Why should we know our body fat percentage?
Knowing our body fat percentage, as well as the minimum essential fat percentage can be useful if we are trying to lose weight. Besides knowing how much essential fat we absolutely have to have, we also need to know our lean body mass, the weight of your bones and organs, which is calculated using our height, weight and sex. Adding lean body mass and essential fat, we can find how much extra fat we have and how much weight we can lose without endangering our health. Since our goal is usually losing fat, monitoring our body fat on a body fat percentage chart shows us how successful we are. If most our weight loss efforts are through increased exercise, just checking our weight might not be useful. We might actually gain weight, as muscles are more dense than fat but the result is a slimmer body.
We can be 200 pounds obese person, or we can be 200 pounds lean, very fit muscle-bound athlete. Our 200 pounds can consist of mostly fat, or of pure muscles. Of course, we all prefer that our body consists mostly of muscles, particularly if we are body builders or athletes. Body fat percentage is considered one of the best measurements of a person’s fitness level.
A small percentage of fat is essential for our body to function. We need a certain minimal amount of fat to insulate our tissues and organs and to regulate our body temperature. Fat is also the way our body stores energy. The necessary amount of fat is called essential fat and the minimum percentage for survival is three to five percents in men, and 8-12 percents in women.
Learning how to measure your body fat percentages at home is one of the most economical ways you can determine how much weight and fat to lose. Body fat percentage or the weight of the fat on your body divided by your entire body weight is also one of the best indicators of fitness levels. Body fat percentages describes your body’s composition but does not take into consideration your height. Measure body fat at home with a few simple physical measurements. There are specific measurements for men versus women and most doctors feel that home body weight measurements can be placed to an accuracy of plus or minus three percent.
The easiest way is to grab a tape measure and head to an online site with body fat calculators like HealthStatus. If you have a few extra dollars to spare you can also buy a scale or hand held device that will measure body fat with electrical impedance. Once you have your results you will look at a body fat percentage chart and compare your results with the standards.
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Body fat calculations for men include using a scale that makes use of pounds and a tape measure that uses inches.
To calculate your lean body mass use your waist measurement and exact body weight at (1.082 x weight) – (4.15 x waist.)
To determine body fat percentages versus lean body mass use this formula: body weight – lean body mass x 100 / 150. This will give you a percentage. For example if your body weight is 150 and your lean body mass is 125 you have a body fat percentage of 16.66.
To calculate the body fat for women use a tape measure that uses inches and a scale that uses pounds.
Measure the circumferences of your hips, forearm and hips at their fullest points. Make sure these measurements are in inches.
Calculate your lean body mass from your waist measurement and body weight. For example to find lean body mass (8.98 + 0.732 x weight) – (0.157 x waist) – (0.249 x hips) + wrist measurement in inches / (3.14 + 0.434) x forearm.
If your waist measurement is 28 inches and your weight 128 pounds and your hips are 38 inches, wrist 6 inches and forearm is 9.5 inches you have a lean body mass of 95 pounds. (8.987 + ().732 x 128) – (0.157 x 27) – (0.249 x 38) + (6/3.14) + 0.434 x 9.5). Sounds a bit complicated for women, but if you write everything down you will be able to get a fairly accurate calculation.
To compute your body fat percentage follow this formula: body weight – lean body mass x 100 / body weight or 128 – 95 x 100 / 128 =1.05.
Learning what your body fat percentages are will give you a scale for what your body weight should be and how much fat you have. It will also give you an idea how much muscle mass you have and you will gain a very good idea of what you need to lose or add. This will help you develop an exercise program that will maximize your efforts.
Speaking in general terms the body fat percentage by weight for an average male should fall somewhere in the 2-4% range and for an average woman should fall somewhere in the 10-12% range. These numbers are a little higher for athletes with the average male athlete being between 6-13% and an average female athlete being between 14-20%. Males with over 25% body fat are considered obese and females with over 32% body fat are considered to be obese.
American Council of Fitness developed a table which shows the average body fat percentage in women and men, depending on their level of fitness:
Body Fat Percentage Chart
Women (% fat)
Men (% fat)
|32% plus||25% plus|
For athletes, knowing body fat percentage is an important measure of fitness, as it shows how much fat they replaced with muscles. Most athletes have a particular minimum percentage of body fat as the training goal.