What Percentage of Body Fat is Healthy?
150 lbs… 200 lbs… 300 lbs… it never ends…
For many people around the world, many of us are victims to the number on the scale. We let the number define our level of health and fitness. In reality, however, your weight is not a reliable measure of your health. Rather, it is nothing more than a way that can help you track your progress in situations where your goal is to either gain weight or lose weight. The better way to determine your level of fitness is through understanding your body fat composition.
Your body fat composition is essentially your body’s muscle-fat ratio/breakdown. Body fat composition seeks to understand how much lean muscle tissue you have relative to your level of fat. This is usually measured by looking at body fat percentage.
In this article, we will be covering the frequently asked question of, “what percentage of body fat is healthy?” We will also be going through the following topics so that you can better understand the purpose of looking at body fat percentage, how to determine where you currently are, and how to lower your body fat if that is required.
Here is an overview of the topics in more detail:
- What is Body Fat Percentage?
- What Percentage of Body Fat is Healthy?
- How Can I Determine My Body Fat Percentage?
- Tips for lowering body fat percentage
- Concluding Thoughts
With that being said, let’s get started.
What is Body Fat Percentage?
When it comes to body fat percentage this term can be defined as “the total mass of fat divided by total body mass, multiplied by 100.” Body fat percentage is not only a measure that can be used to indicate your level of health, but it also plays a huge role in allowing you to analyze your body composition.
By neglecting your body fat percentage you could be potentially concealing all your gains you work so hard for at the gym. No one wants to be in a situation where you have muscles but no one can see it because you have a layer of fat covering it. Therefore, from the perspective of a natural lifter, understanding body fat percentage is imperative as it offers you a reference point when formulating a workout and nutrition plan that’s right for you. The key, however, is to figure out where you stand in terms of body fat and more importantly, understanding what percentage of body fat is healthy?
What Percentage of Body Fat is Healthy?
When it comes to what percentage of body fat is healthy it comes down to looking at the ideal/average body fat percentage for men and women. Below you will find a table that outlines the different body fat percentage ranges, the level of athleticism associated with these ranges and whether or not they are for male or female.
As you can see based on the table, a healthy male should have a body fat percentage between 6-18% while a female should be between 14-25% You want to refrain from being in the lower limits where you jeopardize your essential fat (should not be below 5% for males and 13% for females). Comparatively, you want to also refrain from reaching the upper limit of “acceptable” levels of athleticism (24% for men and 31% for women) as this increases the likelihood of going into obese ranges. Below you can see another info-graphic that stresses the ideal body fat ranges for being healthy:
How Can I Determine What my Body Fat % is?
There are numerous ways to determine what your body fat % is. Some of these ways include the following methods:
Method #1: Body Fat Percentage Scale
Getting a body fat percentage scale. I use The Renpho Body Weight Scale and I find it excellent. When paired with the Renpho app you can use the scale to measure your body fat %, skeletal muscle %, fat-free weight, body water, muscle mass, bone mass, and metabolic age. I would also like to address that I am not sponsored by them, I genuinely use this scale all the time and I highly recommend it because it tracks and even graphs your progression which will make it easier to adjust your bulking diet/routine.
Method #2: Compare Through Example
If you don’t have a scale you can always look at examples of others and see what various body fat percentages look like. Keep in mind, however, that everyone stores fat differently so some people may look leaner at a higher body fat percentage than others. This is due to genetics and the natural process of fat-storing unique to every individual. With that being said, here are some body fat percentage examples:
Method #3: Calipers
Calipers have been around for a while (since the 1980s). The best thing about calipers is that you can buy them online for pretty cheap and they are generally accurate in allowing you to measure your body fat percentage quickly and efficiently.
The basic idea of using calipers is that you essentially pinch different areas of your body and use the caliper to determine/measure your body fat percentage. Men will usually pinch and measure areas such as their chest, thighs, and abs while women would measure fat at the triceps, thigh, and Suprailiac (an area that is an inch above the hip bone).
Most calipers come with instructions on how to use them and the process usually takes less than a minute with fairly accurate results. Again, another viable option to consider when looking to determine what your body fat percentage is.
Method #4: MRI or CT Scans
Both magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as well as computerized tomography (CT Scans), are among the most accurate methods of measuring your body fat percentage. Although it is costly, it will give you the best possible information regarding your body fat percentage.
Additionally, using MRI and or CT Scans will provide you with, cross-sectional images of the body as well as the capability to measure intra-abdominal fat. This contributes to the precision and value these recording methods reinforce.
Tips for Lowering Body Fat Percentage
Regardless of what your current body fat percentage is, here are a few things you can do to achieve a healthier body fat percentage.
- Walk outside or on the treadmill for a minimum of 30-45 minutes a day. If you find walking/jogging boring you can try to create a song playlist or listen to an audio-book to make the walk more enjoyable. If you don’t like walking or jogging you can also try to pick up and play a sport in your free time. Options such as pickup basketball, soccer, or cycling are great if you are just starting and looking to do something casually.
- Eat whole foods and clean calories. This includes calories that come from sources of food such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You want to make sure that you avoid processed foods and fast food meals that are dense in calories but lacking in nutritional value.
- Choose a workout program and commit to it! There are loads of workout programs to follow, the key is to be consistent with it! If you aren’t sure where to start, check out our beginners’ workout guide and our best workout routines for men for ideas!
- Avoid liquid calories and soft drinks that contain high calories and sugar content. Consider switching to drinking cold water which increases metabolism and helps with cleaning your system!
- If the situation is extremely severe, consider consulting a doctor or nutritionist to help you develop a unique and individual plan. Sometimes it’s just best to consult with a professional!
- You can also check out our article for 8 effective ways to lose weight and get in shape for additional tips!
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In conclusion, maintaining a body fat percentage within the ideal health ranges will be nothing short of beneficial to you in the long run. Not only will you look better but you will also feel healthier in your day to day activities.
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