Body fat is essential for both the health and appearance of the body. Fat is necessary to maintain vital and reproductive functions. What percentage of body fat is considered healthy for both males and females? Well, after extensive research I am going to tell you the most suitable ranges:
The amount of essential fat is around 2-5% in men and 10-13% in women. A person who exercises will have a lower percentage of fat than one who does less. A healthy body fat percentage is between 9-19% for men and between 14-34% for women.
This data is accurate, but most people do not know the exact amount we should keep in our bodies. In this article, I will explain what the approximate amount of fat should be for each person.
What is body fat?
Body fat is the amount of fatty tissue you have in your body compared to your organs: bones, muscles, tendons: therefore, the body fat percentage is the percentage of your weight that refers only to fat.
This percentage will increase or decrease with the fat you accumulate or lose, depending on the muscle mass you gain or lose. This fat comes from food. It is stored by the body and used as a source of protection and energy.
We all need fat to live, but too much can lead to severe obesity, heart attacks, or type 2 diabetes.
Body fat in women is essential for maintaining healthy reproductive organs and having a regular menstrual cycle. If the body has more body fat, the person can stay alive if they do not have food for a prolonged time. Excess fat can save you, but it can also kill you.
Different types of fat according to their location
This fat is around the vital organs. In excess, it is dangerous and related to the development of diseases such as:
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Insulin resistance.
- Cardiovascular diseases.
This fat is under the skin. Its function is to protect the skeleton and skin. It also cushions the nerves and blood vessels.
This type of fat often accumulates in men’s bellies and women’s buttocks and love handle.
Intramuscular fat is fat that is in the muscle fibers. Compared to the other types of fat, it is low.
How much fat do I have to have?
It is essential to know your body fat percentage, as it gives information about the state of your health. Each person has a different body composition, and some accumulate more fat in some areas than others. However, the amount of muscle you have plays a fundamental role.
An example of this is if you compare 2 people with the same percentage of body fat, but one of them does physical training, and the other does not. At first glance, the one with more muscle will seem to have less fat.
For hormonal reasons, fat accumulates differently in women than in men, and women tend to have more fat. For this reason, women have more enzymes to store fat and less to burn it.
Also, the estrogen that women have activates the fat-storage enzymes, causing them to multiply. On the other hand, they can look thinner, even if they have a higher percentage because the fat is in the buttocks, hips, and breasts.
An overall healthy body fat percentage for women should range from 14-34%.
Body fat percentage for women
15-19% fat: Fitness Models
Due to the lower percentage of body fat, the hips, buttocks, and breasts are less shapely. Fitness and bikini models can be in this category. The separation between the muscles is visible.
20 and 24% fat: Female athlete
This percentage is achieved for most women who do frequent physical training or lead an active life. The separation of the muscles and their definition becomes slightly less evident.
Most female athletes are in this range. There is some abdominal definition, but the arms and legs begin to lose some muscle definition.
25 and 29% fat: Active woman
At this percentage, the curves begin to form in the hips as body fat is more present around the thighs and buttocks. In this range, most of the women will have an active life, their build is not very thin, but they are definitely not overweight.
30% and 34% fat: Normal woman
When women are in this percentage, they start to gain weight. Instead of going to the stomach, fat will begin to show around the thighs, hips, and butt. The thighs and butt will be more rounded and pronounced.
35 and 39% fat: Woman with some excess fat
You will begin to gain a little fat in the face and neck, start to put on weight, and develop a small stomach. Generally, the waist measures more than 81 cm (32 inches) at this level.
40 and 44% fat: Overweight woman
The size of the legs and hips is larger. The waist measures more than 88 centimeters (35 inches).
45% fat and over: Obese woman
The hips are broader than the shoulders. The waist is more than 88 cm (35 inches), and the skin begins to lose its smoothness, and dimples will be noticeable.
It is impossible to give an exact body fat percentage, as there are factors that influence each person. It all depends on what your goal is.
Therefore, the percentage of fat will be higher or lower in other people. However, the ideal is between 18 to 34% body fat.
To reach this percentage, you must keep in mind that your health is key. It is essential to still feel right about your appetite, mood, and libido.
You should watch out if you start to feel bad in any of these aspects during a definition. You should also be aware if your performance starts to drop. This signifies that your fat percentage is not healthy for your body and will not be sustainable over time. If you try to sustain your body fat loss for as long as possible, you may start to suffer from an eating disorder.
The ideal fat percentage for a woman according to age
- 20 to 29 years less than 16%.
- 30 to 39 years less than 17%.
- 40 to 49 years less than 18%.
- 50 to 59 years less than 19%.
- 20 to 29 years: 16% to 19%.
- 30 to 39 years: 17% to 20%.
- 40 to 49 years: 18% to 21%.
- 50 to 59 years: 19% to 22%.
- 20 to 29 years: 20% to 28%.
- 30 to 39 years: 21% to 29%.
- 40 to 49 years: 22% to 30%.
- 50 to 59 years: 23% to 31%.
- 20 to 29 years: 29% to 31%.
- 30 to 39 years: 30% to 32%.
- 40 to 49 years: 31% to 33%.
- 50 to 59 years: 32% to 34%.
- 20 to 29 years: more than 31%.
- 30 to 39 years: more than 32%.
- 40 to 49 years: more than 33%.
- 50 to 59 years: more than 34%.
Consequences of having too much body fat
When there is a large amount of body fat, it can cause health problems, especially if your diet is inadequate and you do not exercise.
A large amount of body fat causes obesity that can lead to diabetes type 2 related to cancer. It also increases the chances of suffering from a stroke.
In addition to this, you can suffer from heart disease, increased blood pressure, and cholesterol due to the high body fat level. When your fat percentage is high, you have a higher risk of developing a chronic disease.
