What is Body Fat Percentage

What’s body fat percentage? Well, it’s pretty self-explanatory – the percentage of the body weight which the fat consists. There is a range for the body fat percentages in which one’s considered healthy and it’s, as follows:

  • Men – the normal healthy range is considered to be 10-20%
  • Women – the normal healthy range is considered to be 18-28%

The part of the body which is not considered fat is said to be lean body mass – it includes not only the muscles but also the water content, the bones, the hair and the other constituents which are not fat.

The most accurate way to measure the body fat percentage – and the easiest one to use – s the caliper method which measures your skin folds and uses these measurements in a specific formula which estimates the BFP.

There are also different formulas which can be used by the general population with one of the most popular being the Jackson and Pollock formula. But remember that if you are using different calipers or different formulas you can get and entirely different result.

The full categorization of body fat percentage

Body fat percentage of 31% in women and 25% of men classifies the person as obese. For acceptable range is considered 25-31% in women and 18-25% in men. To be classified as fit women should have a BFP of 21-24% while men should have a BFP of 14-17%. The athletic category is reserved for those with 14-20% for women and 6-13% for men. The essential fat levels only are below 13% for women and below 2-5% for men.

How to reduce the body fat percentage?

  • Watch out for what you eat
    This is the biggest part of the solution. You should consume all the necessary nutrients while reducing the number of calories consumed. That’s the best way to reduce your body fat percentage. Choose natural unprocessed foods from different sources – nutritious vegetables, good carbs, protein-rich foods and healthy fats.
  • Go for strength training
    When you add resistance training to your training schedule you build stronger muscles and lose body fat. Also, the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn even when you are resting.
  • Move a lot
    Do plenty of exercise, even if it’s simply walking. This way you gain strength, become fitter and improve your health.

Why you shouldn’t be with a too low body fat percentage?

If your body fat percentage falls too low, then problems may begin. But why is that? Well, your body has a certain ‘set points’ – which is a certain body weight range which the body tries to maintain using behavior changes, hormones, hunger and various physiological mechanisms.

The body wants to keep a certain percentage of body fat which allows for proper metabolism (some vitamins, for example, are fat-soluble, which means that they need fat in order to be metabolized), for proper function of the cognition, strength and hormonal and reproductive
function. Once the body fat percentage drops too low the levels of some hormones also drop, the recovery halts as well as the muscle and strength gain.

Why is the body fat percentage useful?

First, it can be used to determine how healthy you are. For example, a body fat percentage of over 31% in women and 25% in men shows that the person is obese and has to lose some fat in order to reduce the risk of certain diseases. And if one’s body fat percentages is under 13% for
women and under 2-5% for men, this indicates that the person probably should eat at least a bit more in order to avoid the negative consequences of having a too low body fat percentage.

You can also use it to determine the fat mass and the lean mass.

The fat mass is determined by doing the following calculation: Weight * body fat percentage

On the other hand, lean mass is equal to: weight – (weight * body fat percentage)

You can’t know for certain, when you are losing or gaining weight, whether the weight is from fat or muscle but you can still use the body fat percentage to keep track of your progress and to determine goals which are realistic. You can also use it to make decisions about your dietary and training schedule – for example, if you start losing lean mass, then you probably need to change something about your nutrition or you may be overtraining.


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