10 Nov What’s the Ideal Level of Body Fat?
A very common question is “what’s the ideal level of body fat?”
Well, it really depends on your goals, but a high level of body fat can be linked to many major diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, among others.
You probably already know what a major epidemic obesity is and that the incidence continues to rise, which is really amazing considering we know more about health and nutrition today, than we ever have.
Men are considered ‘obese’ is their body fat levels are 30% or greater, while obesity for women is considered 35% or greater.
So, what’s considered lean?
Consider competitive bodybuilders can get as low as 3-4% in men and 8-9% for women. That’s incredibly lean.
While this is “healthier” than being obese, it’s very hard to sustain that level and probably not the most optimal, in terms of total health.
Also take note that low body fat levels are more damaging for women, as compared to men.
This is because of the negative effects of estrogen, in which can low body fat can cause problems with the reproductive systems, which ultimately can lead to decreased bone density and eventually osteoporosis.
You should also know that there is a “healthy” level of body fat that should be maintained in both men and women for peak health.
Getting back to the question of what is the ideal level of body fat, the main thing should be the progression from baseline measurements.
If you want to get to a certain, realistic number, you first have to know your starting point.
Measuring body fat can be challenging and there are many different methods to assess, some better than others.
Keep in mind, none are really 100% accurate, but it is important to measure in a consistent manner.
So, if you take your first measurements with skinfold calipers, continue with the same method, with the same tester, using the same protocol each time.
Consistency is the key.
Let’s talk about the “average” person.
The average man should have around 17% body fat, while the average women should have around 23% body fat, but this increases with age, of course.
What level will show your six pack abs?
For men, it’s around 9% and for women it’s around 15%. That’s a very lean state, quite a bit lower than the ‘average’ body fat levels.
What’s a realistic goal to lose body fat?
From everything I’ve read and experienced, it appears that a realistic goal of 1/2% per week is realistic and achievable, although faster results may be experienced in some individuals.
For more rapid results, it will take much more focus and effort, but it can be done.
Are there other good measurements to assess?
It looks like waist circumference measurements are another great way to your assess progress.
Since waist measurements have such an impact on your total health, as already mentioned, this is an outstanding, objective measurement for progress.
There is a significant correlation to body fat and waist circumference, obviously.
And because of the increased risk for diseases, you can bet that this is a quick and easy measurement to demonstrate the progress you’re making.
How about BMI (Body Mass Index)?
This is a measurement that I think has very little meaning, quite honestly.
Not only does it NOT tell you anything about your body composition, but the numbers can be extremely inaccurate.
This is because the BMI does not take into account the type of soft tissue you have, whether it’s muscle or fat.
For example, the BMI shows a number based on your height and weight, but let’s say you have a bodybuilder with a lot of muscle mass.
The BMI number could be very high, indicating an obese person and that’s just not the case.
So, the BMI is a number you have to take with a ‘grain of salt’ and, in my opinion, it’s not very valuable.
There are much better objective measurements, as I discussed above.
So, now you know what lean body fat percentages are for men and women.
Your “ideal” body fat should be based on your starting point and your ultimate goals.
You also know what is the most important thing and that is forward progress from your starting point, not so much “hitting the number.”
If you are making 1/2% improvements per week, you’re doing outstanding.
Be clear on what you want, track it, and you’ll get there is due time.
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