Understanding Body Fat Percentage
Want to take your fitness tracking to the next level? Sure, monitoring your weight on the scale can be a good starting point, but there's another metric that can give you a more complete picture of your progress and health: Body Fat Percentage. It can help you understand the changes in muscle or fat content that your body experiences as you work toward your fitness goals.
Are you ready to learn more about it and incorporate it into your fitness journey? Let's explore this new way of tracking your progress together!
What is Body Fat Percentage?
Your total body weight can be further broken down into different percentages of lean muscle mass, skeletal mass, water, and body fat. This is called your body composition. Thus, your body fat percentage is the amount of body weight that is comprised solely of body fat.
Higher levels of body fat, also known as obesity, is historically linked to an increased risk for many diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes—but, on the other hand, having too little body fat can also cause health complications, as body fat is essential for the regulation of glucose, cholesterol, and reproductive hormones.
What is a healthy Body Fat Percentage?
Healthy body fat percentages are highly individualized, and it’s best to work with your healthcare provider or a certified personal trainer to determine an ideal range for your lifestyle and goals. However, there are some standard ranges that are generally considered healthy for both men and women.
Body Fat % for Men
Body Fat % for Women
It’s important to note that some body fat is essential for protecting and cushioning your organs—this is called visceral fat. Too much visceral fat can lead to issues such as obesity or fatty liver disease, while having too little visceral fat can interfere with your hormones and your immune system.
The other kind of fat, which is subcutaneous fat, is the fat that accumulates underneath the surface of the skin. Having a healthy amount of subcutaneous fat is also essential, as it’s used for padding your muscle and bones, controlling your body temperature, and helping your blood vessels and nerves get from your skin to your muscles. However, having too much subcutaneous fat can cause health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, etc., as it often indicates that you have too much visceral fat as well.
How Do You Calculate Body Fat Percentage?
There are multiple options for measuring your body fat percentage, but some methods are more expensive than others. For example, you can get a CT scan (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to analyze your body fat percentage with great accuracy, but these tests are quite pricey, and most insurance companies don’t typically offer coverage.
Two of the more common, affordable tests for measuring your body fat percentage are using calipers to measure skin folds and using a bioelectrical impedance scale, such as the InBody scales you can find at many 9Round locations.
- Calipers are used to pinch layers of the skin in specific places around your body to get measurements that are then input into a specific formula to determine your body fat percentage. This is often what a personal trainer will use to help determine your body fat percentage when starting a new program.
- Bioelectrical impedance scales send weak electrical currents throughout your body and then measure the voltage in order to calculate impedance of the body. These scales tell you how much body fat you have in comparison to your lean muscle mass, skeletal mass, and water content. Completing multiple scans throughout your fitness journey can help you track changes in fat and muscle content so you can see the progress you’re making even when your weight might not be changing. Note: If your 9Round studio offers InBody scans, talk to your Champion Trainer about setting up a body composition scan during your next visit.
How Can You Lower Your Body Fat Percentage?
Simply put, you can lower your body fat percentage by burning more calories than you consume each week. There are two ways to do this: reducing calories through your diet and reducing calories through exercise. Often, the best option for most people will be a combination of both.
According to research, it takes around 3,500 calories to burn just one pound of body fat, which means you’d need to burn an extra 500 calories per day to lose one pound of body fat per week. However, the amount of fat your body burns will vary based on numerous factors, including your gender, age, and activity level. Generally speaking, if you reduce your calories by 500 per day, you may lose around ½ to 1 pound of body fat per week (Source: Mayo Clinic).
Increased physical activity can help you burn more calories per week to help you manage your weight and body fat percentage. Routine physical activity also provides other health benefits as well, such as improved brain health, a reduced risk for many diseases, stronger bones and muscles, and a better quality of life as you’re able to perform everyday activities more efficiently. Not to mention, when you build more lean muscle mass through regular exercise you enable your body to burn more calories while at rest, which in turn helps you lower your body fat percentage.
The recommended guidelines for physical activity for adults is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. If you’re already a 9Rounder, then you can meet these guidelines by consistently knocking out three workouts per week.
The other option for reducing calories is changing your eating habits. There are numerous ways to adjust your diet to lower calories, but we always recommend speaking with a registered dietician to develop a plan for your lifestyle and goals. However, the best thing to check first is the amount of excess sugar you consume. Reducing the number of sugary drinks, such as soda or sweet tea, as well as desserts and other treats, is a great first step.
It's important to note that when you’re reducing calories through your diet that you’re still eating enough to properly fuel your body, especially before and after your KILLER workouts. You can find more information about fueling your body in your 9Round Member Portal within the 9Round Nutrition Guide. There is also a Recipes tab where you can find plenty of options for healthy, macro-balanced meals and snacks that are written by a certified nutrition coach.