Body fat percentage is the percentage of fat you have in your body in relation to your total weight shown in a percentage.
Body fat is a good way of judging body composition so you can find out which areas of your body you are holding more fat and where you need to focus on when training. For instance, some people might have a healthy or low body fat percentage in their torso and a high body fat percentage in their arms.
By highlighting them, they can adjust their training and do more arm specific exercises.
Body fat is made up of essential body fat that your body needs to function properly and storage fat.
Body fat is important as it controls your body temperature, stores vitamins, acts as an energy store, protects your organs and cushions your joints.
Men need at least 2-5% essential fats and women need at least 10-13% essential fats. The average body fat percentage for women is between 25 and 31%, anything above this is considered unhealthy. The average body fat percentage for men is between 18 and 24%, anything above is considered unhealthy.
Athletes tend to have much lower body fat percentages, however, it completely depends on what sport you do. Some sports require a higher body fat percentage, whereas others such as long distance running require a much lower body fat percentage.
Males and females will hold body fat in different areas, men typically in the gut and women around the hips, thighs and arms. Women also tend to have a much higher body fat percentage than men.
Dangers of having a high body fat percentage
Having a high body fat percentage can affect how efficiently your body functions. The more dangerous fat is visceral fat which found around the organs, which is essentially poisoning them.
Being overweight and having a high body fat percentage that is too high can lead to a higher risk of certain health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Body fat measurements are a more accurate way of judging health and body composition compared to just using weight or BMI as a guide. This is because BMI doesn’t take into account the amount of muscle someone can have, so you can have a very muscular low weight person who may be considered obese on the BMI scale.
With body fat percentage, a skinny person who weighs less might have more body fat than a more muscular person who weighs more.
How to measure your body fat percentage?
Body fat percentage can be used to set realistic weight loss goals.
However, you shouldn’t just rely on one measurement, it’s best to look at the whole picture and take other things into consideration.
Most gyms will have a tanita scale which will give you an idea of your body fat. This will also give you an indication of your visceral fat, hydration levels, muscle lean tissue mass (how much muscle you have).
A more accurate way to measure body fat is to use callipers to measure skin folds.
How to reduce your body fat percentage
Ways of lowering body fat are to combine a regular exercise routine with a healthy eating plan. Especially if you remain sedentary for most of your day, e.g. an office worker.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is good for lowering your body fat as it will burner a high amount of calories (e.g. doing circuits).
If you want to lower your body fat percentage you should eat a diet that consists of high protein, moderate to low carbs and moderate (good) fats.