What does your body fat percentage say about you?

Are you ACCURATELY tracking your progress?

When it comes to fitness, there is often a lot of confusion due to the amount of information, not all of which is accurate, now available to us at the touch of our fingertips. So much to learn and know, and doing it all correctly not only helps you get results faster, but it also helps you avoid frustration.

Tracking progress differs according to a person’s individual goals and most prioritized desire. This is why getting as specific in goal setting (refer to the acronym, SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based) is so important!

Determine your fitness goals first: i.e. get healthier and not be pre-diabetic, feel better/more confident, be more energetic in order to play with your kids, lose 3 inches off waist, get stronger and be able to perform 5 unassisted pull-ups, etc…

Best method of tracking your success as it relates to both your health and appearance:

The most accurate measure of your physical fitness progress as far as body composition goals is not by weighing yourself as most people think, but by tracking and knowing your body fat percentage. Scale weight doesn’t differentiate between fat weight and lean muscle tissue, which makes the number on the scale a confusing matter!

Ever heard of the term ‘skinny fat’? This refers to being lean or "light"  according to scale weight but still having a lot of fat weight on the body, proving why the scale and BMI readings should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Losing weight and losing fat are not the same thing! There's a huge difference between ideal body weight and ideal body fat composition.

The "Meat" of You

Consider this example; a male who weighs 240 lb. and is 6 feet tall, would be deemed overweight according to the BMI, but if you’re fit, that may, in fact, be totally inaccurate (think Arnold Schwarzenegger here). This formula takes no account of lean muscle tissue whatsoever. What makes the "meat" of the person, so to speak? What are you composed of? - The equation between fat and lean muscle tissue provides the absolute answer.

To take an example from the book "Starving to Be Fat," (Marco Girgenti), "Imagine you are looking at 2 hamburger patties. You place each on a scale and they weigh 8 oz. each.  You cut one patty down the middle and it is composed of extra lean ground beef, then you cut the other and it is full of fat. Does the scale weight really tell you anything? Not really, other than they weight the same." 

When discussing levels of body fat, what is the ideal percentage for males and females?

Women, unfortunately the deck is stacked against us when it comes to getting super lean and typically, the fat percentage differs about 5% higher than males. This is designed by nature, due to child bearing genetics and female hormones.  

Females, our optimal and maintainable body fat percentage is 16-20 percent. For competitive athletes and/or hardcore fitness enthusiasts, getting below 12% often disrupts the monthly female menstrual cycle, which can present a host of health issues if maintained for a prolonged period of time.

Men should strive to safely maintain a body fat percentage range between 10-15%. 

Yes, these ranges will require proper nutrition and training but they can be attained and maintained by most people who have a desire to look and feel their best. 

The average body fat percentage for a woman is 23%

The average body fat percentage for a man is 17%-19%

Something to keep in mind when it comes to average:

"Average is as close to the top as it is to the bottom." 


Your Body Fat Percentage:
You can usually book an appointment/consultation at a gym to get your body fat measured. Find out what method is being used and keep in mind that most have a degree of error as is the case with most testing; some are better and considered more accurate than others (do your research). 

Once you have your body fat percentage, you can determine your Lean Body Mass (LBM) by multiplying your body fat by your total bodyweight to determine what your fat weight is. Subtract that number (fat weight) from your total body weight to determine your lean body mass. 

BodyFat is 20%, Weight is 120 lb. 
0.20 X120 = 24 pounds of fat
120-24 = 96
You are carrying 96 lbs. of lean body mass

Weight training/resistance training is hands down, the most effective method for changing your body fat composition and increasing your lean muscle tissue/lean body mass and decreasing your body fat. As you age, this becomes more crucial in the preservation of muscle mass as the natural aging decline becomes more noticeable and starts to take effect after your 20’s. 

STATISTIC:  Many bodily functions start to decline at a rate of 2% per year after the age of 30. But with exercise, this aging process is slowed to a rate of one-half percent per year. (According to a researcher, Dr. Martha Pyron from the American College of Sports Medicine) In other words, a 90 year old exerciser would have lost only 30% of functional ability versus a whopping 60% if she did not weight train and exercise. 

STATISTIC: The rate of lean tissue loss increases after the age of 45. Unless you combat this decline with weight training and exercise, most people gain fat even though their body weight/scale weight may stay the same. The muscle shrinks as fat accumulates, making it easier to gain weight since muscle tissue is more metabolically active (you burn more fat at rest just by simply having it on your body). 

STATISTIC: According to research by Dr. William Evans at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, the average person loses a whopping 6.6 pounds of lean body mass every decade after age 20! 
Yikes! That is a lot of precious calorie burning tissue to lose!

Here are the most reliable methods for measuring progress on a consistent basis:

  • Body Fat Percentage - knowing your Lean Body Mass
  • Measurements would be considered your second and most reliable method for tracking your personal progress. 
  • How your clothes fit
  • The Mirror
  • The Scale
  • Pictures - before and after pics
  • Feedback from others (who is that one person who will tell you the truth and that you look like you’re gaining weight? For me it’s my mom; I can always count on her, either way). Thanks mom! 

Click on the above image for a clearer view. 

Starving to be Fat

Susan ArrudaComment