Body fat percentage is one thing I’ve thought about a lot recently as I’ve strived to change my body weight and composition. A lot of readers have asked me to share more about body fat and what makes a good body fat percentage, so today I’m sharing more information about body fat!
What is body fat percentage?
Body fat is the amount of fat in your body compared to everything else. Everything else includes your organs, bones, muscles, water, etc.
Body fat percentages vary among men and women because we are built differently to accomplish different goals. Females typically can never achieve the same super low body fat percentages as men.
What is a good body fat percentage?
While many people argue about BMI, body fat percentage tends to be more agreed upon. The body fat percentage chart below is a commonly used body fat percentage chart from the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Women have a higher body fat percentage than men at any given level. Women have to have more fat because of the physiological differences between the sexes. Higher body fat in women accounts for the differences in hormones, breasts, sexual organs, and need to ovulate.
The following chart measuring ideal body fat percentage also includes age which is helpful to many people because we tend to gain body fat as we age.
AccuFitness makes the popular Accu-Measure Body Fat Caliper, that can be used to measure body fat via the skinfold measurement method. This product includes an industry standard body fat percentage chart that also includes ages as you can see.
You can find your body fat percentage and ideal body fat percentage on the chart by selecting your age on the left and then finding your body fat percentage to see if you are lean, ideal, average, or above average.
What do body fat percentages look like?
It’s really hard to tell from a chart what a body fat percentage means when looking at a percentage. The following body fat percentage pictures will give you a better idea of what the numbers mean on an actual person.
Female body fat percentage examples:
Male body fat percentage examples:
How can I measure my body fat percentage?
There are several ways to measure your body fat:
- Skinfold Measurement (Skin Pinch)
- Bioelectrical impedance analysis (Handheld/Scale Body Fat Monitor Device)
- Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (Dexa Scan)
- Height and circumference methods (Measurement Collections)
- Hydrostatic Testing (Underwater Density Test)
The Dexa scan tends to be considered the most accurate but it’s more involved than you probably need. The easiest way to judge body fat is comparison via pictures or using a simple skinfold test.
The easy way to measure your body fat percentage at home is to buy a cheap Accu-Measure Body Fat Caliper and follow the instructions to measure your body fat percentage at home. These measurements are easy to take and will give you a good idea of what your body fat percentage is. Calipers tend to only cost around $5 so it’s also a pretty inexpensive way to measure your body fat.
You can also spend a bit more to get a device that will use bioelectrical impedance analysis to measure body fat. The Omron Body Fat Loss Monitor is a reliable and highly rated way to measure body fat at home using gentle electrical current. It’s usually around $30-$40.
For around $50-$60 you can get a scale that measures both weight and body fat percentage. The EatSmart Precision GetFit Digital Body Fat Scale is a great option for checking and monitoring body fat percentages at home. I’ve owned several EatSmart products and I highly recommend them as a company. Every product I’ve used has lasted for years and gone through a lot of use. Their scales are top notch and well worth the cost.
While there are several different ways to measure body fat percentages, I prefer the skinfold or device method. It’s nice to be able to measure your body fat percentage at home so you can monitor it in private.
My Experience With Body Fat Percentage
Several years ago, on the first leg of my healthy living journey, I had my body fat tested.
My body fat was 43.5%.
I cried. I actually cried even more when I realized I was probably at 50% or more before I started exercising and eating better. I cried because I was almost half fat even after several months of healthy living. I cried because when I weighed 255+ I probably was half fat. I cried because those numbers hurt.
I know body fat isn’t completely accurate. I know it’s even less so when you are just doing the basic measures like an at home machine or a skin fold test instead of the fancy schmancy tests. But this is another number, along with the scale, that gives you an idea of how healthy you are. Several years ago I cried because I wasn’t very healthy at all.
Today I got my body fat tested again. I did it on a whim, hoping for something in the 30 percentages. You know, because I am still over 200 pounds and all.
My body fat today is 31.5%.
That blew me away because I was expecting something much worse! I asked the trainer if he was sure twice and checked out the numbers myself. I was not expecting to see a 2 in the beginning of the number, but all the measurements taken pointed right to it.
For a lot of people that number would be horrific. It’s still not great but it’s something that has improved greatly and will continue to improve. Since I’m not weighing in right now I’m going to use this number as my measurement and hopefully improve it.
Depending on which chart I look at online I fall into either a “Above Average” or “Obese” range of body fat percentages (confusing, right?). I guess there is no standard chart of body fat percentages like there is for the BMI measurement. If there is a standard one used by most people please let me know in the comments. Regardless, I’m so much closer to what I know are healthy numbers!
Man. I’m so glad I did this today. Getting that measurement totally made my day! It’s so awesome to see progress and know I’ve been losing fat and gaining muscle. Win! Win! Win!
What is your body fat percentage?
Do you regularly get your body fat tested? Is it something you track while losing weight? What is your body fat percentage?