Body Fat: Why is it important?
Body fat is present in every person’s body, regardless of their lifestyle and habits. Even athletes have it because it plays a vital role in proper physical functions. However, not every person has 40% body fat.
There are several reasons why body fat is important, among which are:
- It is a valuable source of energy. 10-15 kilos of fat can provide energy for up to 3 months (13).
- It is a great physical temperature regulator. Due to its thermal insulation effect, it can help you survive in the cold (13).
- It is necessary for the reproductive system. Women with an adequate amount of it tend to be more fertile than those who lack it (13).
- It protects your bones. It prevents fractures and reduces mechanical pressure on particular body parts. For instance, it is present in heels and toes, ensuring a person’s easy movement (8, 20).
- It protects your organs, for example, by keeping persistent organic pollutants away from your organ tissues (18).
However, “the more fat, the better” approach does not work here. The amount of it in your body has to be moderate to keep the potential health problems at bay.
Is having 40% of body fat considered obese?
Body fat percentage is a measurement that shows how big the part of it is in your physique’s composition. In other words, it is the amount in comparison with your muscles, bones, and water. There are a few groups of percentages, ranging from the minimum to obesity. The ideal percentage will be different for women and men due to the peculiarities of their physiques (4).
|Obese||32% and more||26% and more|
Broadly speaking, women need more fat for their bodies to function properly compared to men. While 2% of it is the minimum sufficient for men, women need 5 times as much. One of the primary reasons for such a drastic difference is the lower fat oxidation in women, meaning that women are prone to storing more fat than men (9). One reason for this may be that it is essential for the female reproductive system, such functions as periods and ovulation in particular (21). So, the biological sex of a person plays a determining role in their fat percentage and distribution. This must be taken into consideration when you set off on the weight loss journey. It is recommended to keep the percentage within 14-31% and 6-25% boundaries for women and men respectively. Accordingly, 40% is too much for both women and men. Exceeding the upper limit will result in obesity and the problems it entails.
Methods of calculating body fat
1. Using the body fat caliper
This is an easy way to measure the thickness of your skinfold and thus determine your fat percentage. You can go through the process alone or ask your doctor, friend, or family member for help. All you need to do is to grab your skin fold in a certain body area and apply the caliper. Of course, you won’t know the percentage immediately after taking the caliper in your hands, but you can apply the value in a special formula. Here is one of the formulas you can use (5, 11):
Jackson-Pollock formula. This one gauges not the body fat percentage but the body density, which can be further converted into the percentage. So, here is what you have to calculate:
For women: 1.0994921 – (0.0009929 x the sum of the triceps, thigh, and suprailiac skinfolds in mm) + (0.0000023 x the square of the sum of the triceps, thigh, and suprailiac skinfolds in mm) – (0.0001392 x age) = body density.
For men: 1.10938 – (0.0008267 x the sum of the chest, abdomen, and thigh skinfolds in mm) + (0.0000016 x the square of the sum of the chest, abdomen, and thigh skinfolds in mm) – (0.0002574 x age) = body density.
To convert the result into a percentage, use the following formula:
[(4.95/body density) – 4.5] x 100 = body fat percentage.
2. The YMCA formula
This formula calculates the body fat percentage. There are different versions of this one for women and men (22):
For women: – 76.76 + 4.15*waist size – 0.082*weight/weight
For men: – 98.42 + 4.15*waist size – 0.082*weight/weight
Waist size should be in inches and weight should be in pounds.
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Why is having 40% of body fat bad?
Having 40% is a lot for either a man or a woman. If you have that much fat, you are considered obese, which is likely to lead to health problems and may complicate your everyday life.
- Heart diseases and strokes. Typical symptoms of obesity are high cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which are the primary risk factors for heart conditions.
- Particular cancers, such as ovary, prostate, liver, rectum, kidney types, among others.
- Type 2 diabetes. Excessive weight can interfere with the insulin controlling blood sugar levels.
- Digestive diseases, among which are the gallbladder diseases and liver problems.
- Reproductive problems. Obesity has a propensity to cause infertility in people by disrupting the erectile function in men and periods in women.
- Osteoarthritis. Excessive weight puts much pressure on a person’s weight joints which can cause inflammation.
- Sleep apnea. This is a condition when you involuntarily stop breathing in your sleep and then start doing it again in an unpredictable amount of time.
- Mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
- Physical pain in different areas of your body.
