Learn how to lower your body fat percentage. Your best friend’s wedding is in a few months, and you’ve been starving yourself to fit into your bridesmaid’s dress.
You’ve tried the Keto, Paleo, and every other diet, but the bathroom scales don’t seem to show a reduced body fat percentage at all.
We’ve all been in similar situations in our lives. While it’s good to try various diets, if it doesn’t give you long-term results, then you may end up at square one.
This post is all about building muscle mass and sustainably reducing your body fat to not go back to ground zero.
What Is Body Fat Percentage?
Body fat percentage is the amount of fat in your body relative to your organs, bones, muscles, water, other fluids, etc.
You can calculate your body fat percentage by dividing your total body fat by your total body mass and multiplying the result by 100.
Why Measure Body Fat Percentage?
Your body fat percentage is measured to give you an indication of how fit you are physically. If you have a body fat percentage that’s too high, you could be vulnerable to diseases like type-2 diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, high blood pressure, and other conditions related to obesity.
Your overall weight does not indicate how much fat is in your body. Therefore, don’t look at your weight alone to determine if you’re fit.
6 Ways To Calculate Body Fat Percentage
You can use any of the following ways to calculate your body fat percentage:
1 – Measuring Tape
Everyone has a measuring tape at home, and it’s the most convenient way to calculate your body fat percentage. However, measuring will differ slightly between men and women.
Firstly, make sure you know your height in inches. Secondly, you have to calculate your circumference; the method differs between men and women. If you’re male, measure around the largest part of your abdomen and your neck. Now, minus the neck measurement from the abdomen measurement to get the circumference value. If you’re female, measure around the widest part of your waist, hips, and neck. Add the hip and waist values together and then subtract the neck measurement to get the circumference value.
You can key in your measurements and calculate your body fat percentage on the US Navy Body Fat Calculator. It will show your result in one of four categories: Acceptable, Obese, Essential Fat, or Athletic.
Remember that the same values will generate different category results for men and women. Also, the numbers you get will not be 100% accurate.
2 – Skinfold Calipers
Calipers refer to a device that measures fat by pinching certain parts of your body. For men, the calipers measure the fat around the abdomen, chest, and thighs. For women, it’s used to measure body fat around the triceps, thighs, and just above the hip bone.
To get consistent measurements, always measure from one side of your body. Place the calipers a centimeter above the skinfold to take the measurement. For more accurate results, measure the same areas twice and average them out. Or ask a trainer for help.
These calipers come with instructions on how to interpret the measurements. You can also plug these into a skinfold calculator and interpret the results.
3 – Body Fat Scales
Body fat scales use a technology called bioelectrical impedance analysis, or BIA. It sends up an electric current up to your leg when you step on the scale. The current then travels to your pelvic region and down the other leg.
Electricity doesn’t pass through fat easily as it does through water and muscles. So, when the scale records a high resistance, that means your body fat percentage is high.
Along with other variables like age and gender, the machine uses an algorithm to calculate your body fat percentage. The accuracy of measurements also depends on when you last exercised, how hydrated you are, and whether you have a full stomach or not.
4 – Underwater Body Weighing
When a body is submerged underwater, it gives the most accurate measurement since fat floats and muscle tissue sinks. However, you need to go to a special place to get this done. There, you will be asked to undress and sit in a chair that will then be submerged in water.
5 – Bod Pod
Using a Bod Pod is another special way of calculating your body fat percentage. The Bod Pod is an egg-shaped computerized enclosure for your full body. It measures your body fat percentage accurately by calculating your body weight and volume and how much air your body displaces.
However, the procedure is expensive but takes less time than underwater body weighing.
6 – DEXA Scan, CT Scan, and MRI
A DEXA scan, or dual X-ray absorptiometry scan, uses x-rays to calculate the fat, muscle, and bone mass in your body. The benefit of this method is that it takes the bone mass into account.
Both MRI and CT scans look at cross-sectional images of your body to detect fat hidden even between the layers of your abdomen. These methods of measuring body fat percentage are highly precise.
How To Interpret Body Fat Percentage Results
How would you interpret the percentage of body fat that shows on different scales or online calculators?
Well, the results will put you into one of the following categories:
The bare minimum level of fats to enable a body to function are called essential fats. Readings below this level are a red flag and indicate you don’t have enough fat in your body.
If you fall into this category, it means you have a lean body. Like athletes, your weight may be high, but your fat percentage is low.
The fitness category shows you’re fit and healthy with the right body fat percentage. Most people would be happy to fall into this category as they don’t need to go on a diet.
Although it’s okay to fall in the average category, people falling in this category should be careful about not gaining any more body fat percentage. This could push them to the obese category.
A high body fat percentage is sure to land you in this category. It indicates that you have too much fat and are susceptible to various health conditions.
