How Much Body Fat Do I have?

Body Fat Calculator

For anyone, knowing how much body fat they have when dieting can be really useful information in the setting of goals and tracking progress. However, calculating body fat percentage is somewhat more difficult than just simply measuring body weight. So, use our calculator to find out how much body fat you have. Our calculator is based on peer-reviewed studies and, although an estimation, it provides a good indication of what your body fat percentage is.

A Quick Guide To Understanding Body Fat

What is body fat and why is it important?

There is a common misconception that all body fat is bad but in fact, fat serves a number of important functions in the body. The scientific name for body fat is ‘adipose tissue’. Its primary function is to store lipids from food, which the body can then use to create energy; adipose tissue is also required to secrete a number of essential hormones.

There are three different types of body fat:

Essential body fat

Needed to protect the body from diseases and physically protect organs from bruising damage.

Reserve body fat

Additional fat that presents no risk to health but rather provides a store of fuel for the body to use when needed.

Excess body fat

Body fat in excess of essential and reserve body fat, which can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

Why is having excess body fat a bad thing?

Excess body fat introduces the risk of generating serious health issues. Some of the most common health problems are seen in people who are overweight or obese, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2diabetes.

Excess fat carried around the abdomen (abdominal fat) is directly linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, which has the potential to clog arteries, leading to a heart attack or stroke. Excess abdominal fat is also dangerous because it is closely located to the portal vein, which carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver. Substances released by body fat, including free fatty acids, enter the portal vein and travel to the liver, where they can impede its function. Abdominal fat can, however, be easily reduced through healthy diet and regular exercise.

Is there such thing as having too little body fat?

Having some body fat is not only desirable for good health, it is actually essential, and in having too low a level of body fat this can also pose a risk to health. In the IIFYM community, there is a worrying trend to reduce body fat to an extremely low percentage so that the skin is void of fat and muscle striation is visible; this is very unhealthy and unsustainable. Males should have a minimum of 5% body fat, and women 13%, to ensure the body is functioning properly.

What is body fat percentage?

Body fat percentage is simply the proportion of total body weight that is comprised of fat tissue.

Example:

A 155-pound female who has a body fat percentage of 30% would have 46.5 pounds of fat tissue, with the remaining 108.5 pounds of body weight being drawn from muscle, bone, nervous, skin, and other tissues.

Body fat percentage usually relates to fitness level and can be a better indicator of health than BMI.

What is a good percentage of body fat to have?

Although not true in all cases, women generally have a higher body fat percentage than men. This is perfectly normal and healthy, and is due to childbearing reasons. The table below shows the healthy ranges of body fat for both women and men.

How can I measure body fat?

Specific techniques must be used to measure body fat. The U.S. Navy have established a useful and straightforward method, which takes into account the differences in body fat accumulation between men and women:

  • Measure the circumference of the waist at a horizontal level around the navel for men, and at the level with the least width for women.
  • Measure the circumference of the neck, start below the larynx with the tape sloping lightly downward to the front.
  • For women only: measure the circumference of the hips, at the largest horizontal measure.
  • Insert the measurements into the My Diet Meal Plan calculator for the result.

This method is a guide, and more accurate body fat calculations can be made using callipers and DEXA scans.

How can I lose body fat?

Online, there are thousands of proposals claiming to help control or reduce body fat. The fact is, that complicated and potentially unhealthy gimmicks aren’t needed; good old-fashioned changes to diet, and the introduction of an appropriate level of exercise is all that is necessary.

To lose body fat and keep it off, this will entail long-term lifestyle changes and discipline. Find an exercise programme, one that can be worked at regularly and gradually reduce calorie intake.

Limit the amount of carbohydrates consumed, especially potatoes, rice, pasta and bread because these will provide the body with more energy than it needs and will be stored as fat. Definitely do not cut out carbohydrates, it is crucially important to consume plenty of fruit and vegetables. Also cut back on refined sugar; excess sugar will be also be stored as fat. Sweets and soda can be replaced with fresh fruit and fruit juices.

