So many people want to lower their body fat percentages. Most call it weight loss, but that is not really accurate as to what most people really want. I mean sure, if you’re 100 pounds or so overweight, you are interested in weight loss. However, what you should really be focusing on is losing fat and gaining muscle, we will discuss why below.
Disclaimer: The following is for educational purposes only. We are not advocating a change in dietary, health or exercise protocols. Please seek the advice or council of your nutritionally educated health care practitioner prior to engaging in any dietary or exercise changes.
What Is Body Fat?
Body fat is energy stored as fatty acids in white cells under the skin, intramuscularly and around the body’s organs. These cells have a near infinite capacity to expand to hold more and more fuel. Body fat also cushions the organs from injury and acts as insulation to help us regulate our body temperature.
Body fat is necessary for these reasons, with the main one being the storage calories that can be used later for fuel when in time of famine or low food supply.
Please remember that when we were developing as humans there were no grocery stores, no corner markets and no Amazon. We had food, then we didn’t, then we had food and we didn’t.
We typically had a little food most days and then on some days we’d find a huge cache of food and gorge ourselves. During this gorging we would put on body fat to save those calories for later when there was no more food for a time.
The reason humans are so dang good at putting on body fat is that those who could put fat on the fastest were the ones that survived.
If you couldn’t store calories very well and so had very low body fat, the next time you had a famine you died, thereby NOT contributing your genes to the gene pool.
Those who were really good at getting fat fast got to survive and donate their genes to our species. This is why today people get obese so easily. You are literally programmed to do it.
Why Do People Need To Carry Body Fat?
There are 3 main reasons people need to carry body fat.
1. To store extra calories for later when there is not enough food, or you need to survive a famine. In days gone by you might have a great harvest or maybe not, maybe this year things were bad, drought, bugs, rot, who knows. Or maybe there was little to no game this week, month or longer. You needed stored calories to survive.
2. To insulate the body from both heat and cold (mostly cold) so that you don’t have to use as much energy for heat, thereby conserving it for life sustaining needs. Hypothermia is no joke. We don’t have fur, so our body’s store fat in layers where needed most to protect you from the elements.
3. To cushion and protect the body and its organs from impacts and vibrations. Life has always been rough. But, in times gone by you had to work with very crude tools in dangerous environments, hunt for food that fought back, protect your family or tribe from other tribes etc. You got beat up a lot and fat is a great cushion to protect you from more serious injuries.
2 questions that people ask which are both basically the same thing, so we will cover them as one topic so that no matter how you phrased your question it will be properly answered for you.
How To Know Your Body Fat Percentage?
What Is My Body Fat Percentage?
These are really questions about how to obtain your body fat percentage. There are numerous tools that you can use to determine your body fat percentage and the best of them are hydrostatic weighing (underwater weighing), body fat calipers and bio impedance devices like body fat scales.
With hydrostatic weighing you’ll need to travel to a facility that does this in your area. Most larger metropolises have a few of them.
You’ll preferably be nude, or they may allow a very minimal garment. You’ll be suspended under water, where you will blow out all of your air and wipe off all the bubbles stuck to your skin.
The weighing is actually determining how much your mass displaced water, much like a ship at sea. They then calculate that VS your dry weight and give you a percentage of body fat.
This type of measurement has a plus or minus error rate of about 2 percent.
When using calipers, you can buy inexpensive calipers and do this at home following some pretty simple instructions or you can go to a Dr’s office or University, and they can do it for you.
Here you are going to use calipers to pinch your skin fat at various sites around the body and then calculate their averages which gives you a body fat percentage.
This method can have varying degrees of accuracy. The main errors come from the clinician themselves. You can have 3 more measurements taken at different offices and get 3 different results.
If you’re going to use calipers, we strongly suggest you just buy a decent pair and do it yourself so that the measurement sites, trigger pressure and other factors are more often than not the same each time.
At best, with a very highly trained specialist or you doing it at home, you can expect about a 2 percent error rate plus or minus. With a bad technician, the error rate can be huge, we’ve seen over 10 percent error rates.
Bio impedance devices like scales have a current sent from one area of the body to another, generally from one foot to the other foot.
It then measures the level the signal that was impeded (stopped or slowed down) and uses that VS your weight to calculate your body fat.
