What is meant by body fat percentage? Why is this value significantly more important than BMI or body weight, especially for athletic people? What body fat percentage is normal or healthy? What is the most accurate way to measure body fat? What is the difference between men and women? How much body fat do I have? Everything about the topic of body fat percentage is explained in more detail in this blog article.
Understanding body fat percentage – the KFA definition
With Body fat percentage means the stored fat mass in the body in relation to body weight or the total mass of the body. This means that the body fat percentage is also given in percent (%), so it is a relative value. However, body fat can also be presented as an absolute number, which is also the case with some body fat measurements. This information is then given in kg.
The official abbreviation for Body fat percentage is KFA . This short form is used very often because the word itself is very long.
Why should you measure your body fat percentage and reduce it if necessary?
Often only body weight or BMI is taken as a measurement. However, in many cases these two values alone are not enough to describe meaningful goals and an exact physical condition. These two values are quite legitimate for people who are very overweight and do not have any muscles that have been trained through conscious physical activity. But if someone is a little athletic, body composition is much more important. Particularly for athletes or muscular people, it may even be that at first glance the BMI value is too high or the body weight is rather high in relation to the body size. A man who is 1.85 m tall can either go through one too high body fat percentage have a weight of 95kg or because he has developed a lot of muscle mass. In both cases, a BMI calculator would show that the man is overweight and therefore potentially at risk for cardiovascular disease. However, the muscular man with 95kg could have a KFA of only 10% and therefore a lot of muscle mass that keeps him healthy and protects him from such diseases. Muscle weighs more than fat tissue. That's why it can also be the case that a woman with a healthy body weight initially has slightly more fat deposits with a body fat percentage of 25%, then through a targeted diet and exercise she reduces 5% body fat, but still has the same body weight. This is because while she was reducing her body fat percentage, she was building muscle at the same time. She will see herself differently in the mirror, but with the result on the scale she could be depressed because apparently nothing has changed.
So it makes sense to Measure body fat percentage and not just body weight. Especially if you want to change your lifestyle and set physical goals, measuring your KFA regularly - ideally at intervals of 3 to 4 weeks - is an important tool!
Calculating/measuring body fat percentage – the different methods
There are now numerous measurement methods that... Calculate body fat percentage can. It is almost impossible to determine the value 100% accurately. The three most important measurement methods are explained and analyzed in more detail here:
Measuring body fat – the DEXA scan
It measures most accurately DEXA scan. This device uses a digital X-ray process and can distinguish between muscle mass, body fat and bone density. The device is expensive and requires a special doctor to take responsibility for the measurements.
A measurement is therefore expensive (approx. 70 EUR per measurement) and time-consuming, as you usually have to visit a medical facility for it. The DEXA Scan is therefore less suitable for regular body fat measurements.
Measuring body fat percentage – bioelectrical impedance analysis
A possible measuring method that many fitness studios use and that is also used in medical studies is a special body fat scale bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) Body fat percentage is calculated using a body water analysis. The test person stands on the scale, which first measures the weight. A weak alternating current is then passed through the body via metal plates under your feet and metal handles that you grip firmly with your hands. The body resists this alternating current. This can be measured by the device and on this basis it calculates values such as using an algorithm Body fat percentage, muscle mass, body water etc. For high-quality devices, the algorithm was calculated based on data from the Dexascan. A high-quality BIA measuring device has its price; it costs between 6,000 and 16,000 EUR (depending on how much different data it spits out). You can already imagine that body fat scales for use at home, which cost between 50 and 200 EUR, measure very inaccurately. You can save yourself this investment; it is better to get measured and advised in a professional fitness studio.
By the way, even the high-quality BIA does not measure 100% correctly. First of all, it is important that you always measure under the same circumstances (same time of day, at least 2 hours fasting, no training beforehand, etc.). If these conditions exist, there can still be greater fluctuations from one day to the next, primarily in people with low body fat percentage and women in particular are affected by this. This is because the measurement is based on the physiological water balance and this can fluctuate greatly in women due to the female cycle. Sleep, some foods (e.g. salt), sleep and stress factors also have an influence here. Ultimately, however, it's about interpreting the data correctly and that's why you should seek advice from an expert (e.g. a trained personal trainer) when measuring. The advantage over the caliper measurement described in the next section is that the BIA method also measures visceral body fat (internal fat around the organs, deep abdominal fat).
Measuring body fat – the caliper measurement
Another body fat calculator is a program that uses an algorithm to calculate the KFA from the values measured by a skin fold caliper: the so-called Caliper body fold measurement , in which the subcutaneous fat is measured in millimeters using pliers (calipers). Subcutaneous fat refers to the body fat in the subcutaneous tissue. During a professional caliper measurement, 12 to 13 skin folds are measured. An experienced trainer, nutritionist or even doctor who has learned how to measure and practiced for a long time can carry out such a body wrinkle analysis. Here, too, there is a slimmed-down version where you only measure 4 skin folds using plastic pliers, which unfortunately doesn't say anything realistic about the actual body fat percentage. In addition, there is a high error rate when measuring. You really have to learn how to grab the folds of your body correctly and always hit the same spot. In addition, this measurement also depends on the person taking the measurement, which means it is important that the same person always measures you. This means that (at least with the professional version with 12-13 folds) measurement accuracy is ensured and progress or regression can be clearly recognized.
The advantage of the measurement is that not only the body fat percentage and lean mass (muscles) are calculated, but you can also see hormonal connections from the different skin folds. Body fat is not distributed randomly: For example, it makes a difference whether the majority of the stored fat is on the hips or on the front thigh. Depending on what is most noticeable, nutritionally speaking, either should be the first blood sugar be stabilized or you suffer from estrogen dominance. Other wrinkles are related to Sleep and regeneration . A good consultant who carries out the measurement can therefore make very individual nutritional and lifestyle recommendations.
