Having an ideal body fat percentage is one of the parameters that a person must aspire to stay healthy. The body weight seen on the scale may not reflect the reality of a person’s state of health.
Most nutritionists recommend reaching both an ideal weight and an ideal fat percentage.
For this reason, the body mass index should not be the only parameter to take into account.
This article details the values of the ideal body fat percentage, tables for men and women, and the different methods to calculate this value.
What is the ideal body fat percentage?
Several investigations have calculated the ideal body fat percentage for a person according to sex and age. Staying within these values will allow you to have an athletic appearance, but it is also an excellent way to avoid chronic cardiovascular disease. (1,2)
The formula to calculate the percentage of body fat consists of dividing the weight of the total fat in the body by the body weight. For example, if a person weighs 70 kg, of which 10 kg is fat.
Your body fat percentage is calculated as [10/70 * 100] = 14.3%. This figure is then compared to tables, and it is evaluated if this value is ideal or if some changes need to be made.
Ideal Body Fat Percentage – Men
The ideal body fat percentage in women is higher than in men. In the case of men, a fat rate of 6-13% is equivalent to having a toned body and a marked abdomen. Values between 14-18% are the percentage of fat that is typical of an athletic silhouette.
A figure between 18-25% corresponds to an average body, while figures above 25% indicate that it is time to eliminate body fat.
Ideal Body Fat Percentage – Women
In the case of women, an ideal body fat percentage is 16-20%, which reveals an excellent physical condition. Values of 21-24% correspond to an average body.
Percentages higher than 25-31% are evidence of being overweight or obese. A figure less than 10% is dangerous for the female metabolism and can cause disorders in the menstrual cycle.
Ideal body fat percentage table for men
Below you can see a table with the ideal fat percentage in men:
Ideal body fat percentage table for women
Below you can see a table with the ideal fat percentage in women:
How to calculate the percentage of body fat? – Methods
There are several methods to calculate the ideal body fat percentage.
The direct and most accurate method is hydrostatic weighing. It allows an actual figure with a deviation that does not exceed 20 g of total fat. The other methods are indirect.
Electronic scales tend to have significant errors, so they are one of the least recommended methods of calculating the percentage of body fat.
The most straightforward and most used by nutritionists is using a caliper and extrapolation with official tables. The different methods for calculating body fat percentage are described below:
- Hydrostatic weighing
Hydrostatic weighing is the only method that gives an exact figure for body fat percentage. This technique is based on the basic principles of physics. The body is submerged in the water; the difference between the height of the water before dipping and afterward is calculated. This value corresponds to body volume. Volume is then compared to body weight, and exact body fat percentage values are obtained.
- Electronic scales
Electronic scales work with electronic body analysis systems. They are based on the use of bursts of energy that pass through the tissues and interpret the speed at which those bursts are distributed. Fat tissue slows down these bursts, while water and muscles transmit it without slowing down.
Electronic scales themselves do not determine the actual percentage of body fat. Instead, they compare the coefficients obtained with the averages of their database. Therefore they always give an approximate result. The deviation depends on the number of electrodes, the temperature, and food in the stomach, among other factors.
- Bioelectric impedance balances
Bioelectrical impedance balances are one of the modern instruments for calculating the percentage of body fat. You are sending a weak current to one leg. They wait for the blast to reach the other leg to calculate the rate of body fat. They are determined as the difference between currents. These types of scales are usually the most accurate.
- Plicometers + Tables
This is the ideal, simplest, and most accurate method to calculate the percentage of body fat. It involves measuring the thickness of the subcutaneous fat folds of the abdomen with a body fat measuring instrument, the caliper. The values obtained in millimeters are compared with official tables to calculate body fat percentage.
This table directly associates the thickness of the folds in millimeters with the percentage of body fat. In addition, using colors, it is indicated if the rate of body fat is ideal or is out of range. The values obtained with a caliper are more exact than those obtained by electronic scales. The advantage of this method is that it can be done quickly and without enormous instrument costs.
The easiest method to calculate the percentage of fat
The technique for calculating your body fat percentage with a caliper is simple. It would help if you first stood upright; the measurement is taken 10 cm to the right of the navel and 3-4 cm above the point where the femoral bone protrudes. You should make a fold with the skin in this area and measure the thickness with the help of the caliper without excessively straining the skin.
Measurement results in millimeters are compared with official tables according to gender and age. The official tables are attached below. At the crossroads of personal data with measurement is the figure that corresponds to your body fat percentage. Using this table, you can see graphically if your levels check to an ideal, low, medium, or high body fat percentage.
- The most used are several methods to calculate the ideal percentage of body fat: the caliper, the electronic scale, and hydrostatic weighing.
- The percentage of body fat and the BMI or body mass index is the leading indicators of an optimal state of health.
- Eliminating simple carbohydrates is the first thing advised to decrease the percentage of body fat.
- The ideal body fat percentage value is around 14-18% in men and 16-20% in women. However, 5-10% more values are acceptable in terms of nutrition.
- Hydrostatic weighing is the most accurate procedure for determining your body fat percentage. It is followed by the caliper method due to its simplicity and accuracy in calculating.
- With the measurement of the thickness of the skin in some regions of the body and tables, it is possible to calculate the ideal percentage of body fat.