These scales are relatively accurate and are fast and painless. They are many times the best option for home use so that you can track your body fat on a regular basis without having to even leave your house.
They typically have an error rate of plus or minus 2 percent.
Of all the above methods the bio impedance is usually the best for home use on a regular basis to really be able to track your body fat.
Body Fat Percentage Calculator – Which One Is Best?
There are only a couple that you can buy for home use that are both easy to use and reliable. The hydrostatic or underwater weighing is out of the picture for most people because the equipment costs several thousand dollars and requires its own room or area that has wet wash flooring, so you don’t care about the water spillage.
This really leaves two main methods that are reliable, in that they only have a plus or minus error rating of about 2 percent unless used improperly.
Plus, they are not complicated. Well, ok the first one we’ll discuss is a little bit complicated, but once you do it 10 times successfully you should pretty much have it down.
1. Body Fat Calipers – These are the ones you’ve likely seen that pinch your folded skin at several sites around your body and then us a formula to calculate the percentage of body fat.
They have two glaring problems.
(A). Every technician that tests you will come up with different levels of fat. They don’t pinch at the EXACT spots the other guy did and get different readings.
They push down at different pressure levels and speeds, and this changes the readings as well.
(B). The quality of the calipers matters a lot. The little plastic ones you can get for about twenty bucks are a waste of time. They snap in way to tight for the first 50 or so readings and then start to lose their tension and snap in resistance over time which will continually give you bogus readings.
A good grade of medical calipers is several hundred dollars with some of the best ones going into the thousands of dollars for a set.
2. Body Fat Scales – These use bio impedance to measure body fat levels. This is almost always done by sending a small electrical signal up through the bottom of one foot through the body to the bottom of the other foot while you’re being weighed at the same time.
As the signal travels through you it is impeded by fat. I.E. fat blocks the signal. So, less signal returned per pound of body weight equals more fat. This equation is calculated by the onboard processor and delivered in a percentage on the screen.
They are reasonably accurate so long as you get a good name brand and not a knock off made with cheap parts. The sending of the signal is not nearly as important as the receiving and calculation of its impedance.
And that, is where the quality of the parts come into play. Cheap readers give inaccurate measurements. So, go with a highly rated name brand and you should be ok.
The cheaper ones may save you fifty bucks or so, but you’ll never actually know your true body fat percentage.
Body Fat Percentage Scales – Do They Really Work?
The short answer is yes. They work on the bio impedance principal of sending a small signal through your body that is impeded by body fat and the more fat it encounters per pound of your body weight the higher the percentage of body fat.
We strongly suggest that you get a good solid name brand with lots of positive reviews, because the cheaper ones made from inferior parts don’t tend to work so well.
Normal Body Fat Percentage For Women – What Is It?
Women should really keep an eye on their body fat levels because for them, the difference between being borderline healthy and obese is pretty small. For women to have a proper functioning hormonal system a bodyfat range of between 10 per cent and 13 percent is considered optimal. Women ranging above 20 percent are considered health risks and above 31 per cent is considered obese.
Normal Body Fat Percentage For Men – What Is It?
The range of body fat in men that is considered healthy is between 15 per cent and 24 percent. However, we happen to disagree with this as the same studies show that 25 percent body fat as being obese. If obese is VERY unhealthy at 25 percent, how can 24 percent, just one percent lower be considered healthy? Yeah, we though you might think that sounds a little fishy. So, here’s what we did.
We redesigned this to be a lot more accurate as to what is healthy, borderline and just flat out not healthy at all.
For men a body fat of between 10 percent and 17 percent could be considered healthy. 18 percent to 24 percent borderline unhealthy to borderline obese. 25 percent and above is obese and not healthy at all and at risk for many health challenges.
We know this is a little different than the other charts, but according to the research, this is a little more accurate than the other charts where you’re either healthy one minute or obese the next. Makes no sense to us.
How To Lower Your Body Fat Percentage?
There are many ways to do this, the simplest is to eat only vegetables and the leanest cuts of animal meats such as chicken breasts or turkey. Be sure to count your calories so that you are always in a caloric deficit and then exercise on top of that. Do this consistently and you will lose body fat.
This is a very over simplified way of thinking that doesn’t work for most people long term in the real world.
It is a very complex subject with many variables. So many so that we should write a book about it.
Come to think about it, maybe we will!