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What exactly is Body Fat Percentage? It is not what you think it is.


What exactly is Body Fat Percentage? It is not what you think it is.


My Weight Loss Book Shelf

I don’t know if you have noticed but I have been quiet lately.

That is because I have been feeling guilty of the gravity of misinformation that is increasing on the internet every day.

Therefore, I have been reading all these weight loss / fat loss diet books like a maniac to bring you legit information on all health things that deserve your attention.

Have you wondered: How much fat you may be carrying? What is body fat percentage? Why does it matter? What is the ideal body fat percentage? How can you calculate, and better, track it for yourself?

Third is one serious question every fitness enthusiast needs answered. Desperately.

Well now, I am going to break the ice around these questions. After days of staring onto my laptop screen, and burning my eyes reading all those books out, I finally have your answers.

So, here in this post, I’ll tell you all that you need to know about body fat percentage and why it even matters.

Warning: Beware of the conscious self realization, that may haunt you while you are under process of reading the post.


What Is Body Fat Percentage?

Body Fat Percentage amounts to the quantity of fat in your body, relative to everything else your body’s comprised of. Here ‘everything’ could be defined as your organs, muscles, tendons, bones, water and so on…

Does Body Fat Percentage Differ From Male To Female?

Yes it does. The percentage of fat in a male and a female body differs significantly. Women have a higher body fat percentage compared to men [1]. Reasons are generic. Just because they’re different. Simple.

To talk of instance.

  • A terrifically ripped male bodybuilder working out to minimize the body fat percentage, would reach to a value as low as 3-4%. While a terrifically ripped female bodybuilder would be able to minimize her body fat percentage to as low as 8-9%.
  • To compare a male and a female athlete, the former could be in just the apt shape with the lowest body fat percentage of 10% and the latter would be possessing somewhat 18-20% of body fat with the exact level of athleticism.
  • Light at the other end of this tunnel shows how different a male with 30% body fat looks compared to his female counterpart with the same level of body fat percentage(30%).
  • A male if tries, will reduce to his essential fat percentage with a figure as low as 2-4%. Whereas a woman will have her essential fat percentage lowered to nothing more than 10-12%.
  • A fit male will have 14-17% body fat percentage. Whereas a fit woman will have 21-24%.
  • A well acceptable range for males could be restrained to 18-25% of body fat percentage. Correlating with the fairer sex, the amount would bracket somewhere between 25-31%.
  • For obese men and women this percentage level is somewhat 26%+ and 32%+ respectively.

Now you may consider these above statistics, to may be just confirm the body type you fall in.

What Is The Exact Body Fat Percentage, To Acquire The Desired Body Type?

Well to answer that you dare not skip the following:

  • For Coveted Six Pack: 8-11% for men and 15-17% of total body fat percentage has to be maintained by women to possess a pack of unbeatable six abs.
  • For Optimal Athletic performance: Men should aim to depreciate their level of fat percentage to as low as 15%. Whereas women should workout enough to minimize their fat percentage to 20%.
  • For The Sake of Good Looks: Well do not let anybody say you’re just a pretty face. Show them the hard work you did to get down to a fat percentage level of 18% all you men. Girls aren’t any less. Ladies you maintain 20-23% range to maintain that already cute looking face 😉
  • Only if You Wish to Look Healthy: In this case, both the genders must blindly follow the Fitness Range of body fat percentage discussed above.
  • Ladies may consider this: If you’re concerned about menstruation and fertility, I think you shouldn’t be reducing your body fat percentage to anything lower than 15%.

Having said that, it is also important here to realize the value of body fat. Fat protects your internal organs and behaves as a supplier of energy, which is useful during tough times. It is also essential to understand what ‘Essential Fats’ are all about. The minimal amount of fats required by the body to carry on its functions properly, is known as Essential fats. Anything lower than this would result in something as dangerous as organ failure or worse. Crossing the upper end of acceptable or obese range should be considered as a warning to decrease your fat percentage.

How To Calculate Body Fat Percentage?