A high-quality caliper costs around EUR 300, and training costs around EUR 1,200 (weekend seminars are offered). The calculation program, which calculates the body fat percentage using the entered data of body weight, height and the measured skin folds, also requires the trainer to invest approximately EUR 500. So you can imagine that these measurements and consultations also have their price, but also a high added value if you want to improve your quality of life and health and reduce your KFA. Such consultations cost between EUR 80 and EUR 200 per appointment, but are more than just a measurement.
The BIA analysis and the caliper measurement as well as individual advice on this are, for example, in MTM Gym Berlin offered.
How much body fat is normal?
According to official information, a healthy or normal body fat percentage for men is 12-25%. For women it is 21-36%. The older we get, the more normal the upper limit is considered. However, this information should be viewed very critically. Here, as is often the case with issues of health and illness, normal means that one simply orients oneself towards the mediocrity of the population. At this point you can question whether this is really healthy. A man with 25% KFA and a woman with 36% KFA are definitely at risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases in the long term - especially if the majority of body fat is in the middle of the body. The most dangerous fatty tissue from a health perspective is visceral and abdominal fat.
Since the organs in this area are affected, there is a high proportion of vascular damage.
However, you should differentiate: If you are very sporty and muscular, move around a lot and get the right nutrients, but still have a slightly higher KFA, which is mainly in the buttocks and legs, you don't have to worry as much about your health as someone else , who hardly moves, has little muscle mass, goes on constant crash diets that lead to a lack of nutrients and therefore has thin legs but a round stomach.
Nonetheless: If you want to stay fit and healthy in the long term and perhaps also want to look slim and defined or muscular, you should aim for nothing over 25% as a woman and nothing over 18% as a man. However, an ideal body fat percentage cannot be specified here; it depends on genetic factors, age, gender and lifestyle influences that have predominated for a long time in life.
Low body fat percentage for a six pack?
Whether a six-pack is visible depends very much on the KFA in the middle of the body. Anatomical conditions also play a role.
What role does body fat percentage play in women's six-pack abs?
In women, you can often see slight abdominal muscles with a body fat percentage of 14-16%, but a real six-pack at slightly lower values. For men, the 12% usually has to be cracked. Athletes who have a high percentage of muscle and low body fat are in the range of 3 to 10% KFA. But the 3% is more likely to affect a bodybuilder on the day of the competition.
Anyone who has a low body fat percentage does not necessarily have to cause problems with their health, as a widespread myth suggests. At the same time, it is often claimed that women with a KFA below 14% no longer have periods. This is only the case with a hormonal imbalance: For example, with extreme crash diets like this Low fat diet , where important fats for hormone production are missing. If you have more muscle mass and keep your body fat low in the long term and eat the right macro and micronutrients, you should keep your hormonal weight in balance. The fact is that a healthy low KFA promotes health and protects against numerous diseases - as long as it is combined with enough muscle mass.
Body fat percentage women vs. body fat percentage men
The body fat percentage in men is generally around 10% lower than in women. This is partly because men have a fundamentally different body type. They have more muscle mass than women and their connective tissue fibers have a different structure. As a result, women genetically have significantly more fatty tissue - mainly on their legs - which also serves as a protective mechanism. A healthy body fat percentage is different for women than for men.
Effectively reduce body fat
Whoever pursues the goal, the mass of the To reduce body fat percentage , you should of course first have a measurement carried out in order to then set concrete goals. You cannot calculate body fat percentage without measuring. So, as mentioned above, there is no body fat percentage calculator for at home that is of much use. Using the measurement methods mentioned above, the measurement can be used to determine which type of diet is effective. Basically, however, it always helps to stabilize blood sugar and the typical food allergens such as gluten, cow's milk, sugar and Antinutrients to avoid. Especially that Breakfast plays a crucial role in maintaining stable blood sugar. The main way to reduce your body fat percentage is through your diet. In order to build muscles at the same time, additional strength or interval training is helpful. Short and intense training sessions are the most effective, longer steady jogging is less so.
If all of these tips do not produce the desired visual result, you can also add specific ones Detox methods are used. Stubborn belly fat in particular can be linked to inadequate physical detoxification. This can be supported with specific micronutrients, good sleep and lots of regeneration. The Chlorella algae can make an important contribution here because it has the ability to mobilize and bind toxins in the body. This supports a healthy intestine and, above all, the liver in detoxification. If the last inflammatory substances can be bound here and disposed of, so to speak, this can be the final push for a perfect six-pack.
You can find more tips on this in our blog category Fitness !
Ines Maria Schulz, born on December 1st, 1992 in Basel, Switzerland, also completed her Master of Education in Biology and WAH there, laying the foundation for the understanding of physiology and anatomy as well as nutrition. She is also a trained primary school sports teacher. For two years she has been a coach at MTM Personal Training, the most successful personal training studio in Berlin. There she supports customers every day who want to exploit their maximum potential in terms of mental and physical health and performance. In cooperation with doctors like Dr. Dominik Nischwitz and a laboratory for intestinal health as well as the constant exchange within the team, she can provide her customers with optimal advice about training, nutrition, micronutrients and lifestyle. She has already written a breakfast book and a large part of a lifestyle booklet for MTM. She also writes the weekly newsletter, which publishes nutritional tips and recipes she has created. Ines has completed seminars and certificates with a variety of successful coaches and specialists and is constantly expanding her skills. The young trainer has been writing blog articles for Supz Nutrition since January 2019.