Sometimes I think about the things I would like to be present in the ideal world painted by my imagination.
In this world, people are measuring themselves less on a scale and are not slaves to the numbers its scale displays.
In this world, people don’t aim to “become 45 kg because that’s what the model on the latest cover of the most popular magazine looks like”, instead they want to be healthy and have their fat percentage fall within healthy limits.
The fat percentage!
That’s what we’re going to talk about today – the importance of it, the different groups from a health perspective, and what it takes to maintain each one.
Many people look at the numbers on the scale, but don’t pay attention to their body composition – what exactly those numbers are made up of.
The same person can look radically different at the same weight, and that difference comes precisely from the ratio of muscle mass to fat mass.
The same is true for two people with the same percentage of body fat.
How do I know how much body fat I have?
There are several methods – some are more accurate than others, but in general the most optimal option is to take an average of two different methods.
This is because there are many extraneous factors that influence and give variations in the data.
Caliper is thought to be more accurate when the goal is to track body fat and how it varies in specific areas of the body. Electronic measurement shows all body fat in its readings – even those around the organs.
There is no ideal method (or at least none that I know of), but the two described above give a clear indication and can serve as a good guideline.
Measure with the same specialist and under the same circumstances.
Fats – what do they do for us?
There are athletes who, in their desire to become as fit as possible (without having competitive ambitions to do so), ignore the very important detail that fats come in several types and we need the essential ones to… exist.
No matter how fit you get, remember that the percentage needed to maintain a living body is about 3% for men and 9% for women.
This is just a guideline, in fact quite a few health problems start at higher rates (below 6% for men and below 16% for women).
The other extreme for unhealthy fat percentage, is too high (over 20% for men and over 30% for women). We’ll address that as well.
How do bodies look at different fat percentages?
There are more general frameworks that can be used to illustrate different categories of fat percentage to serve as a guide.
In this way you can determine which category you fall into, judging by your self-image and individual characteristics (health, energy level, physical performance, etc.).
To make the material easier to understand, we will try to provide an illustrated example.
We would like to emphasize that it is guide to determine your fat percentage by a photo, an image in the mirror or by comparing yourself to another person.
Now let’s move on to the main groups relative to fat percentage values. Accept these as something conditional and with the possibility of exceptions to the rule
Men >20%; Women <30%
Men <6%; Women <16%
Group 1: for men >20%, for women >30%
If you fall into this category, then you know that your health is in danger – frequent illness, weak immune system, metabolic disorders.
You can’t go wrong when a person has an unhealthy amount of body fat – the body is round, the fat overflows, movement is difficult and uncomfortable.
Indeed, the risk values are over 30% for men and over 40% for women.
The main factors for achieving such rates (we exclude complications due to specific health conditions and/or medication use) are: lack of exercise, too much food, unhealthy diet and lack of essential nutrients, fast food, too much daily stress, insufficient sleep.
Fortunately, moving from this unhealthy graph to more positive values where you can feel health relief is not difficult.
All it takes is to realize that your health is a priority and follow a few basic steps.
Don’t wait for fatal consequences, start your change now!
Group 2: for men <6%, for women <16%
(in some cases women – <10-11%)
People who have this percentage of fat are mainly fitness and bodybuilding athletes or sports models.
These values are difficult to maintain and last for a few days (and with very low percentages – only on the day of the competition or photo shoot).
It is a very big mistake for a fitness enthusiast to try to look like professional athletes with such thin skin and low fat percentage. There is a lot of effort behind “skin like a newspaper” and “super shredded/ ripped” and the price paid for health should be considered well.
This category is about having the deepest shape possible (i.e. muscle mass and the lowest fat percentage possible), and to achieve this requires a total commitment to the idea.
A precise attitude to food and training – measuring to the gram, maintaining a constant calorie deficit (often within sharper limits), restricting carbohydrate and fat intake, no alcohol or sugar, a strict training schedule.
Let’s not forget the dehydration factor, which further stresses the body, as well as the use of AAS (anabolic androgenic steroids) by most athletes in the industry, which is something of a public secret – everyone knows, but no one confesses.
In a nutshell: if you’re an amateur, have no competitive ambitions for fitness and bodybuilding, and want to be healthy – don’t copy the pros in the field and know that the price for this jacked and ripped physique is high.
Healthy body fat percentage values
Men 15-20%; Women 25-30%; Men 13-15%; Women 23-25
Men 10-12%; Women 20-22%; Men 6-9%; Women 16-19%
There are several main groups in health values as well. Each of them is characterized by a certain appearance – from more rounded shapes, through a more athletic appearance to a ripped body.