Probably this has to be the most awaited question of this article. Well, this is the most appropriate time to feed your gray matter with the 11 ways of calculating the body fat percentage of your body. All of these methods vary on the basis of accuracy and cost.

  1. Click a Pic: Keep clicking your pictures while you tread your way towards reducing body fat percentage. Obviously clicking pictures isn’t shedding your body fat :P. It will only give you an approximate comparison. Apart from a good camera, you’d require a trained eye as well. This method does not reflect exact results, but get a somewhat fair idea if you click your pictures after a significantly passed on time.
  2. Pick a Caliper: You may find calipers easily available from some local druggist. All you got to do is, stretch a fat from your body muscle and clip this caliper there. Note the measurement and look out for it on a chart in order to calculate your body fat percentage. Talking experience, I believe these calipers give an undervalued figure for your body fat percentage. Some 2-3% lesser value than your actual fat percentage. But having said that, I think using calipers is a super awesome method, at least considering how cheap it costs. The results may according to the gender if you use calipers [2].
  3. Measuring Instruments: This method calculates your body fat using measuring instruments. It has been seen to overestimate the body fat percentage.
  4. Body Fat Scales and Monitors: This method involves an electric current to pass through your body and uses bio-metrical impedance analysis. I think this method is horribly unreliable, because it gives exactly false results. As it is the amount of water in our body drastically adjusts the value of result.
  5. Bod Pod: Well this method uses air displacement to measure your body mass, volume, and density. It may be accurate, but it prompts you to involve hefty amount of money. You may as well get it done at a Bod Pod location. This however can said to be the best method.
  6. Water Displacement: Even though very accurate, this method surely involves a butt paining session. Since its accurate, this method is very expensive.
  7. DEXA Scanning: This method is absolutely the most accurate of them all. It requires you to lay down on an X-ray table where you go through a full dual X-ray. It lasts for about 10 minutes. Money could pose hindrances in getting this method executed. It is very expensive.
  8. Eat a Diet Rich in Caloric Deficiencies: Burn more calories than you consume is the ultimate result of this. If you’re not strength and eating a lot of carbohydrates, you may just lose body muscle too along wit fat, but this will help you lose body fat for sure.
  9. Lift Heavy Things: When you strength train yourself or perform intensive training, you lose a lot body fat without losing the muscle mass. This as well helps you push your metabolism into an “afterburner”, where you may burn extra calories even after having done your workout. The same afterburner effect is experienced while doing sprints as well.
  10. Consume Less Than 100 gm of Carbohydrates Per day: Refraining yourself from carbohydrates will starve your body off starch which the carbohydrates become when consumed [3]. So now the body will fuel itself with starch from the fat storage. Thereby reducing the body fact percentage.
  11. Fasted State: Strength training empty stomach helps. A crucial tip proclaims, you do not eat food until after your morning workout session

PAY ATTENTION: It is of utmost importance to learn that while you’re undergoing a check of your body fat percentage, you do it under the same conditions every time. For instance, on a Monday morning, without having eaten anything etc. This way, even if you do not get the exact results, you will at least get consistent incorrect results. You can this way, at least know the amount of fat percentage you have lost from the precious time, and therefore realize the amount you’d need to shed.

I’m sure you’ve realized the amount of hard work that goes in for topics like this. And after all that, the entire data to be collated in a post like this, is quite a task. Hopefully, I’ve covered all the obvious questions in the article, but if you have anything else left unanswered, you’re free to pen them down in the comments’ section. Others may please oblige me by liking and sharing this post 😀

[1] Blaak E (2001). Gender differences in fat metabolism. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 4 (6), 499-502 PMID:11706283. ^Back to Top^

[2] Marc P. McRae. Male and female differences in variability with estimating body fat composition using skinfold calipers. PMCID: PMC3206567. ^Back to Top^

[3] Adam-Perrot A, Clifton P, & Brouns F (2006). Low-carbohydrate diets: nutritional and physiological aspects. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 7 (1), 49-58 PMID: 16436102. ^Back to Top^

Last Updated: May 17, 2014

Next Scheduled Update:  July 17, 2014

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