When trying to lose weight, you no doubt would like to shed fat rather than muscle. However, knowing when you have achieved the right body fat percentage can be difficult, as age and gender all play a role in the amount that’s required to maintain normal functioning. Here are some ways to determine whether or not yours is within the appropriate range.
Healthy Body Fat Percentage for Women
Women require a greater amount of body fat than men. This amount, known as “essential fat”, is necessary to maintain physical health and physiological functions such as menstruation and ovulation. Any less than that is considered “underfat”, and can lead to amenorrhea or the stopping of menstrual cycles. According to fitness coach Vanessa Bennington, women may also stop producing estrogen, in which case bone loss can occur.
Below are recommended body fat percentages for women of different age groups:
Body Fat %
Health Body Fat Percentage for Men
Just because men require less body fat than women does not mean their percentage can drop too low. In fat, Georgie Fear, author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss, claims that a body fat percentage of less than five in men can indicate health problems. Research from the University of Pennsylvania shows that three percent of a male’s body fat is essential or necessary in order to sustain him.
Below are recommended body fat percentages for men based upon age:
Body Fat %
Healthy Body Fat Percentage Increases with Age
As the charts for both male and females show, the acceptable percentage of body fat increases with age. This is because the amount of visceral fat that surrounds your organs increases as a person grows older. Subcutaneous fat, which is the fat beneath the skin may “shift” into deeper areas of the body, and lean muscle mass may also decrease. Dr. Michael Gloth III claims that the amount of calories you burn while at rest decreases as you grow older, something that can lead to weight gain and a higher body fat percentage.
Role of Body Mass Index (BMI)
While body fat percentage is often used to assess your fitness level, BMI may also be used to determine your risk of developing weight-related conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Associate professor Harry DuVal of the University of Georgia claims that not enough research has been done into fat percentages to make them an accurate indicator of your overall health. As such, you should pay attention not only to the amount of body fat you have, but also to your body mass index.
Although fitness experts have attempted to chart ideal body fat percentages based on age and gender, the level that is right for you may vary based upon your anatomy and a host of other factors. Use the tables above as a guideline to help you get close to the range that is perfect for you.