No number is an absolute picture of your own health. How you treat your body and mind are frequently better signs of your overall health and well-being.
It is easy to believe that fat is the enemy of fit. However, your journey towards more elevated health and fitness requires knowing how much body fat you should aim for, how it is distributed across the body, and why healthy fats are necessary for your diet.
Sure, we live in a time and age where doctors and other specialists need to utilize charts, data, and other measurements to build a standard definition of health. That’s why your doctor or healthcare provider will frequently chart your body mass index, or BMI, during regular physicals.
While BMI and distinct measurements, such as body fat percentage, do serve a purpose, it’s also essential to recollect that moving your body and making purposeful decisions about the foods you eat also add to your overall health.
With that in mind, consider BMI and body fat percentage as just one way to evaluate and monitor your weight and overall body composition.
Why Do Women Have a Higher Body Fat Percentage Than Men?
For a healthy body, women require a higher fat percentage than men. The reason they require more fat includes the following:
- They require this fat for ovulation and uterine protection.
- Breast tissue consists largely of fat.
For men, the fat is largely stored in the abdomen. Abdominal fat (also known as belly fat) is considered bad fat. Therefore, the lower fat percentages for men apply.
What Causes Excess Body Fat?
The energy – or calories – our body requires comes from what we eat and drink. With calories, our body runs on a supply and demand rule.
If the food you consume supplies the demand your body has from movement and daily activities, all the calories will be turned into the energy you need. But, if you supply your body with more calories than it really needs, those excess calories will be stored in fat cells.
If this stored fat is not transformed into energy later, it produces excess body fat.
Healthy eating doesn’t just suggest reducing stored fat. After all, lower body fat percentage can also create problems, such as osteoporosis. That’s why you should consult a health professional about how to boost your body fat percentage healthily.
But I Don’t Look Fat
Fat can be stored under the skin or throughout your internal organs, so it may not always be evident when you look in the mirror.
A person can seem fit and even be in a healthy weight for their height. However, she could be stocking a high level of body fat and that could be a health hazard.
Regular practice of a Tanita monitor will help you to trace your body fat percentage over time. You can then compare your body fat results against the healthy body fat ranges and make improvements to your diet and fitness regime if you need to.
What is the Ideal Body Fat Percentage for Women?
When you first use a Tanita monitor, it supplies you with a wealth of data about your body composition. This includes muscle mass, BMI, and body fat percentage. This can help you on your quest for a healthier, fitter lifestyle.
One of the measurements you might want to consider is body fat percentage. Once you understand what this is about, you might ask yourself: What is the ideal body fat percentage?
The healthy range varies depending on your age, but for women, it is 21 – 36%. If your body fat percentage is greater than the healthy range indicated, you may want to work towards subduing it as part of your health and fitness program.
Methods of Calculating Your Body Fat Percentage
When it gets to working out, eating healthy, or losing weight, the old scale in the bathroom is not the most reliable way to evaluate your progress towards your fitness goals.
If you are serious about gaining control over your body and health, body composition analysis is much more efficient. The insight and features into your personal requirements. Strengths, and weaknesses will help you establish the appropriate goals and achieve results more quickly.
Use a Skinfold Caliper
When you stand in front of the mirror and press at your love handles, that’s primarily the “skinfold” method of estimating body fat percentage.
On your waist, press your fat with your fingers and measure the density with a body fat caliper. Reading in millimeters, match your measurement to a proper chart with age and gender to learn your body fat percentage.
This technique is highly reliable when measuring is performed skillfully. You can also do this often to measure if you’re progressing towards your fitness aims. Plus, it’s cheap.
For best results, have a fitness expert measure you!
For a more high-tech and modern method, try Dexa Scan.
It is completely based on a three-prong strategy that distinguishes body mineral, fat-free soft (lean) mass, and fat tissue mass.
Do you want to identify precisely where the donuts are going? DEXA Scan performs a total body fat distribution analysis. It’ll show exactly how fat is dispersed in the different parts of your body.