For each group, there are certain conditions to achieve, varying degrees of difficulty in maintaining, and specific pros and cons.
You will find it much harder to achieve and maintain a ripped body, even at healthy values.
We’ll list the basics for each group, and you will decide which one you’re in, which one you want to be in, and whether you’re willing to work for it.
The main thing about this percentage of fat is that you look good, but we cannot talk about a nice definition.
If you play sports and have a well-toned muscle mass, it will show, but without details.
Group 1: for men 15-20%, for women 25-30%
Going from unhealthy group 1 to healthy group 1 becomes much easier, and the health benefits are tangible – energy, enjoyment of movement and coping with daily activities without difficulty.
Achieving and maintaining – regular light physical activity (3-5 times a week) and a diet in which nutritious food takes a major share.
Consuming processed food and alcohol (if available) in smaller quantities.
In short – at this fat percentage you will be healthy if you move enough and do not deprive yourself of complete micro- and macronutrients. You won’t be in super low body fat stage, but you will be able to afford desserts, beer, and frequent parties with friends.
Group 2: for men 13-15%, for women 23-25%
Going from group 1 to group 2 is not difficult, but it takes a little more effort.
People with this percentage have a more pronounced athletic look, but still don’t have good muscle definition.
It is easy to maintain – energy levels and immune system health are good.
There is a need to plan your menu and physical activities in advance and possibly make “sacrifices” – choosing exercise over going out with friends because you don’t have enough time. Night sleep should be sufficient (at least 7 hours).
Be more specific about food compared to group 1 – if processed food and/or alcohol is present, no more than 3-5 times a week (only one meal, no extra portions).
Workouts are more intense compared to group 1.
Group 3: for men 10-12%, for women 20-22%
The representatives of this group can be swimmers, volleyball players and others.
Appearance is obviously athletic, and extremes in diets are not observed (for example – uncontrollable hunger pangs).
The transition between group 2 to group 3 is moderate in difficulty and maintaining group 3 requires: more planning and careful attention to diet, more physical activity (with more intense workouts).
If there is processed food and/or alcohol, it should be consumed no more than 1-2 times a week.
At least 7-8 hours of sleep at night.
Group 4: for men 6-9%, for women 16-19%
The less fat there is to lose, the harder it gets and the more effort is needed to maintain it.
So, going from group 3 to group 4 is with considerable degree of difficulty.
Sprinters, gymnasts, martial arts athletes fall into this category.
The appearance is athletic, with the dreamed 6 pack (abdominals).
General health can also be good as long as the necessary factors are observed.
Also needed: 8 hours of nightly sleep, clean food ( lack of processed foods, and if any – should be once every 1-2 weeks), high intensity workouts.
The downsides are that such a fat percentage is related to lifestyle and some sacrifices are seen – social gatherings may need to be restricted due to the time needed to exercise; some people will find it difficult to eat in public where people put fries, mayonnaise, and ice cream on their plates without worry.
This group is very appealing – energetic, athletic, fit, healthy… Sounds wonderful, but there is no complete happiness – it takes more sacrifice to maintain it over time.
I have been 6% body fat, I can say my life has been between the gym and the kitchen. Carb cycling, measuring on a kitchen scale down to the last gram, limiting social contact (since I must work out, and why would I go to that party where it would be full of pastries and cakes), intense workouts.
I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just that one must be clear with themselves – what they want to get and what they are willing to give in return.
Going from healthy group 4 to unhealthy group 2 is very, very hard.
From higher to lower body fat percentage
Obviously, group 1 of the unhealthy values carries a health risk and it is right to reduce the excess fat.
The lower you want to get, the more lifestyle changes you will need to make (socializing, sleep, food, exercise).
The skinnier you get (by “skinnier” we mean with as low a fat percentage as possible, but also with toned muscle mass), the harder it will be to maintain that body composition – there will be times when you will have to put food on the scale, etc.
That’s why it’s very important to be clear:
Where you are now;
Where do you want to be – what are your goals and prorites;
Are you aware of the things you need to change in your current lifestyle to achieve what you dream of;
Are you willing to be persistent in your actions to maintain what you have achieved.
Whatever you do, don’t just look at your appearance, listen to your body too. If it is giving you signs of poor health, slow down, find the cause and fix it.
Even if it costs you the last 2 rows of abs.
At least that’s my view as far as fitness amateurs are concerned.
Models from magazines (where, by the way, manipulated photos are quite common) and competitors are not role models.
Be healthy! And be the best version of yourself with PirateTea!
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