According to your gender, you can map which category you fall into by referring to the table below.
What’s The Ideal Body Fat Percentage For You?
Your ideal body fat percentage will depend on several factors like age, gender, ethnicity, body type, physical lifestyle, and genetics.
However, the following table shows the ideal body fat percentage based on age and gender.
How To Lower Body Fat Percentage In A Sustainable Way
When quick-fix diets don’t cut it, it’s time to turn to more sustainable ways of lowering body fat percentage. Here are several ways to do so.
1 – Healthy Fat Intake
Healthy fats are found in food like seeds, nuts, fish, and vegetable oils such as sunflower, canola, olive, and soybean oil. These are good as they don’t have saturated fats.
Instead of red meat, choose fish, nuts, and beans. Also, try to use any vegetable oil for cooking. Healthy fats keep you fuller for longer, so you won’t get the urge to snack.
2 – Eliminate Processed Carbohydrates
Another way of lowering your body fat percentage is by eliminating processed carbohydrates from your diet. Quit eating chips, sugary foods, pasta, bread, fruit juices, Nutri-bars, and cereals, as these raise the blood sugar level in your body.
When you don’t take sugars, the fat cells in your body burn to release energy, reducing body fat percentage.
3 – Increase Protein Intake
Have you ever noticed how a couple of boiled eggs in the morning can get you through the day without feeling hungry? That’s because eggs and other foods high in protein keep you feeling full for a long time. Moreover, proteins help to maintain your muscles and keep your body lean. Foods high in protein include dairy, seafood, meat, legumes, and eggs.
4 – Pantry Detoxing
Detox your pantry and food cupboards by getting rid of all bags of chips, candy, fizzy drinks, and anything else unhealthy. Don’t tempt yourself by keeping these foods within reach. They will come between you and your goal of losing body fat percentage.
5 – Vinegar Intake
Adding vinegar to your daily diet will help you burn fat, keep your blood sugar level under control, and keep your heart healthy.
Mix a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with water or tea and drink a few times daily. You can also try using it in your salad dressing.
6 – Sugar-Free Beverages
Instead of fizzy drinks and packaged fruit juices, opt for plain water. Or, make your fresh juice at home with seasonal fruits (and remember not to add sugar!).
Caffeine is known for burning fat, so having coffee without full-fat milk and sugar can be helpful. Green tea is a healthy beverage full of antioxidants that keep you healthy without adding calories.
7 – High-Fiber Diet
Load up on fiber from fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains to keep you satiated for longer. A fiber-rich diet prevents secondary fat storage in your body and helps you lose weight.
8 – Probiotic Intake
You can find probiotics in yogurt, and if you add this to your daily diet, you can sustainably lose body fat percentage. Certain bacteria in yogurt helps to reduce weight and keep fat away from your body.
9 – Strength Training
Exercises that build your muscles through resistance workouts help to lower body fat percentage. By lifting heavy weights three to four times a week, you can use up carbs in your body and turn them into muscles instead of storing them as fat.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) also helps to burn fat. Consult your trainer or physician before you start weight training.
10 – Get 8 Hours Of Sleep
We build and repair our muscles when we sleep, so getting 8 hours of sleep is ideal for losing body fat percentage. Moreover, sleep deprivation leads to appetite increase and thus weight gain. Go to bed a bit earlier and try to maintain the same sleep routine every day.
11 – Intermittent Fasting
For shedding body fat percentage, try intermittent fasting, where you only eat within an 8-hour window. Another form of intermittent fasting is eating and fasting on alternate days.
12 – Manage Stress
Stress leads to increased food intake, which adds to your body fat. You can manage your stress by doing yoga, meditation, taking walks in natural settings, reading, painting, etc.
If you have strong determination and a diet journal to keep account of what you eat, you can lower body fat percentage in a sustainable way.
When you get into healthy eating and exercising routine, it becomes a habit that you can’t break. The result: a lean body with more muscles and less fat that will turn everyone’s heads!
What’s The Difference Between Being Overweight And Having Excess Body Fat?
Being overweight means you weigh too much for your size. This could be due to your bones, water, and fat. For example, athletes could be considered ‘overweight’ without having an excess body fat percentage.
However, someone who has excess body fat weighs too much due to fat and is likely obese. This is more concerning and should cause some reactive measures.
How Is BMI Different From Body Fat Percentage?
BMI, or body mass index, is the weight of your body in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters. It is not an indicator of your fitness and doesn’t give you any idea about your body fat percentage.
On the other hand, body fat percentage shows the total fat percentage in your body and is a key indicator of how fat and fit you are.
My name is Deborah Foster and I am a Weight Loss Coach with a background in Nutrition Coaching and Personal Training. I specialize in helping women and men break through the yo-yo diet cycle and lose weight for good, without being miserable in the process.