What are the Appropriate Body Fat Levels?

18th September 2019
Body fat levels are the amount of fat stored in your body’s tissues. Do you know how to measure this percentage? Remember these levels vary according to your height and weight.

If you want to have defined muscles, controlling your body fat levels becomes very important for achieving these results. Now, what are the right body fat percentages for men and women?

In many sports disciplines, reducing body fat levels is extremely important for those who want to become professional athletes. This is because reducing your body fat levels usually translates into an improvement in performance.

However, reducing body fat levels can also be a goal for a person who doesn’t have competitive purposes. With many fitness trends all over, everyone seeks to improve their appearance and have defined muscles by reducing this percentage of body fat. Do you know how to achieve it and how healthy is it?

Reducing your levels to define muscles

First of all, it’s appropriate to underline that body fat levels have to do with the body mass index -BMI- but are not fully determined by it. BMI is the relationship between height and weight of a person.

However, two individuals may have this index on the same level but have a very different body composition. In other words, what one person weighs in muscle, another can weigh in fat.

Having made this important clarification, we can talk about the optimal percentages of fat that an athlete should have in their body. In general, the body fat percentage of an athlete should be between 12 percent and 19 percent. Nevertheless, there are certain differences between men and women that we’ll explain later on.

how to keep approrpiate body fat levels
Knowing your BMI is the first step in planning a personalized diet

How to measure your BMI and percentage

The only way to properly measure your body fat percentage is through bioimpedance. Basically, bioimpedance consists of sending undetectable electrical impulses through the body of an individual to locate the fat-free body mass.

How does bioimpedance works? This method works because the fluids present in the bones, muscles and blood vessels carry electricity better than lipids. In a person with higher levels, electric impulses will take a little longer to move from one electrode to another.

Therefore, with this simple measurement, a professional can obtain detailed information about the composition of a patient’s body. However, there are analog calibrators that are usually much more reliable than certain electronic devices.

Optimal body fat levels in men

Ideally, the body fat levels of a healthy man should be between 12 and 14 percent. However, if the body fat levels are between 15 and 19 percent, it’s still considered within the healthy average.

If you have a higher percentage, given that it is less than 40 percent, it’s not a serious problem either. While there will be some extra fat, this wouldn’t really affect a person’s well-being, although it does expose them to certain diseases. If 40 percent of body fat is exceeded, health risks increase and action must be taken.

On the other hand, an athlete’s body fat levels usually range between 6 and 12 percent, with defined bodies. However, if a man’s levels are under 5 percent, this person needs to increase this percentage in order to fulfill physiological functions.

Body fat levels vary in women

In women, the equation varies a lot: women’s body composition is different. Due to physiological functions -especially during maternity- their body fat levels are higher. In addition, hormonal production, mainly estrogen, contributes to fat storage.

bmi percentage
The most effective way of reducing your body fat levels is through exercise, aerobic training, and diet.

Normal levels range from 20 to 25 percent, although a percentage of body fat that ranges from 17 to 19 percent corresponds to a fit woman. Meanwhile, those who achieve greater muscle definition are women who have between 14 and 17 percent body fat.

Unlike men, women’s lower body fat percentage limit is 10 percent, although having such a low percentage could alter physiological processes such as the menstrual cycle. In relation to the maximum numbers, these are located at 26 percent for moderate overweight and 45 percent for obesity. As we well know, this condition carries significant health risks.

In conclusion, these levels vary from person to person. The key to a healthy body is keeping balance. It’s okay to try to reduce body fat to feel better and progress in sports, but this shouldn’t be an obsession.

  • J.R.. Alvero-Cruza, L.. Correas Gómezb, M.. Ronconia, R.. Fernández Vázqueza, J.. Porta i Manzañidoc. La bioimpedancia eléctrica como método de estimación de la composición corporal, normas prácticas de utilización. https://www.elsevier.es/es-revista-revista-andaluza-medicina-del-deporte-284-articulo-la-bioimpedancia-electrica-como-metodo-X1888754611937896
  • Melorose, J., Perroy, R., & Careas, S. (2015). ïndice de masa corporal. Statewide Agricultural Land Use Baseline 2015, 1, 4–5. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004
  • Casanueva, E., & Flores-Quijano, M. E. (2008). Nutriologia Medica. In Nutriología Médica (p. 824).