletic performance may suffer as a person’s body composition gets closer to its essential fat levels. It can also be very challenging to maintain such a physique. Women may experience imbalances that can affect menstruation and fertility if body fat is too low.
- What is the best way to lower body fat?
If your doctor has told you to reduce your
, or you just want to look and feel better, you need the right strategy. Improving your fitness will take time and dedication. It takes the right nutrition, optimistic outlook, and proper support network. See the following suggestions:
- Eat a calorie deficit diet . Overeating is the leading cause of weight gain. Identifying the right amount of calories to be consuming is the first step to getting in shape. It is important to track your daily dietary intake and plan your meals ahead.
- Use nutrient-dense whole foods instead of empty calories to meet your daily nutritional needs. Not all calories are created equally. Eating natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and whole grains can provide many wellness benefits. Nutrient-dense foods are more filling than fast foods and take longer for the body to digest. Plus they provide essential micronutrients not found in processed meals.
- Do regular resistance training . When you strength train with barbells, assisted machines or challenging exercises, you can enhance lean body mass. Muscularity can make a pronounced difference in a person’s shape once their body fat percentage begins to drop. Increasing your muscle mass can speed up metabolism. It can help your continue burning calories even after you complete your workout.
- Incorporate cardio after your workout . The most productive time to include cardiovascular training is right after a workout. After resistance training, the body is the primed for fat burning due to the loss of glucose from the blood and muscles. All forms of cardio are equally effective at creating a deficit to reduce body fat percentage. It simply comes down to preference.
- Reduce your carbohydrate intake . When you deprive your body of carbohydrates , it no longer has access to its preferred energy source. This reduction can force the body to pull energy from stored fat for fuel and can help reduce body fat percentage
- Workout in a fasted state or consider intermittent fasting . Top athletes just looking to lose the last few points train before their first meal of the day. As body fat gets lower, precision of diet and training becomes more significant. Fasted training is an advanced method to get to low levels of body fat, but is beyond the scope of this page. It’s best to discuss this with your health professional before getting started.
- Reducing body fat percentage is not an immediate process. Some studies recommend only losing 0.5lb to 1lb of body weight per week to maintain lean body mass. You can try some of the suggestions above and track your body fat to see how you are doing on a regular basis. Keeping a log of your exercises, cardio, and diet can help you analyze what may (or may not) be working for you.
- Remember to bookmark this page and save it to the home screen of your smartphone or tablet. Using the share feature, you can promote us on social media and help friends and family reach their wellness goals.
- Using the calculator
- The body fat percentage calculator is designed to help you monitor your body fat levels easily.
- Our system is founded on the tape test that is implemented by the US Armed forces for enrolment. It is accurate within a 2% margin of error, with few exceptions. For a precise analysis, you will need a tape measure. You will have to size three different areas of your body: your neck, waist, and hips.
- Step 1 : To begin, select the unit of measurement you prefer. Choose between US units and metric units . You can do this using the tabs at the top of the calculator.
- Step 2 : The first two lines of the calculator require your gender and height . That is, whether you are male or female and how tall you are. Next, you can add the sizing from your measurements.
- Step 3 : It’s best to size the midpoint of your neck and your waist at the base of your rib cage. Measure your hips where you have the most width. Then add those values, respectively, to the last three inputs.
- Step 4 : Your results will be displayed in the top right-hand corner of the calculator.
- Step 5 : Using your baseline measurements you can begin to devise a plan to improve or maintain your fitness. You can return to check your body fat percentage regularly for improvements. It is best to test in a similar state each time. For example, Saturday mornings before breakfast on a weekly or monthly basis would be good.
- To be successful in achieving wellness goals it can be helpful first to visualize a target. Decide what body fat percentage you would like to achieve – and then, work towards it.
- Note: for people that are extremely lean and very muscular, readings may be skewed upwards of 3-5%. Anyone that is very slim and sedentary (desk bound) may get results that will show lower body fat. This is due to their diminished lean body mass.