Body Fat Percentage
Body Fat Percentage - Definition
Body fat percentage is the amount of fat tissue in your body as a percentage of total body weight. So if you weigh 180 pounds and have 36 pounds of fat, your body fat percent is 20 percent.
Why Body Fat Percentage Matters
Percentage of body fat is important for 2 reasons. First, the higher the percentage of fat above average levels, the higher the health risk for weight-related illness, like heart disease, high blood pressure, gallstones, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and certain cancers. Second, the higher the body fat percentage the fewer calories you need to maintain your weight (or gain weight).
Body Fat Percentage in Men and Women
Men carry less body fat than women. Body fat percentage in an average healthy woman is about 17-27 percent. In a man, the average body fat percentage is 10-20 percent.
Body Fat Percentage in Athletes
Athletes typically have significantly lower body fat. For example, body fat percentages of about 20 percent for fit women, and 10 percent for fit men are not uncommon.
Body Fat Percentage Generally Increases with Weight Gain
For average people, weight-gain equals fat-gain. Our body fat increases while our lean tissue or muscle remains fairly constant. So for most people, body fat percentage increases with every pound of weight gained.
Body Fat Percentage and Weight Loss
In general, whenever you reduce weight by following a sensible weight loss diet, you lose mostly body fat. Even though you also lose some lean tissue (muscle), you lose a lot more fat. So your body fat percentage will reduce. However, if you fast, or try a fad diet, or use weight loss pills, most of your weight loss may be water-only. So your body fat percentage will stay virtually unchanged.
Body Fat Percentage and Repeated Dieting
Repeated dieting involving weight loss then weight gain then weight loss etc. (weight-cycling) tends to increase our body fat percentage. Because when we lose weight we also lose some muscle, but when we regain weight this muscle is not replaced. Result? We have increased our fat and decreased our muscle thus raising our body fat percentage. Another reason why it is important to exercise when dieting, in order to reduce muscle loss.
Normal Body Fat Percentage
A certain amount of fat is essential for energy reserves, bodily functions and body protection. However, at present there is no definite guidelines on healthy body fat percentage. Here are three differing guidelines for healthy or normal body fat percentages.
1. Body Fat Guidelines from American Council on Exercise
2. Body Fat Guidelines from American Dietetics Association
3. Age-Related Healthy Body Fat Guidelines
Body Fat Distribution
Where your excess body fat is distributed is as important than the amount of body fat you have. Recent studies have shown that extra fat around the waist means a higher risk for developing ill-health than fat carried on the thighs and buttocks.
Measuring Body Fat Percentage
Body fat can be measured using simple skin-fold callipers, although it's best to be measured by a trained person. Measurements of skin-fold thickness (the amount of fat just under the skin) are taken at the upper-arm, upper-back, lower-back, stomach and upper thigh. These fat-measurements are then averaged and put into a formula to determine the total body fat percentage.
Bioelectrical impedance involves sending a small electrical signal through the body. The more muscle a person has, the more water their body is able to hold. The greater amount of water in a person's body, the easier it is for the current to pass through, the more fat present in a person's body, more resistance is blocking the signal. Bioelectrical impedance can be quite accurate but the results are affected by intake of food, body temperature and water intake.
DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry)
The DEXA machine measures bone density. However, it can also measure body fat percentage. It uses a body scanner and two low-dose x-rays to read bone mass and soft tissue mass. From start to finish, it takes about 10-20 minutes to do a body scan. It offers a high degree of precision in measuring body fat percentage but the process is expensive. See if your insurance company will cover the cost which is upwards of $100 or more.
Sources include: American Council on Exercise, American Dietetics Association
Vegetarian Diet Information
Vegetarianism is a healthy option and vegetarian
diets can be perfectly healthy eating plans but care should be taken to
ensure optimum nutrition. So, whether following an ovo-lacto or other
type of vegetarian food plan, or vegan diet, for a healthy body and weight
make it a balanced eating plan and take regular exercise. Always consult
a doctor before beginning a weight loss diet or new fitness routine.