How to Interpret Your Body Fat Percentage

Before you decide to lose weight, remember that weight consists of both fat and lean body mass. Reshape your weight loss goals to include a change in your body fat percentage - a wonderful way to chart your fitness progress.

Things You'll Need

  • Body Fat Monitors/scales
  • Thera-bands
  • Exercise Equipments
  • Free Weights Set


    • 1

      Understand that fat is an essential component of your body.

    • 2

      Know that your body fat percentage compares your body fat to your lean body mass, which is made up of bone, muscle and organ tissue.

    • 3

      Have your body fat percentage tested at a gym, health care provider's office, school or hospital. Body fat analysis machines are also available for home use.

    • 4

      Use the percentage to determine how much your body fat weighs. For example, if you weigh 150 lb. and your body fat percentage is 25 percent, you have 37.5 lb. of fat (150 x 0.25 = 37.5) and 112.5 lb. of lean body mass (150 - 37.5 = 112.5).

    • 5

      Understand that the various methods of measuring body fat - calipers (skin-fold pinching), hydrostatic (underwater weighing), circumferences and charts, and bioelectrical impedance - give you an estimate, not an exact percentage of body fat.

    • 6

      Keep in mind that these measurement methods all have margins of error between 2 and 6 percent. Technician error, hydration levels, body type, time of day and many other factors can affect the accuracy of your results.

    • 7

      Get your body fat tested every six to eight weeks.

    • 8

      Have the test done by the same person during the same time of day, using the same method of measurement, to ensure that you're getting the most consistent measurements possible.

    • 9

      Try not to get too hooked on the numbers. While measuring body fat can be one way to track fitness progress, increased energy, better-fitting clothes or finishing a 5K is equally tangible proof of your hard work.

Tips & Warnings

  • The suggested level of body fat for a female athlete is 14 to 20 percent; for male athletes, it's 6 to 13 percent. The ideal depends greatly on the requirements of the sport.
  • For that "gotta have body," shoot for a body fat percentage between 21 and 24 percent for women, and from 14 to 17 percent for men. But anywhere from 25 to 31 percent for women, and 18 to 25 percent for men, is considered healthy.
  • If you're a woman and your body fat is more than 32 percent of your weight, or if you're a man and your body fat is more than 25 percent of your weight, that's a sign of obesity. Individuals in this range should seek the advice of a health care provider to begin a weight loss and exercise program.
  • Always check with your health care provider before beginning a weight loss or exercise program.
  • Women need at least 10 to 12 percent body fat to maintain healthy bodily functions and continue having periods; men need at least 2 to 4 percent to maintain essential bodily functions.
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