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Understanding Body Fat Percentage

Do you know your Body Fat Percentage?

Your body is composed of two kinds of fats. Essential Fats and Stored Fats.

Essential fats are needed for proper body functioning. They help you process vitamins A, D, E, and K, because these vitamins are fat-soluble. (Fat-soluble means the body must use fat to properly absorb them.)

Stored fats help provide warmth and protection for your body. Your muscles also use stored fats for energy. Problems begin when you have excess body fat. To understand how much fat is too much, check out the following table.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) provided the following ranges for body-fat percentage.

Women
Men
Essential Fat
10-12% 2-4%
Athletes
13-20% 5-13%
Fitness
21-24% 14-17%
Acceptable
25-31% 18-25%
Obese
32% and Higher 26% and Higher

The numbers break down like this. If you go below the levels of Essential Fats, you risk conditions like osteoporosis, a dangerous thinning of bone. Women can also have their menstrual cycles interrupted.

Ideally you should be in the Athlete or Fitness range. If you're in this range, you significantly reduce your chances of experiencing serious medical conditions, like heart attack, stroke and some cancers.

If you're in the Acceptable range, you should consider it a polite tap on the shoulder to look closer at your health, especially if you're at the higher end of the Acceptable range. You aren't automatically at risk, but you are more likely to experience health problems than people in the Athlete or Fitness range.

Finally, consider the Obese range a warning sign. You should immediately talk to your doctor or health care professional about improving your diet and fitness. Simply moving from the Obese to Acceptable category can potentially add years to your life.

How to Test Body Fat.

There are two common ways of testing body fat. The first is skin-fold measurement, where a person uses calipers to measure specific spots on your body. These measurements are compared to a chart that show the estimated body fat percentage. Unfortunately this method is only as accurate and consistent as the person administering the test.

The second common method is bioelectric impedance (BIA). BIA works by sending an electrical charge through the body. The resistance to the charge is measured and an estimate of your body fat is calculated.

Because both common methods have an error range as low as 2%, to as high as 8%, it is best to be tested at least twice, under the same conditions each time.

Once you have your initial number, you should test yourself weekly, to make sure your exercise program has you losing fat, not muscle. If you're happy with your current body fat percentage, and fat/muscle ratio, a test every month or two will tell you if you're maintaining it.

Guidelines For Testing:

  1. At WeBeFit we use a BIA scale, so if you're going to have us test your body fat percentage, you need to follow these simple rules. Before you come over for the test, you must:

  2. Make sure you don't have a full bladder.

  3. You must not eat or drink 4 hours before measuring.

  4. You should avoid moderate activity for 12 hours before measuring.

  5. No alcohol 48 hours before measuring.

  6. You should not be taking diuretics prior to measuring. (However, if you are taking diuretics because your doctor prescribed them, DO NOT stop taking them unless your doctor says you should!)

Give a WeBeFit Trainer a call when you're ready to find out your Body Fat Percentage! Click Here to contact a personal trainer.

Call for a FREE Consultation (305) 296-3434
CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

1/9/2003