What Is A Healthy Body Fat Percentage And How To Achieve It
When trying to get healthy or stay healthy, one of the most significant considerations you need to address is your body fat percentage. This calculation should not be confused with your BMI rating, as these are two separate health indicators.
Suppose you have a higher than recommended body fat percentage. In that case, you’re increasing your chances of developing chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes that have often been linked to premature, preventable death.
On the opposite side of the health spectrum, having too little body fat can lead to health issues too. Those with too little body fat can experience problems regulating their glucose, energy storage and release, and cholesterol.
Even though calculating your body fat percentage might not be something you want to do, it is often something you need to do if you want to live a long, healthy, and happy life. If you’re unsure what a healthy body fat percentage is or how to achieve it, you have come to the right place.
In this article, we’re going to help you learn more about body fat percentages and tell you everything you need to know about achieving a healthy body fat percentage.
What Is the Difference Between Body Fat Percentage and Body Mass Index?
Before we can look at what is deemed a healthy body fat percentage, we need to look into the difference between a body fat percentage and a body mass index. Although many people believe a body fat index to be the same as a body fat percentage, this isn’t the case.
Essentially, your body fat percentage measures how much of your body’s weight exists in the form of fat. In contrast, your body mass index is a way to determine if you’re at a healthy weight for your height.
Some people state that you can establish your body fat percentage based on your body mass index. Even though this can be done in some instances, this won’t give you a true reflection of how much fat your body has. It also won’t give you an accurate reading of your overall weight status.
Ultimately, BMI only uses your height and weight and cannot measure your body’s composition. Someone with a healthy body fat percentage can be deemed overweight according to their BMI. For example, a bodybuilder can have a high BMI stating they are overweight, but in actuality, they are healthy based on their body fat percentage.
What Is a Healthy Body Fat Percentage?
Now it’s time to answer the primary question surrounding what a healthy body fat percentage is. You must note that a healthy body fat percentage will depend on numerous factors because what might be a healthy body fat percentage for you won’t be for someone else.
Some of the factors that go into determining a healthy body fat percentage include your genetics, your gender, your age, and if you’re an athlete. Curiously, even though it might be difficult to believe, there is still no uniform standard for what a healthy body fat percentage should be, which is why many medical institutions prefer to use a person’s body mass index as an indicator of their health.
Below we have included a table of what the American Council on Exercise deems a healthy body fat percentage to be for men and women. From the data displayed in the tables, we can see that, on average, a healthy body fat percentage for men is between 18% and 24%. The average healthy body fat percentage is between 25% and 31% for women.
Additionally, the data also shows that if a man has a body fat percentage of between 14% to 17 %, he is fit, but if his body fat percentage is 25% or higher, he is deemed to be obese. In contrast, a woman with a body fat percentage of between 21% to 24% is deemed fit, but if she has a body fat percentage of 32%or higher, she is considered obese.
However, the American Council on Exercise fails to include in their body fat percentage findings how a healthy body fat percentage changes as we age. Fortunately, the Royal College of Nursing in 2015 conducted a study to determine what a healthy body fat percentage is at different ages.
The table shows that a healthy body fat percentage for men and women between the ages of 20 to 39 is between 8% and 20%. In comparison, an unhealthy body fat percentage for this age group is a percentage higher than 25%. For those between 60 and 79 years old, a healthy body fat percentage is between 13% to 25%, while a percentage over 30% is deemed unhealthy.
How To Measure Your Body Fat Percentage
Now that we know what a healthy body fat percentage is, we can look at how you can measure yours. Often you can measure your body fat percentage at home or at the gym, but if you want to be sure, it might be best to see a qualified professional or physician.
Usually, the quickest way to measure your body fat percentage is to use skinfold calipers. This tool will allow you to measure the thickness of your skin and the underlying fat mass, which will give you a solid idea of how much fat you have on your body.
If this option sounds too complex or you would like a more accurate reading, there are other ways to measure if you have a healthy body fat percentage. We have briefly listed the ways below.
- A DEXA scan
- A 3D body scan
- Hydrostatic weighing
- An Electrical Impedance Myography
- Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis
- An Air Displacement Plethysmography
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The Ways You Can Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Body Fat Percentage
Should you have measured your body fat percentage and be unhappy with the reading you got, you likely want to learn more about how you can achieve and maintain a healthy body fat percentage. Below we have discussed a few of the ways you can do this without seeking surgical methods.
You might find it incredibly surprising to learn that although it takes time and dedication, you can easily obtain a healthy body fat percentage. However, the results you see after employing the ways we have spoken about will vary depending on underlying health concerns or conditions.
1. Focus On Nutrition
If you have a strong will, one of the best and easiest ways to achieve a healthy body fat percentage is by focusing on your nutrition. What you eat matters just as much as how much you exercise.
Ideally, your diet needs to include high-quality protein that accounts for approximately 10% to 15% of your daily caloric intake. Additionally, 20% to 30% of your daily diet needs to be foods that provide you with heart-healthy fats, and 55% to 60% of your diet needs to include carbohydrate-rich foods.
It’s recommended that women eat at least 1,200 calories a day while men need a minimum of 1,500 calories a day to keep their metabolism active. You’re more likely to lose body fat and maintain a healthy body fat percentage with a balanced diet. Yet, remember that if you eat too little, you can cause your metabolism to slow down, and this will make your body conserve fat instead of losing it.
2. Maintain A Caloric Balance
In addition to a healthy diet, you need to maintain a caloric balance. To maintain a healthy body fat percentage, you need to ensure that the number of calories you consume roughly equals the same amount you burn daily.
If you want to lose body fat in order to achieve a healthy body fat percentage, you need to be in a caloric deficit. To enter a caloric deficit, you need to burn more calories than you consume daily. If you do this, your body will burn fat stores for energy which will allow you to drop your body fat percentage.
However, should you want to bring your body fat percentage up to achieve a healthy percentage, you need to eat more calories than you burn daily. This will allow excess calories to be stored as fat tissue.
3. Participate In Strength Training
When you want to achieve a healthy body fat percentage or keep your body fat percentage at a healthy level, you need to participate in regular strength training. Participating in strength training will allow you to build and maintain muscle tissue.
While you do strength exercises, you will burn calories, and when your body is at rest, your muscle mass will continue to burn calories. A few of the easiest strength training exercises you can complete include using dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Did you know that a few studies have deduced that those who sleep less are more likely to maintain an unhealthy body fat percentage? If you’re getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, you are at a higher risk of not achieving or maintaining a healthy body fat percentage.
There are numerous ways you can manage how much sleep you get, and we have briefly listed some of them below.
- Exercise regularly
- Adhere to a sleep schedule
- Make sure you get enough sunshine
- Turn off electronics 30 minutes before you go to sleep
5. Manage Your Stress Levels
Although your diet and how much you exercise are important factors in achieving and maintaining a healthy body fat percentage, you also need to manage your stress levels. Unsurprisingly, your body composition has much to do with your mental health and how you handle stress.
If you’re stressed all the time, you increase the amount of cortisol present in your blood. The higher your body’s cortisol levels, the more likely you are to store body fat. Yet, we know it’s impossible to completely erase stress from one’s life which is why you should consider participating in activities that lower stress levels. A few of the best stress-reducing activities you can do include aerobic exercise, yoga, meditation, and deep breathing.
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