What does your body fat percentage say about your health?

Learn how to measure your body fat and track your progress the right way.

Stepping on the scale can be a daunting process and even an obsessive habit for some of us. However, while scales don’t lie, they don’t tell the whole truth either. For example, scales don’t tell you if you’ve gained muscle, whether you’re holding onto water weight and, most importantly, they don’t tell you about fat loss.

The most important part of starting any nutrition and exercise plan is to look at your overall body composition. Your body composition tells you how much of your body is made up of fat and how much of it is muscle. These composition percentages paint a much better picture of your overall health and might even show you that you’re in better shape than you think! So, if you’ve been exercising and eating well, but aren’t seeing the number on the scale budge, don’t get discouraged. And, on the flip side, a poor diet and lack of calories can lead to weight loss, but you’ll likely look valuable muscle.

At 8fit, we believe that a healthy and nutritious diet combined with an exercise plan will ensure that you’re losing fat, rather than shrinking your hard-earned muscle. Overall you’ll be fitter, healthier and feel much better in those jeans. So, get off that sad scale and find out how to measure your body fat and to track your progress in the right way. While you’re at it, get your personal 8fit meal and workout plan to help you achieve your body goals.

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Body fat percentage definition

Before explaining how to measure body fat or sharing different percent ranges, let’s get define body fat percentage. To calculate body fat percentage of humans or other living things, we divide the total mass of fat by the body’s total body mass, then multiply by 100. Body fat mass includes both essential body fat (needed for life and reproduction processes) and any additional fat stores. This number is considered a more accurate measure of fitness than body mass index (BMI), because it disregards height and weight, accounting for muscle mass and fat mass instead.

How to measure your body fat

There are a few different ways to measure body composition. Here are some common ones:

  • Visual estimation: To get a rough idea of your body fat composition, you can compare yourself with diverse standard images showing different body fat percentages.
  • High-quality electronic scale: They’re not as reliable as other methods and a more accurate scale will cost you more than a normal weight scale.
  • Caliper: A caliper is a low-cost way to measure your body fat. They’re inexpensive and considered by some to be a more reliable measure than a scale.
  • DXA body scanner: A dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan (DXA for short) is able to show the exact breakdown of bone, fat tissue, and muscle mass in your body.  This X-ray will cost more than an electronic scale, but it’ll be most accurate.

If you’re interested in measuring your body fat composition or muscle weight, choose one of the options above. Once you have a basic understanding, you can figure out where you fit into the scale below.

What does body fat percentage mean for health?

Men and women have different body fat percentages for everybody composition from obese to athletic. This is because women have more estrogen and require more essential body fat for reproductive processes.

Here’s is how body fat correlates to health and fitness levels for both men and women:

Body fat scale for men

  1. Over 40% body fat: Overweight/obesity. This amount of body fat is associated with health risks such as diabetes, stroke, heart problems, etc.
  2. Over 20 % body fat: Mildly/moderately overweight. Some extra fat and no muscle definition visible.
  3. 15-19% body fat: Normal/healthy level within the average. Slight muscle definition (shoulders and upper arms) is visible. The abdominals are not yet clearly visible.
  4. 12-14% body fat: Fit. Greater muscle definition on chest and back is clearly visible. Notable abs.
  5. 6-12% body fat: Athletic. Very clear muscle definition in arms, chest, legs and back. Abs clearly visible and defined. Both the face and jaw have clear angular shape. Some veins might be seen.
  6. 2-5% body fat: Essential body fat only. Minimum amount of fat necessary for basic and physiological health. Extremely defined, very vascular.

Body fat scale for women

Like we mentioned above, women generally have a higher percentage of body fat than men. This is because women’s bodies produce more of the female hormone, estrogen, which helps store fat. Women also need more fat for processes like child birth.

  • Over 45% body fat: Overweight/obesity. This level of body fat is associated with health risks such as diabetes, stroke, heart problems, etc.
  • Over 26% body fat: Mildly/moderately overweight. Some extra fat, no muscle definition visible
  • 20-25% body fat: Normal/healthy level within the average. Slight muscle definition (shoulders and upper arms) is visible. The abdominals are not yet clearly visible.
  • 17-19% body fat: Fit. In shape. Great muscle definition is seen in arms and back. Abs begin to appear.
  • 14-17% body fat: Athletic. Very defined. Very visible muscle definition in arms, chest, legs and back. Abs easily seen. Both the face and jaw have more shape.
  • 10-13% body fat: Essential body fat only. Minimum amount of fat necessary for basic and physiological health. Extremely defined, very vascular. Risks loss of menstrual cycle.

How to decrease your body fat percentage

We hope that answers the question: What does body fat percentage mean? Now, if you want to obtain and maintain a healthy body fat percentage, we’ll share some tips that, when paired with 8fit’s healthy meal plan and workouts, can help you reach your goals.

1. Making the right food choices

Nutrition is 80% of the results. Reducing your caloric consumption, while still looking after nutrition, is the best way to lose fat. To get the best results, eat a wide variety of natural, unprocessed foods from a range of sources. Eat protein-rich foods, good carbs, healthy fats and a plethora of nutritious vegetables.

decrease body fat healthy food

2. Move often

Although nutrition is the most important aspect of losing fat, exercise helps you get fitter, stronger and to build and improve muscle tone. To do this, we advise trying 8fit’s bodyweight HIIT workouts three or four times per week. Certain types of training, such as high-intensity interval training, result in the “afterburn effect” where your body continues to burn calories for up to 48 hours post-workout.

Start with this Tabata routine for beginners and then add walking, jogging, biking or yoga on non-HIIT days.

3. Add strength training

In addition to 8fit HIIT workouts, incorporate some resistance training into your weekly routine. Lifting weights or using resistance bands helps build strength and tone muscles. This results in more body fat loss because muscle is magical — especially when it comes to burning calories. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn throughout the day.

decrease body fat workout exercise