The Ideal Body Fat Percentage For Men And Women

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The different types and causes of body fat storage

 

Man and Woman With Low Body Fat

One of the most important measurements that you should be taking as you work towards your fitness goals is your body fat percent.

Doing measurements regarding your body fat percent is a far superior option than measuring out your body weight because your body fat percent will indicate whether the weight you’re losing is lean muscle mass or body fat mass.

Since the main goal of all programs should be lose fat mass while keeping all lean muscle mass, this is very important to know. Otherwise, you could wind up in a lot of trouble down the road maintaining your weight loss results.

Furthermore, in some cases an individual will start to gain lean muscle mass when they begin a workout routine so if they’re only using the scale, it will seem as though they’re gaining weight. This can be quite discouraging but in reality, they’re gaining muscle and losing fat, so they’re actually right on track to success.

Having your body fat percent tested will reveal this information.

Let’s take a closer look at what body fat percent means and how you should measure it.

Essential Body Fat And Storage Body Fat

The first thing that you need to note is that there are two main types of body fat, essential fat and storage fat.

Essential fat is the fat that you need to sustain life. It’s the fat that keeps your hormones optimized, provides cushioning for your organs, and keeps your brain running properly. If you get down so low in your body fat percent that you start using up essential fat, you won’t survive.

Storage Fat

Storage body fat on the other hand is the fat that everyone is trying to lose. This is the fat that’s accumulated over the years and is what’s causing you to carry excess weight.

Storage fat is the fat that will also put you at risk for a number of negative health factors, so what you must strive to avoid.

Essential Fat

Essential fat for men is set at 2-5% while essential fat for women is 10-13%. All fat over and above this is then considered storage fat.

The Main Causes of Fat Storage

So what is the main cause of storage fat? Storage fat, which makes up the largest component of your body fat percent for most people is caused by an imbalance in calorie intake versus calorie expenditure.

If you’re seeing an increase in storage fat, this means you’re eating more food each day than you burn off. It will take a calorie imbalance of 3500 calories to create one pound of body fat, so for every pound of excess fat you have, this is how many more calories you’ve consumed.

Therefore, to lose that same one pound of body fat, you’ll have to burn off 3500 calories more than you take in that day.

The Ideal Body Fat Percentage For Men

Low Body Fat

Low Body Fat

When looking at the ideal body fat percentage for men, it depends on your goals. If you’re an intense athlete in training, it’s going to make sense that you’d want to carry a little less fat on your body so your performance isn’t impacted.

For athletic males, 6-13% body fat is considered ideal. Depending on the sport, you may be at the higher or lower range.

For those who are just concerned with maintaining a good level of fitness, a slightly higher range is ideal coming in at 14-17% body fat percent.

The average healthy body fat percentage for men who are not all that active but do want to prevent health problems is 18-24%. Beyond 24%, that’s where you’ll start seeing health repercussions and start being classified as overweight and obese.

The Ideal Body Fat Percentage For Women

Looking at the female side of things, since females do require more essential body fat, they’ll have slightly higher body fat percent values.

For the athletic female who’s looking to optimize performance, she’ll want to be within the 14-20% body fat range.

If she’s simply just into fitness and works out regularly, then the 21-24% range is considered ideal.

For those who are simply looking to stay health and would describe themselves as more ‘average’, they’ll want to have a body fat percent reading that falls within 25-31%.

Beyond 31%, that’s where you’re running into the health problems that males do when they get past 24%. You can see the difference in percent levels right there – females can safely maintain a slightly higher body fat and still be considered healthy.

How To Measure Body Fat Levels

Measuring Body Fat

Measuring Body Fat

Now that you understand the importance of knowing your body fat percent, how should you measure it?

The best technique will be a full body scan, however this is only available in the hospital environment. As far as accuracy is concerned though, it’s the absolute best.

Another good technique is with skin callipers, which is where someone will pinch the skin and measure how thick it is in millimeters. This is then put into an equation and you’re giving an approximate value for what your body fat percent is.

This technique does tend to be fairly accurate as long as you have the same person checking over time so the technique is held constant.

Finally, you can measure it with electronic hand held scales, but I would recommend against these. They can be highly swayed by your current water balance and therefore don’t prove to be accurate at all.

So there you have the main things to remember about your body fat percent. You should aim to check your body fat percent every 4-6 weeks throughout your training program as this is about the time it will take to see a noticeable difference due to the efforts you’re putting in with your diet and workout.

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