Body fat is an essential part of a healthy diet and exercise plan. How body fat is calculated can vary depending on the method used.
Body fat percentage, or body fat mass, measures the amount of excess fat in your body. It’s closely related to body mass index (BMI), the measurement that uses your height and weight to estimate how much body fat you have. But unlike BMI, which can be misleading for people with a muscular build, body fat percentage is a reliable indicator of overall fitness.
Knowing your body fat percentage is an essential tool for health professionals as it can help them diagnose whether you’re at risk for certain diseases or conditions. It’s also useful for people who want to maintain their current weight or even lose weight by helping them set realistic goals based on what their bodies should look like.
What is Body Fat Percentage?
Body fat percentage is the proportion of fat in your body compared to other tissues, such as muscle, bone, and water. Staying within a healthy range is essential for reducing the risk of chronic illnesses and promoting overall health.
How is Body Fat Calculated?
There are several ways to calculate body fat percentage, but the most accurate method is to use specialized equipment that measures the amount of electrical resistance in your body. This technique, known as bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), uses a small electrical current to estimate the distribution of water and fat in your body.
To calculate your body fat percentage, simply enter your weight and height into the calculator below. The results are based on data from over 5,000 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
Other methods of calculating body fat percentage include skinfold measurements and gas chromatography, but these methods are less accurate than BIA.
Hydrostatic weighing is one of the most accurate methods, also known as underwater weighing. This method involves sitting on a scale while completely submerged underwater. Underwater weighing relies on the principle that lean body mass is denser than fat mass and thus sinks in water.
The amount an individual sink is measured and then compared to the weight taken out of the water to determine body density. Density is then used to calculate body fat percentage using a formula. However, this method requires special equipment and is not practical for individuals at home.
There are three main methods used to calculate body fat
The skinfold method, the bioelectrical impedance, and the dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
This is the most common method for measuring body fat percentage. It uses skinfold thickness measurement. You’ll need a skinfold caliper – a device that pinches your skin to measure subcutaneous fat – and knowledge of the skinfold sites on your body. It relies on a person’s weight, height, age, sex, and muscle mass to calculate their body fat percentage.
This method uses a caliper to measure the thickness of a fold of skin at specific points on the body. The measurements are then used in a formula to calculate body fat percentage. Skinfold thickness measurement is less accurate than underwater weighing, but it’s more practical for individuals to do at home.
Body Circumference Measurements:
Similar to the skinfold method, this method uses a tape measure to determine how much your body is made up of fat. Using a tape measure, record the circumference of your waist, wrist, hips, and forearm. Then plug those measurements into an online calculator to estimate your body fat percentage.
Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis:
This method is the easiest way to calculate your body fat percentage at home. You stand on a scale that sends an electric signal through your body to estimate how much of you is muscle and water (lean tissue) and how much is fat. An individual’s body fat is calculated by taking into account their bone density.
The skinfold method is the most common and relies on a person’s weight, height, age, sex, and muscle mass to calculate their body fat percentage. The bioelectrical impedance method uses a person’s blood pressure to measure their body fat percentage. The DXA scan uses X-rays to measure a person’s bone density and then calculates their body fat percentage using equations that take into account bone density.
Calculate Your Body Fat Percentage
To calculate your percent body fat, you will need to take your weight in pounds, divide it by your height in inches, multiply that number by 100%, and then round off to the nearest whole number.
For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and are 5’5″, your calculation would be:
- 150 ÷ 65 = 2.308
- 2.308 × 100% = 230.8
- 230.8 rounded off to the nearest whole number is 231% body fat.
If you’re looking for a more accurate calculation, use the DXA scan or underwater weighing.
Although calculating your body fat percentage can be a helpful way to track your progress, it’s important to note that these methods are not always accurate and should be used as a guide only. It’s best to speak with a health professional about what range is healthy for you and how to achieve and maintain a healthy body fat percentage.
Use the following Body Fat Calculator to measure your body fat percentage:
Different Types of Body Fat
Most people don’t realize that your body fat percentage is essential in how your body looks, feels, and functions. Body fat comprises two types of fat:
- subcutaneous (underneath your skin) and
- visceral (within the abdominal cavity).
Subcutaneous fat is the essential type to maintain because it’s the type that surrounds your vital organs and burns energy when you exercise.
Visceral fat is considered more dangerous because it promotes excess weight gain, increases insulin resistance, and can lead to diabetes and other health issues.
The ideal body fat percentage varies from person to person, but it’s generally accepted that men should have less than 10% body fat, women should have less than 25%, and obese men should have no more than 20%. Obese women should have no more than 30%.
