The body fat percentage is an important marker for both men and women that provides information about health and possible health risks. High blood pressure, vascular calcification, and strokes – all of this can cause too much fat in the body. Men in particular are at risk. But what percentage of body fat is healthy, and when does it become dangerous? And how can you measure it?
A body fat percentage (BFA) that is too high in men is usually easy to recognize: Because the fat settles particularly on the torso, the “beer belly” is an unmistakable sign that the ratio between fat and fat-free mass is out of balance. If the body fat percentage is increased, this can not only become an aesthetic problem – it can also be dangerous. This increases the risk of various diseases, from high blood pressure to stroke and cancer. It is all the more important to know at which values it becomes questionable.
Body fat in men: Visceral fat is a health hazard
Excess fat in the body makes its way to the stomach in men. Blame it on testosterone. In 2015, the fat belly was celebrated in pop culture: The so-called “Dad Bod”, which refers to the fat accumulation on the stomach in men, knocked the six-pack as the new ideal of beauty from the throne.
But what this trend has missed is the health aspect. Because the more bacon on the stomach, the higher the proportion of so-called visceral fat that settles around the internal organs. We now know that it produces countless hormones and messenger substances that pose a health risk.
Elevated body fat in general, and visceral fat in particular, can result in the following:
- High cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- vascular calcifications
- Cardiovascular diseases, especially heart attacks and strokes
- Chronic inflammation that increases the risk of cancer
How do you calculate body fat percentage in men?
Checking the body fat percentage is therefore part of disease prevention. But a normal bathroom scale cannot measure this value. This requires special measuring methods that enable hydrostatic weighing, i.e. an exact calculation of body composition.
The most reliable method to measure the body fat percentage, regardless of whether it is a man or a woman, is the so-called bioimpedance analysis. The percentage of muscle, fat, and water in the body is determined using electrical resistance. Individual factors such as age, gender, and height are also taken into account. The result is accurate values. Although personal scales with integrated impedance analysis are now commercially available, they are nowhere near as reliable as professional scales used in fitness studios and some general practitioners’ surgeries.
Other methods to calculate body fat percentage:
- The caliper skinfold measurement: A skinfold measurement is carried out with special pliers (calipers) on various parts of the body – in men mostly on the chest, abdomen, and quadriceps. The thickness of the skin folds should provide information about the percentage of body fat. Disadvantages: The method is based on estimates and to obtain comparative values, measurements must always be taken at the same points.
- DEXA-Scan: Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (translated: dual X-ray absorptiometry) is considered the best method for determining body fat. However, it is only used in the medical field. A 20-minute body scan provides X-rays that show not only the amount but also the distribution of body fat.
- US Navy Method: As the name suggests, this method was developed by the US Navy. You can use it to measure your fat percentage quickly and easily. However, the Navy method offers at best a rough guide and no exact values. The only thing you need is a measuring tape to calculate your waist and neck circumference. You then have to bring the values into this formula: (waist circumference in centimeters – neck circumference in centimeters) – a height in centimeters + 30.30.
Reduce body fat – man can do that
Gender and age are key non-changeable variables in terms of body fat content. Through two factors, however, every human being can influence the natural metabolic processes and bring the KFA into a healthy range, namely through diet and exercise.
It’s very easy: A calorie surplus nourishes the fat deposits. Calories that the body does not convert into energy and therefore do not burn are stored in the fat cells (adipocytes). If this process is repeated, body fat is inevitably formed. The magic word here is calorie deficit. Experts recommend consuming 500 to 800 fewer calories than you need each day.