Similarly, obesity can make your life more problematic as it restricts your movement and lowers your self-esteem. With 40% of fat, you need much more energy and effort to perform basic tasks such as walking, cleaning, etc. Likewise, obese people tend to have worse work performance than those with normal weight. When it comes to social life, obese people might feel rather insecure, thus suffering from self-consciousness (12, 15). Additionally, such people sometimes become victims of bullying and are mocked for their appearance.
What to do with 40% of body fat?
Judging from the above-mentioned detrimental effects of obesity on human health, if your body fat comprises 40%, you should aim to start losing weight. To do it properly, you should take a comprehensive approach. In other words, cutting down on your calorie intake is insufficient to achieve the desired result; besides, you should change your lifestyle. Here are the best tips for weight loss:
1. Start exercising
2. Practice resistance training. Exercising with weights proves to burn more than training without any equipment. Also, the more muscle you have the faster you burn calories (2).
3. Do HIIT. It is a great type of cardio training that makes your body work like crazy. HIIT consists of alternating between the periods when you are pushing your body to the limit and rest. This must be the most challenging yet effective way to burn fat (2).
4. Walk/jog regularly. Do this for at least 20 minutes 4 times a week. Jogging is more impactful than walking but it might be extremely hard at the initial stage of your transformation journey. In this case, you can substitute jogging with brisk walking (17). Eventually, when you lose some weight and grow muscle, you can give jogging a try.
5. Reconsider your eating habits
6. Eat more fruits and vegetables. These are miraculous foods, high in nutrients, and low in calories. In the beginning, of course, you might find it impossible to eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, at the same time sacrificing the foods you love. Hence, it might be helpful to introduce veggies and fruits incrementally. First, start adding these to your favorite dishes, such as pasta or a cake for example. Then, begin to gradually remove indulgent foods from your menu, replacing them with more healthy substitutes (14).
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7. Reduce your sugar intake. If you have a sweet tooth, this is some bad news for you: you need to eat less sugar. This does not mean that you have to avoid sweet foods. You still can have fruits or other sources of natural (i.e. not added) sugar (14).
8. Get enough sleep. Interestingly, the amount of time you spend sleeping plays a significant role in your weight loss. There is substantial evidence showing that people who sleep for 6-8 hours are less likely to grow visceral fat (17). Also, sleeping helps you curb your appetite, making you eat less (7).
9. Add more protein to your diet. This nutrient is said to boost your metabolism and contribute to your muscle growth, which is key to weight loss. Truly, multiple studies have demonstrated that those who stick to a high-protein diet lose weight faster (2, 3, 16).
10. Drink plenty of water. Of all the drinks known to humankind, water is the simplest and healthiest. The connection between water and weight loss is rather clear. This liquid is calorie-free and creates the illusion of fullness. Hence, a glass of water can curb your hunger for some time (19). Therefore, it is recommended that you have a glass of water when you feel slightly hungry. This might prevent you from overeating.
The Bottom Line
Although fat is an essential part of the human body, its surplus can do more harm than good. You need to know your body fat percentage to avoid anorexia or obesity, both of which are deleterious for your well-being. The normal percentage for women ranges from 14% to 31%, while from 6% to 25% for men. Accordingly, having 40% of it is considered to be obese, meaning the person needs to lose a lot of weight. There are various ways to do it, but what you have to remember is that you should not focus only on your nutrition. Apart from that, you need to stay active, drink a lot of water, and get enough sleep. Following these recommendations and not giving up will help you cope with obesity and live happily.
Can you actually have abs with 40% body fat?
Yes, you can. You can still grow muscles even if you have 40% body fat. However, the abs will not be visible under the fat layer.
How to get from 40% body fat to 25%?
Reduce your calorie intake and increase the amount of time you exercise. Remember, you should accept the challenge and stay consistent. Take incremental steps towards your dream body and do not rush.
How long does it take to go from 40% body fat to 10% body fat?
It is recommended to lose no more than 2 pounds per week, which means it might take you around a year to lose that much weight (1).
How much weight do I need to lose when my body fat percentage is 40%?
It depends on your height, waist size, and other parameters. The amount of weight a person with 40% fat should lose is unique for everyone. Please consult a specialist before diving into exercise and dieting.
If you want to lose some weight, you should do some exercise. Check up this 20 Min Full Body Workout at Home challenge!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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- What’s a Healthy Body Fat Percentage? (2019, livestrong.com)
- YMCA Body Fat Calculator (n.d., easycalculation.com)