The Dexa Scan is deemed to have the most comprehensive and accurate report on your body fat percentage. It can be costly, but you won’t get those sorts of details any other way.
Cut out the measuring tape! The anthropometric way of measuring body fat percentage is practiced by the U.S. Navy.
It uses the circumference measurements for waist, neck, and height for men and hips, neck, and height for women. Then utilizing the U.S. Navy Method calculator, you can enter your measurements to determine your body fat percentage. This approach is slightly less accurate but is cheap and simple to do yourself.
How to Calculate Your Body Fat Percentage
Body fat percentage is the rate of your weight that is made of fat. It comprises both storage body fat and essential body fat.
There are various ways to measure your body fat percentage, including bioelectrical impedance examination, skin-fold methods, and other methods that have to do with measuring the circumference of several body parts.
Here’s a way to calculate your body fat using only your scale and a calculator:
Step 1: Identify the recommended body fat percentile ranges
You must first study the variables like body class, heredity, age, activity, and gender. For example, the scope for a healthy body fat percentage in women leads is higher than that of men, as women require more body fat.
A specific amount of fat is essential for bodily functions. It controls your body temperature, protects organs and tissues, and helps store energy. So it’s essential to possess neither too much nor too little body fat.
Other health experts note the following age-adjusted body fat percentile instructions:
- 20-40 yrs old: Underfat: below 8% Healthy: 8-19%, Overweight: 19-25%, Obese: higher than 25%
- 41-60 yrs old: Underfat: below 11%, Healthy: 11-22%, Overweight: 22-27%, Obese: higher than27%
- 61-79 yrs old: Underfat: under 13%, Healthy: 13-25%, Overweight: 25-30%, Obese: higher than 30%
Step 2: Weigh yourself
Track your body weight as accurately as possible.
Various scales frequently give different numbers. And depending on the time of day you scale yourself, your numbers may differ.
Try weighing yourself on the same scale at about the same time of day over a few days to achieve an average of your body weight.
Step 3: Measure your body mass index (BMI)
You can simply measure your BMI by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches, squared, and then multiplying by a conversion factor of 703.
Using the example of a 150-pound person who is five feet five inches (or 65 inches), the computation would look like this:
[150 ÷ (65)²] x 703 = 24.96
Step 4: Calculate your body fat percentage
According to research printed in the British Journal of Nutrition in 1991, if you are an adult, your body fat percentage can be determined with skin-fold measurements and bioelectrical experiments using the following gender-based formulas in combination with your BMI:
- Body Fat Percentage = (1.20 x BMI) + (0.23 x Age) – 16.2
This computation has been presented to slightly exceed body fat percentage in people who are overweight. Use your BMI result from Step 3 and incorporate it to the above-written formula to measure your body fat percentage.
Step 5: Link your body fat percentage to the percentiles noted in Step 1
After determining how to measure body fat percentage, take a moment to compare the results you got in Step 1 and Step 4.
Analyzing your results with these numbers should provide you with solid evidence of how close or how far you may be from your perfect body fat percentage.
If your BMI or body fat percentage is greater than what you want it to be, a slight shift in your lifestyle or workout cycle can make a huge difference. Having the right equipment also improves the results to help you obtain the body you want.
Not All Fat is the Same
While bad fats can destroy your diet and increase the risk of certain diseases, good fats protect your brain and heart. In fact, healthy fats, such as omega 3s, are essential to your physical and emotional well-being.
Understanding how to incorporate more healthy fat in your diet can help boost your mood, improve your well-being, and even slim down your waistline.
However, if you want to reduce fat in your diet, you need to be precise. “Lite” or “light” products in the supermarket may just be substituting the fat with sugar.
How to Attain a Lower Body Fat Percentage
Despite what you may believe, the most important distinction between 7% and 20% body fat isn’t your workout. It’s your diet.
The difference boils down to eating to perform better and eating to look better.
Imagine a fat guy with a 7% body fat percentage. He may be reducing specific macronutrients, like being Paleo with no carbs, and is clearly paying very close attention to what he consumes.
