What is a Healthy Body Fat Percentage?

Athletic couple jogging together outdoors

We all want to look good and feel our best, which often starts with a healthy body fat percentage. In fact, of the many great reasons to exercise regularly, this is likely to be at the top of the list right above “eating like a teenager” and “sleeping like a bear.” 

And you’ll notice we didn’t say “sleeping like a baby,” since waking up crying every two-hours just isn’t such a good thing…

In all seriousness, body fat is usually the first thing we want to get rid of when we start an exercise program. However, is there such a thing as too little body fat, and how do you calculate what you do have?

Better yet, what is the ideal body fat percentage, and is it the same for all genders and activity levels?

Ah, so many questions to answer—let’s get started!

Too Fat, Too Thin or Just Right?

Okay, just to contradict the conventional wisdom of the vain: yes, you CAN be too thin. In fact, despite how much we demonize fat, it is nonetheless an essential macronutrient and part of good health, and not enough of it can lead to:

  • Low energy levels
  • Low testosterone in men
  • Irregular menstruation in women
  • Increased risk of cardiac arrest
  • Weakened immune system
  • Loss of bone density
  • Poor mental function

Other dangers include complications from anorexia and depletion of muscle mass—not to mention that being too skinny really isn’t all that attractive. 

Of course, if you’re a woman whose body body fat is over 31% or a man whose body body fat is over 24%, for the sake of your health you need to slim down. 

And no, this isn’t mere a matter of vanity, since being overweight can lead to:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Insulin resistance along with the increased risk of type II diabetes
  • Increased risk for some cancers
  • High blood pressure
  • Low energy
  • Sleep apnea
  • Poor self esteem

Finding the Sweet Spot

Controlling your BMI (body mass index) may take discipline and a few lifestyle changes, though it is worth it. Not only is fat essential to your immune system, heart health and energy levels, it comprises around 60% of your brain. Not only does this mean that the term “Fathead” is actually a compliment, it also means that you need fat for a healthy brain function. 

However, what is your ideal body fat percentage, and how do you calculate body fat?

Let’s start with how old you are, your activity levels and your gender. 

For instance, if you are a female athlete, your ideal body fat percentage should fall somewhere between 13-20%. For male athletes, this would be around 6-13%.

For both genders, acceptable body fat percentage goes up by around 1-2% per decade, though no matter the age, over 25% in men or 32% in women is still obese. 

How to Calculate Body Fat

Of course, knowing what a healthy body fat percentage is does little good if you don’t know how to calculate it, so let’s have a look at some common ways of doing so. 

First, there is the most common method, which is BMI calculation. This involves dividing your weight by your height in inches squared

Better yet? Leave the math to the mathletes, and instead go here to simply plug your numbers in and have technology do things for you (oh yeah!). 

However, BMI isn’t the most accurate measure since it doesn’t differentiate between the weight of muscle, fat and bone. For instance, a bodybuilder may have a very low percentage of body fat, yet register as “obese” due to their increased muscle mass. Likewise, pregnant women, “large boned” people and the elderly will likely have inaccurate readings when using this method.

Instead, skinfold calipers or simply trying to “pinch and inch” around your middle are adequate methods of giving you an idea of your body fat percentage, though more accurate equipment should ideally be used.

This includes: 

  • Hydrostatic weighing
  • 3-D body scanners
  • Air displacement (bod pod)  
  • X-ray 

However, these either require a visit to a facility with the equipment or a VERY large investment on your part. Even so, this doesn’t mean making an appointment to have your body fat accurately measured isn’t worth it. 

Counting Your Calories, Fat, Protein and Carbs

Of course, the best way to maintain a healthy body fat percentage is through diet and exercise, although in our busy modern world eating right can sometimes be tough.

The answer?

EatRiteFoods puts both the nutrition AND the convenience into your eating! 

With plenty of healthy, great tasting options including gluten-free and paleo-friendly meals, we are here to provide you with just the right amount of carbs, proteins, fats and calories you need to look and feel your best. 

And, our meals feature disclosure of all calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat so that there is no guesswork on your part. 

Plus, the more you order, the more you save, and you have the option of picking up at either of our 2 convenient locations or calling us for delivery.

When it comes to keeping things easy, tasty, nutritious and lean, EatRite Foods has your back!

Become a member and start eating right!
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