The table below provides a general guideline for what percentage of body fat is healthy for men and women of different ages.
Healthy Range of Body Fat Percent per Age Group
There is no ideal percentage of body fat healthy for everyone, as this varies depending on a person’s sex, age, and muscle mass. However, there are general guidelines for what percentage of body fat is considered healthy for men and women of different ages.
For adult men, 8–19% of body fat is considered healthy, while 21–33% is deemed healthy for adult women. For obese men, 20% or less is recommended, and for obese women, 30% or less is recommended. Remember that these percentages are just general guidelines, and everyone’s body fat percentage should be evaluated individually.
How to Interpret Your Results
The body fat percentage calculator will give you a good estimate of your body fat, but it’s important to understand that there is no “perfect” body fat percentage. Everyone’s ideal body fat percentage is different, and it depends on a variety of factors, including age, gender, muscle mass, and genetics.
For example, men tend to have less body fat than women, and athletes tend to have less body fat than sedentary people.
Generally speaking, a healthy body fat percentage is anything below 25% for men and 32% for women. However, these numbers will vary depending on your age and muscle mass.
If you’re interested in learning more about body fat percentage and how to lower your own, check out this article on How to Lose Belly Fat Overnight.
Factors that can affect your body fat percentage
Factors affecting your body fat percentage include age, muscle mass, and sex. As you get older, your body fat percentage gradually increases. Men generally have more muscle mass than women, which means they have a lower body fat percentage. And finally, sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone also play a role in how much body fat you have.
Body fat percentage is valuable for fitness and health reasons, but it’s not always easy to obtain. There are some simple but fairly accurate measurements you can do yourself. Still, the most precise way to determine your body fat percentage is by having a professional perform a test.
Below are factors that can affect your body fat percentage:
Gender: Men have more muscle mass than women, which usually have lower body fat percentages. Women also carry more fat because of hormones and childbearing needs.
Age: As you age, it’s natural for muscle mass to decrease. This can cause your body fat percentage to increase.
Activity level: The more active you are, the more muscle mass you tend to have. This can help lower body fat percentages. Strength training increases muscle mass, which helps decrease body fat percentages.
Genetics: Body type plays a role in your ideal weight and body composition. If you gain weight easily, you’ll likely have a higher body fat percentage than someone with a naturally lean physique.
Stress levels: Stress raises cortisol levels, leading to increased body fat.
Nutrition: Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps your body maintain a healthy weight and lowers your body fat percentage.
Sleep: Not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain and increased body fat percentage.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome, can increase body fat.
What do the numbers mean, and how do you lose body fat
The body fat percentage is a part of your body composition. In other words, it is the amount of fat you have compared to lean mass (muscle, bone, water, etc.). This is different from your weight, which indicates how heavy you are.
Many people desire a low body fat percentage to give them a lean, athletic look. High body fat percentages are associated with obesity and poor health.
However, there are several issues with using your body fat percentage as a measure of health:
Body fat percentage is not an indicator of health for individuals who do not want to lose weight. For example, if you’re an average weight but have a very high body fat percentage (i.e., ‘skinny fat‘), your health may be at risk. On the other hand, if you’re obese but have a low body fat percentage, your health may also be at risk.
Body fat percentage does not take into account muscle mass. Someone with a high body fat percentage may have a lot of muscle mass and be very healthy. Conversely, someone with a low body fat percentage may have a low muscle mass and be unhealthy.
The ideal body fat percentage varies from person to person. What’s considered healthy for one person may not be beneficial for another.
Therefore, it’s important to remember that your body fat percentage is just one health measure. Many other factors need to be taken into account, such as how you feel, look, and how well you can do everyday activities.
If you’re concerned about your body fat percentage, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor. They can perform several tests to determine how healthy you are.
Ways to reduce body fat
There are many ways to reduce your body fat percentage, but not all are effective or safe. The most important thing is to find something that you can stick with long-term. That means making lifestyle changes rather than following a fad diet. Here are some tips for reducing your body fat percentage:
1. Eat a healthy diet. A balanced diet is vital for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your body fat percentage. Ensure you include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet, and avoid processed foods and sugary drinks.
2. Exercise regularly. Exercise is a great way to burn calories and reduce body fat. It also helps increase muscle mass, which can help you lose weight and decrease your body fat percentage.
3. Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain and increased body fat percentage. Make sure you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
4. Manage stress levels. Stress can raise cortisol levels, which can lead to increased body fat. Try to manage stress with relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.
5. Avoid yo-yo dieting. Repeatedly losing and gaining weight can make it harder to lose body fat in the long run. It’s essential to find a healthy eating and exercise plan that you can stick with for the long term.