Body Fat Percentage: What Gets Measured Gets Managed

Why calculate your body fat percentage on an ongoing basis? To coin a well-used business phrase phrase… “What gets measured gets managed”. And managing your body fat, not just your weight, has so many benefits…

Whether you’re on a weight management program (weight loss or gain), or an athlete, or just determined to take care of your health and well being…

Calculating and controlling your body fat percentage will be at the very heart of your success.

One thing’s for sure…

The Net does NOT need more statistics about the negative consequences of excess body fat. Like our magazines, newspapers and television, it’s littered with them. So… in this article we’ll concentrate on the benefits you can gain from determining your body fat percentage on an ongoing basis, starting with…

Weight Management Programs

Are you on a weight loss or even a weight gainprogram? Calculating your body fat percentage before, during and after is THE most important measurement you can take. Here’s why… Research shows that many fad diets, with little or no exercise can cause a person to lose as much muscle tissue as fat. What’s more…

There is a good chance that this person will return to their pre-diet weight. Only now they gain back more fat and less lean muscle. Essentailly , they are the same weight but they now have a higher body fat percentage and less lean muscle mass. The point to remember is…

Weighing scales will not show any of these changes. Measuring your body fat percentage will. Measure it and you can manage it. If you notice you are losing considerable lean tissue mass as well as fat, you can take appropriate steps to adjust your program.

If you have ever followed a strict exercise and nutrition program you’ll understand what a key role motivation plays. As with any fitness test this is one the most powerful qualities of calculating body fat percentage. Imagine this quick example…

Sam follows a proper exercise and nutrition program. After a month or so of dedication and determination she notices her weight has changed only slightly if at all… Arrgh!

Not getting discouraged Sam has her body fat percentage measured…

Before her program Sam weighed 150lbs with a body fat percentage of 30%. After 6 weeks she weighs 148lbs. But her body fat percentage has dropped to 26%. The result?

Over 6.5lbs of highly-motivating fat loss! And she has gained 4.5lbs of healthy lean muscle. This situation is so common that you should never gauge the success of a weight loss program with the bathroom scales alone.

And it’s exactly the same for someone on weight gain program… only in reverse. In this case any additional weight should come from lean muscle mass. No way to tell that with the bathroom scales. Plus, what if you’re weight stays the same? Maybe you put on 10lbs of muscle while losing 10lbs of fat.

So what other benefits does knowing your body fat percentage give you? Let’s look at the long term picture and consider your…

General Health and Well Being

It would be easy to slip into all the negative consequences of excess body fat here. But let’s stay on a positive track…

Why is calculating your body fat percentage so crucial to general health and successful aging?

Studies are showing that a typical person living in the western world steadily loses muscle and gainsfat starting at age 20. What does that mean exactly?

Well, even if this person maintains a steady weight throughout their life there’s a good chance their body fat percentage is increasing and their lean tissue mass is decreasing.

Traditionally aging and all it’s physical frailties was seen as inevitable. Not any more…

Most gerontologists (gerontology is the science of aging) agree that simple lifestyle changes can have a dramatic effect on the aging process. The loss of functional strength, increase in body fat percentage, decrease in bone density, reduction in flexibility and decline in aerobic power are all under our control.

Sorry for repeating the phrase but it is so important… “What gets measured gets managed“. Measure your body fat percentage regularly and many of the detrimental signs of old age won’t quietly creep up on you.

You’ll be able to see, first hand, the changes occurring in your body and, if you choose, you can do something about it.

Before we move on to optimum body fat percentages and the very best ways to measure it, there’s one more area affected by your body fat percentage…

Athletic Performance

No doubt about it. Excess body fat hinders sport performance.

Granted, outstanding sports men and women come in all shapes and sizes… even within the same sport. But remember, it’s not your weight that matters but your body fat percentage. Here are some of the reasons why…

Excess body fat is related to injury, non adherence to training and overall reduced athletic performance. A high body fat percentage acts as “dead weight” reducing speed and efficiency of movement.

A high body fat percentage is also detrimental to jumping, agility and endurance activities.

Even those athletes who want to gain weight will harm their performance by increasing body fat too much.

Calculate your own body fat percentage and then compare it to other athletes in your sport. It can give you a great indication of whether you could make improvements or not. With that in mind let’s look into…

Your Ideal Body Fat Percentage

The absolute perfect body fat percentage does NOT exist. Age and gender make a big contribution to the ideal value, but most importantly…

Everyone is an individual. Some people might feel and perform better at a higher or lower body fat percentage than others of the same age and sex. And that’s why…

Ranges and guidelines exist. Have a look at the tables below. The first table gives the ideal body fat percentage ranges for the general population. The second table is the average body fat percentage for different athletes. The important thing to remember is…

Anywhere inside the range is good. Staying below the upper limit should be your target but as you’ll soon see lower is not necessarily better.

Body Fat Percentage for The Average Population
Age Up to 30 30-50 50+
Females 14-21% 15-23% 16-25%
Males 9-15% 11-17% 12-19%


Average Body Fat Percentage of Athletes
Sport Male Female Sport Male Female
Baseball 12-15% 12-18% Rowing 6-14% 12-18%
Basketball 6-12% 20-27% Shot Putters 16-20% 20-28%
Body building 5-8% 10-15% Skiing (X country) 7-12% 16-22%
Cycling 5-15% 15-20% Sprinters 8-10% 12-20%
Football (Backs) 9-12% No data Swimming 9-12% 14-24%
Football (Linemen) 15-19% No data Tennis 12-16% 16-24%
Gymnastics 5-12% 10-16% Triathlon 5-12% 10-15%
High/long Jumpers 7-12% 10-18% Volleyball 11-14% 16-25%
Ice/field Hockey 8-15% 12-18% Weightlifters 9-16% No data
Racquetball 8-13% 15-22% Wrestlers 5-16% No data

OK, have you worked out the ideal range for you? Great. You’ve probably already know the risks associated with falling significantly above the upper limit of this range. But what about the lower end of the scale?

Lower is Not Necessarily Better

A certain amount of body fat is vital for the body to function normally and healthy. In fact striving for a body fat percentage that is too low can be dangerous. Here’s why…

Measuring your body fat percentage calculates your TOTAL body fat. This total body fat can be split into 2 categories…

Storage Fat — This consists mainly of fat deposited just under the skin or subcutaneous fat. Storage fat for men and women is fairly similar. For the average man 12% of bodyweight is storage fat and for the average woman 15% of bodyweight is storage fat.

Essential Body Fat — For the body to function normally and healthily a certain amount of body fat is required. This is called essential fat. For women the average amount of essential fat is 12% of bodyweight and for men it is 3%.

Trying to achieve a body fat percentage that is so low it affects your essential fat stores is NOT good for your health.

Some storage fat is also required for good health. It’s used to protect internal organs in the chest and abdomen. So remember…

Aim to stay within the range for age and gender and rest assured you are taking one of the most positive steps to life-long health you can.

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