GENERAL BODY FAT PERCENTAGE CATEGORIES
CLASSIFICATION WOMEN % FAT MEN % FAT
ESSENTIAL FAT 10-12% 2-4%
ATHLETES 14-20% 6-13%
FITNESS 21-24% 14-17%
ACCEPTABLE 25-31% 18-25%
OBESE 32% PLUS 25% PLUS
When one declares that they want to “lose weight”, what they often mean is that they want to lose fat.
Body fat % explained: First your body fat percentage is simply the % of fat your body contains. If you weigh 150 lbs. and 10% fat, it means that your body consists of 15 lbs. of fat and 135 lbs. lean body mass [bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood and everything else].
A certain amount of fat is essential to bodily functions. Fat regulates body temperature, cushions and insulates organs and tissues, and is the main form of the body’s energy storage.
Knowing your body fat percentage can also help you determine if your weight loss goals are realistic. Remember, weight loss doesn’t always mean fat loss. For example:
Let’s say you’re a 130# woman with 23% body fat, and your goal is to “lose 20 lbs”.
Initial body fat: 130# x 0.23= 30# body fat
Lean body mass: 130# total-30% fat= 100# lean body mass [bones, organs and all else]
Goal: 130#-20#= 110 lbs.
As you can see, the goal of losing 20 lbs. is neither realistic nor healthy. At 110 lbs. this woman still requires 100# of lean body mass [bones, organs, etc] but would only be carrying 10#, or only 9% body fat. As the chart indicates this is a dangerously low percentage.
A better goal might be for this woman to reduce her body fat from 23% to 18%. In this case:
130# x 0.18=23% body fat
100# lean body mass+23# = 123# goal weight
So, for this individual to achieve a lean, but healthy 18% fat, she would need to lose only 7 lbs. of fat, reducing her weight from her current 130-123 lbs. Losing more than 7 lbs means losing lean body mass [usually metabolically-active muscle tissue], which is clearly not desirable.
So, before you decide that you need to “lose weight”, remember to consider that “weight” consists of both lean body mass and body fat. Try to keep your weight-loss goals realistic, and remember, keep the calorie-burning muscle, and lose only the fat.