Meanwhile, someone with a 10% to 12% body fat percentage is in continuous flux. Some weeks his body is at 9% fat, others it is at 12% body fat. He might be doing a cheat meal, but not certainly a cheat day.
Someone at 15% body fat is surely having a cheat day. He’s paying attention and performing specific decisions. No fried foods, burgers without the bun, and no lucky break room pastries. But he’s not uber health-conscious.
It all boils down to whatever your priorities are: Do you really want to go out and have a beer with your friends once a week and look pretty good? Or do you want to restrict the places and things you can eat but look insanely ripped?
The aesthetics are very, very important for several people—and that’s fine. But for others, the perspective of looking good and enjoying a few indulgences in life is more beneficial.
When you want to achieve a certain body fat percentage, consider the kind of lifestyle you are willing to commit. At 20% of body fat, you might go and have half a pizza. At 15% of body fat, you’ll certainly have one or two slices. And at 8% of body fat, you seemingly just sniff the pizza and eat your salad.
Before you try calculating your body fat percentage, let’s first go back to what healthy, approved body fat percentile ranges for women look like.
Calculating your personal percentage will be insignificant if you don’t have a clue where you currently stand.
- 20-40 yrs old: Underfat: below 8%, Healthy: 8-19%, Overweight: 19-25%, Obese: above 25%
- 41-60 yrs old: Underfat: below 11%, Healthy: 11-22%, Overweight: 22-27%, Obese: above 25%
- 61-79 yrs old: Underfat: below 13%, Healthy: 13-25%, Overweight: 25-30%, Obese: above 30%
These recommendations show that as you age, your adequate body fat within these ranges grows.
Why? Because the same measurement method, which includes measuring skinfolds, is done for the young and old.
The chart above displays the hypotheses that older people tend to possess a lower body mass for the same skinfold measurements. To get more accurate, Marc Perry of BUILTLEAN, points out that specific types of fat (like subcutaneous fat) frequently do not progress. On the other hand, the volume of intramuscular fat a person has tends to increase over time.
Physical activity is another major variable that affects healthy body fat guidelines. In general, highly active individuals demand a greater percentage of “essential” body fat to keep up the energy their body regularly needs.
When to Talk with a Pro
Checking your body fat percentage is one method to measure progress when you’re trying to drop weight or gain lean muscle mass. But there is more to maintaining excellent health than that.
Eating healthy and being active is where you need to direct your energy.
If you have any issues or concerns about your BMI or body fat percentage, consider discussing with your doctor, a certified personal trainer, or registered dietitian. They can help you understand your individual results and work with you to design a plan that meets your needs.
How to Find One
There are several methods to look for a certified personal trainer or registered dietitian in your area.
First, make a call to all local gyms and ask about the credentials of their trainers. You may want to look for instructors with certifications such as:
- NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association)
- ACE (American Council on Exercise)
- ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine)
- NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine)
Bonus if they hold a college degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or sports medicine.
You can also find trainers through the websites of the certifying organizations. For example, ACE owns a section on its website that enables you to search for trainers in your area.
If you want to work with a dietitian, the most essential credential to look for after their name is RD, which stands for a registered dietitian. Numerous RDs will also have some other credentials that show further training and expertise.
Similar to ACE, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a device that enables you to search for a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Frequently Asked Questions About Body Fat Percentage
At what body fat percentage do abs show?
There is no one answer that fits all. But on average, men need 17% body fat while 14-24% body fat is recommended for women.
What is the best approach to overcome body fat?
Avoid sugars and trans fats, have enough sleep, train regularly, and manage your stress.
Can you calculate and keep track of your body fat percentage with the Tanita body structure scales?
The Tanita body composition monitors are absolutely capable of measuring and keeping track of your body fat percentage. It can also help you to achieve your goal.
BMI and body fat measurements are two ways you can use to evaluate your body weight and composition.
But while they can give some helpful baseline data, they shouldn’t be the main focus when it gets to improving your well-being. Consuming nourishing foods, staying hydrated, exercising, and caring for your mental and spiritual health all perform a critical part in shaping your journey to better health.