Consequences of low body fat percentage
When there is not enough fat in the body, athletic performance decreases. This problem comes from a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins that your body can only absorb with fat.
You also increase the risk of heart problems, nervous system damage, gastrointestinal problems, organ shrinkage, and negative effects on the immune system.
When you do not have enough fat, you are suffering from a calorie deficit. Your body will start to use muscles for energy which will cause general weakness. Another consequence of having too little body fat is that it can affect your ability to get pregnant.
Tips for reducing body fat
Control the calories you burn
Monitor the calories you burn to start losing body fat. As you consume calories during the day, it is unnecessary to measure and record every single food you eat, but do keep track of them. The important thing is that you consume fewer calories than you burn because otherwise, you will not lose fat.
Here is a calculator that can help you keep track of this.
Eat more protein
Raise the protein intake in your diet. The ideal amount of protein to consume is 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. Protein has a satiating and thermogenic effect that will help you lower your body weight.
Raise caloric expenditure
For some people, it is not easy to reduce the amount of food they eat. If this is you, then you must increase your daily caloric expenditure.
To increase this expenditure, try to spend less time sitting; climb the stairs, walk, clean the house. What you are looking to be is active rather than sedentary, and at the end of the day, caloric expenditure will be increased.
Reduce rest time between sets
Another way to reduce body fat is to reduce the rest time between the sets in your workout. Do bi-sets, supersets, or compound sets to make your training more active.
Lower your carbohydrate intake
Much of the time, it is easier for us to consume carbohydrates instead of fats and proteins. This is because they have a more satiating effect.
To reduce carbohydrates a little, reduce sugar or eliminate bread from your meals so that your calorie count is decreased at the end of the day.
Drink more water
Increase the amount of water you drink daily to help you lose weight. Water is essential because it cleanses the body of toxins and reduces appetite. Drink 1 large glass of water before each meal.
You may be interested in “Why is it important to drink water?“
Don’t diet but change your lifestyle
To have great results, you should not focus on restrictive or temporary diets. Instead, learn to eat better day in day out. Over time the results you get will be permanent.
Sleep more and better
Sleeping helps you reduce body fat; although it is not necessary to sleep 8 hours a day, you should make sure you get enough rest for you. If you do not rest properly, this will affect the results of your diet. Quality of sleep is more important than quantity.
Methods for estimating body fat percentage
There are different ways to calculate body fat percentage:
This is an accurate method. Its margin of error varies between 3 to 5%. To measure your body fat percentage using this device, always do it in the same place and under the same conditions. Take the measurements every 2 weeks to have a precise monitoring system.
Bioelectrical impedance analysis (scale)
This specialist scale uses Bioelectrical Impedance analysis technology. To use it, you stand on it and an electric current passes through one leg to the pelvis and then down the other leg.
According to science, this system uses the theory that fat conducts less electricity than water or muscles in your body. For this reason, when the current has greater resistance, it records it as body fat.
If you want to measure the percentage of fat with this scale, your age, gender, height, and weight are combined to obtain it. However, errors can also occur due to your hydration level, the last time you exercised, what you ate, and when you ate.
Online body fat calculator
Online fat percentage calculators are not very accurate and can often lead you astray.
To use this method, you will have to be in a specialized center. You sit naked on a chair and then are submerged in water. The density of your weight is obtained by being underwater. With this method, you find out your body fat percentage using the Archimedes displacement principle.
With this method, you get an error of about 1%, so it is extremely accurate but must be performed in special facilities.
Calculating the fat percentage at home
Take pictures regularly once a week or every two weeks and look at yourself in the mirror. This is a simple but effective way to know what percentage you have.
Keep in mind that a body fat percentage of 10% in a person who weighs 200lbs will not be the same as one weighing 150lbs since their muscle mass is more considerable.
Weigh yourself daily and take a weekly average.
A mistake we often make is to weigh ourselves once a week. This is because weight can change due to fluid retention, amount of bowel movements, glycogen storage, etc.
For this reason, the ideal way to monitor your weight accurately is to weigh yourself every morning:
Weigh yourself every morning on an empty stomach and after going to the bathroom without clothes.
Then, when you have your daily weight, you take the average over the course of a week. This measurement method will be reliable.
If you see that the weight is decreasing it is because you are losing weight and body fat. Each week measure your waist. Do this with a tape measure, placed just at the level of the navel. If the measurement increases, you are gaining body fat, but if it decreases, you are losing it.
We must do all these methods under the same conditions and at the same time. Ideally, it would be best if you did them in the morning and on the same day of the week.
Calculation of your body fat percentage through BMI
We can also estimate body fat from the body mass index. To calculate it easily, divide weight in kilograms by height squared in meters:
BMI: weight/(height x height).
An example for a person of 1.85cm height and a weight of 82kg the BMI will be:
82/ (1,85 x 1,85) = 23.9
You can use a BMI calculator which can convert height and weight from imperial to metric and then provide the result for you.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has established tables to determine whether a person is overweight or underweight.
- Obesity class III (very severe) BMI 40.00
- Class II obesity (severe) BMI: min. 35.00 max. 39.9
- Obesity class I (moderate) BMI: min. 30 max. 34.9
- Overweight: BMI: min. 25,00 max 29,9
- Normal (ideal weight) BMI: min 18.5 max 24.9
- Light (underweight) BMI: min 17,5 max 18,49.
- Underweight (moderate anorexia) BMI: min 15,50 max 17,40.
- Severe thinness (severe anorexia) BMI: major 15,50.
There is no miracle way to know how much body fat you should have. These are the most accurate ones. To maintain adequate fat, do physical activity and maintain a good diet.
The results depend a lot on the genetics of each person. Some people store fat that is difficult to eliminate in some regions of the body.