Intensive exercise for short periods is the best way to burn fat. This can be running on the treadmill, or rowing, or working out with weights. Isolated exercises such as sit-ups may have no effect at all unless incorporated within an intense workout.

Simply change diet and exercise to successfully reduce body fat and feel better.

Why is it helpful to track body fat percentage?

Measuring and tracking body fat percentage is useful for a number of reasons.

  • Knowing your body fat percentage is important when formulating accurate total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
  • If you are flexible dieting, you likely aim is to decrease fat mass and increase muscle mass; therefore tracking body fat percentage is an ideal way to keep track on progress.
  • Knowing your body fat percentage will help you establish a realistic and healthy goal weight.

Body Fat Calculator

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Diet Plans

Flexible dieting is our recommended diet plan for the majority of people. Many alternative diets are very prescriptive, with very rigid rules and little compatibility with people’s tastes and preferences. There are some rules of course but as the name suggests, the rules are nowhere near as rigid as other diets tend to be. Flexible dieting opens up people’s choices as there is little emphasis on making people only eat certain types of food (although eating a variety of foods and vegetables is encouraged). The diet is essentially based on establishing a daily calorie target (the most important factor in weight control) and slightly looser target ranges for Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats whilst still allowing you to eat the foods you enjoy.

The 5:2 diet is a weight loss diet. Essentially you eat the same amount of calories you would usually have to maintain your current bodyweight for 5 days a week and on the remaining 2 days you eat very few calories (almost fasting). This will result in a weekly calorie deficit that helps you lose weight whilst still eating “normally” for the majority of the week. The diet is quite easy to adhere to compared to many other diet plans and makes some social situations easier if you occasionally go out for dinner with other people who aren’t dieting.

The Zone Diet is best known as a weight loss diet (although it remains popular with many crossfit athletes who are looking to maintain or gain weight for sport performance purposes). To follow the diet you need to stick to a set ratio of 40% of your daily calories coming from carbohydrates, 30% from protein and the remaining 30% from fats. Although we allow you to choose how many meals and snacks you wish to have the diet recommends that you have 3 main meals and 2 snacks or 5 smaller meals each day.

We provide meal plans for the first two phases of the Atkins Diet. The first phase of the Atkins Diet is essentially a Protein Sparing Modified Fast (read more here). It is a very rapid, but short term method of losing weight and almost entirely involves only eating high protein foods and vegetables for a period of 2 weeks. This diet may be difficult to follow on a vegetarian diet (without mainly consuming meal replacement drinks) and if you still wish to follow the Atkins Diet it may be best to start on Phase 2 instead.

Our low fat diet meal plans are overall very similar to the Flexible Dieting meal plans except there is an emphasis on the plan containing lower levels of fat. This plan is flexible and is suitable for weight loss, weight maintenance and weight gain.

Our low carb diet meal plans are overall very similar to the Flexible Dieting meal plans except there is an emphasis on the plan containing lower levels of carbohydrates. This plan is flexible and is suitable for weight loss, weight maintenance and weight gain. If you undertake large amounts of exercise or you are a vegan this may not be suitable for you.

The protein sparing modified fast diet (PSMF) is a very low calorie diet, based on a prolonged fast, and is used for rapid weight loss. With a typical calorie allowance below 1,000 per day, its intention is to induce a state called ‘ketosis’, where the body is forced to utilise its fat stores as fuel. Calories would largely be drawn from lean protein sources, with minimal amounts from fats and carbohydrates. The high amount of protein helps reduce muscle loss and wastage.

This is the traditional macro nutrient split used, and still used, by many who wish to follow a diet to compliment their bodybuilding training. The macro nutrient split is 40% Protein, 40% Carbohydrate and 20% Fat of total daily calories. In our meal wizard we have built in a little more flexibility to these percentages in order to make the diet easier to follow.

This is the best option for people that want total control over all aspects of their diet plan and nutritional targets. If you prefer to set up your own completely custom diet plan from scratch or wish to find meals that fit the criteria and macros that your nutritionist has given you then this meal planner is for you.

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