If you want to lose weight, you have to reduce your body fat percentage. But what are the guidelines? What percentage of fat is normal in a woman? Everything you need to know about body fat.
How much body fat is normal?
Women who want to lose weight healthily cannot avoid the question of the normal body fat percentage in women. Contrary to what is often assumed, fat pads are not inherently bad. Fat deposits are largely essential to life. Fat cells, so-called adipocytes, are an important energy store and producer of many different messenger substances. But fat deposits can also be dangerous.
First of all, it is important to know that body fat is not just body fat! While some fat deposits are of great help to the metabolism, provide warmth in winter, or, for example, cushion the heels of the feet, fat, especially in the abdomen, can lead to cardiovascular diseases. But how much body fat is normal for women? And why do women need a higher proportion of fat than men?
The ideal body fat percentage for women depends on these factors
There isn’t one value that says how high the percentage of fat in the body should be about the total mass.
An optimal body fat percentage depends on various factors:
- physical activity
Women naturally have a higher fat content than men. Larger women need more fat deposits than smaller women of the same age, while older women could well do without thick fat deposits. Nevertheless, certain guidelines specify what body fat percentage is healthy for women and men at a certain age: women should ideally have a fat percentage of between 21 and 30 percent. The absolute lower limit for women is 10 to 13 percent. Below that it can even be dangerous. Men normally only have between 8 and 20 percent body fat. This value should never fall below the limit of 3 to 5 percent, not even for competitive athletes.
When does body fat become dangerous in women?
Both a high and a low body fat percentage in women can be unhealthy or even dangerous. Too little body fat can result in disorders in the organism. However, if the limit value is exceeded, this is usually noticeable in the blood count and blood pressure. The result is often calcification of the blood vessels and thus cardiovascular diseases, strokes, and diabetes.
But it is also important where the fat pads are located in the body. The famous fat on the stomach, so-called visceral fat tissue, can lead to cardiovascular diseases in women. In the case of fat deposits on the hips, buttocks, and thighs, experts even assume that these absorb harmful substances that are released from the fat on the stomach.
Why is body fat percentage higher in women?
The guide values have already shown it: women generally have a higher body fat percentage – and they also need it. The reason: The female body is adjusted to the care of the baby during pregnancy. The body needs to store fat to have enough energy to feed the baby. The female body, therefore, has more enzymes that ensure fat storage than enzymes that help burn fat. The female hormone estrogen also supports the production of fat-storing enzymes.
Measure body fat percentage: These methods exist
There are many different ways to find out which parts of the body are made up of fat. Some are very accurate, such as the so-called DEXA scan. However, this ultrasound scanner is an absolute professional device that can only be found in hospitals or universities. In addition, there are also measuring methods that women can have carried out in fitness studios or even at home:
1. Caliper and Body Fat Calculator
There is already a wide range of body fat calculators for women online. These calculators are based on a very old mechanical method. The thickness of the skin folds must be measured at various parts of the body with a caliper. The values are then entered online into the body fat calculator and this then reveals the body fat percentage.
The disadvantage of this method: Accuracy is required here! To be able to evaluate changes, you always have to measure the same points again. Nevertheless, the caliper method is still used in medicine today.
2. Body fat scale
This measuring method can also be tried out conveniently at home. All you need is a so-called body fat scale. Such a device usually provides data on water, muscle, and body fat percentage. How does it work? When you step on the scale barefoot, electricity flows through your body. This flow of current provides the device with body composition information and then displays the results on the screen.
3. Bio-impedance analysis
The so-called bio-impedance analysis is based on the principle on which body fat scales are also based. However, this measurement method is much more accurate. The BIA provides detailed information on how and to what extent a woman’s body is made up of what. Electrodes are not only used to measure the lower body, as the scales do but also the upper body. You can have such an analysis carried out in many gyms, but also by a naturopath or family doctor.
The disadvantage of body fat scales and a BIA: The measurement result is influenced by the body’s water balance. If the body has stored a lot of water, the resistance with which the current flows through the body is lower. In this way, the result is falsified.