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Weight Loss » Weight Management » Body Fat Percentage Calculator: Can You Diagnose Obesity With It?

Body Fat Percentage Calculator: Can You Diagnose Obesity With It?

what is a healthy body fat percentage calculator

Body fat: Do you really need to get rid of it?

Scientifically known as “adipose tissue,” body fat is an integral part of the human body, without which the latter could not function properly. You might be surprised, but even sportspeople have it, although it is not that visible. If you want to achieve your perfect weight, you should do away with the stereotype that adipose tissue makes your figure look ugly and unhealthy. A body fat percentage calculator may be very useful for you.

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Here are some functions of body fat:

  • It is a vital energy reserve. For instance, 10-15 kilograms of adipose tissue can provide energy for 2-3 months. However, too much surplus in energy storage is associated with obesity, that is, excess in fat (6, 18).
  • Body fat can help people prevent infection by playing a role in the immune system (26).
  • It has a thermal insulation effect and thus can regulate the body temperature, protecting it from extreme heat or cold (18).
  • Fat stores vitamins A, D, E, and K, preventing vitamin deficiency (8).
  • It keeps persistent organic pollutants away from the organ tissues (22).
  • It reduces the risk of bone fractures and reduces the mechanical pressure on the legs, toes, and heels in particular (7, 24).
  • Body fat boosts the production of sex hormones, contributing to one’s fertility. In particular, it stimulates the production of estrogen (18).

Nevertheless, it is crucial to control your weight, and using body fat percentage calculators to stay away from obesity, which entails several severe health problems, is one way to do it. Too much or too little adipose tissue can have an inauspicious impact on your psychological and physical wellbeing. Therefore, it is crucial to measure its thickness using a body fat percentage calculator.

ideal body fat percentage calculator
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What is body fat percentage?

There are many ways you can determine whether your weight is healthy, and this is one of them. Many experts claim that it is more reliable than the well-known BMI. Its principal advantage over BMI is that it distinguishes between the fat and muscles. On the other hand, BMI does not do it, which might be often confusing, as even athletic people could be considered overweight by BMI due to their sizable muscle mass (2). 

To be specific, it shows you how much fat you have compared to your bone and muscle mass, all of which constitute your body composition. There are several formulas designed to gauge the part of the adipose tissue in your body composition. 

How do you measure body fat?

While hydrostatic weighing and other advanced instruments are not affordable for the average person, the body caliper is. It is the most popular tool to measure adipose tissue, which enables you to accurately calculate your body fat percentage. All you need for this method is to pinch your skinfold in a certain area and apply the caliper to it. Some might find it rather challenging to do, which is why it might be helpful to engage your family, friends, or trainer in the measurement process. Indeed, with their help, you can measure your skinfold thickness faster and more accurately (12).

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Here is a step-by-step instruction on how to measure the thickness of your skinfold (3):

  1. Identify the exact location of the skinfold before applying the caliper to it. You might also mark the area with an eyebrow pencil.
  2. Pull the skinfold with your thumb and index finger and hold it firmly.
  3. On the other hand, take the caliper and hold it perpendicular to the skinfold.
  4. A couple of seconds after releasing the trigger, look at the dial.
  5. Repeat these actions for each skinfold you have planned to measure. However, you should do it with at least 15-second intervals to let the fat readjust. 

In general, the cornerstone of the skinfold method is that half of the total adipose tissue is stored beneath the skin. For the measurement to be precise and reliable, it is recommended that the same person should perform it regularly. Besides, measuring the skinfold thickness after a workout is likely to show incorrect results because of the transfer of fluid to the skin (3).

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Accurate body fat percentage calculator variations for women and men

Measuring a skinfold is not enough to calculate the adipose tissue percentage: you need to use this index in corresponding formulas. Several formulas serve this need. So, choose the one you like the most and take your calculator to find out whether the amount of your body fat is within the normal range.

The Jackson and Pollock Formula

For this formula, you will have to measure the skinfold in three areas of your body, which will be different for women and men.

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If you are a woman, follow these instructions (3,12):

  1. Pinch a skinfold on your triceps. You will not be able to do this on your own, so you will need to find a person who will give you a hand here. The perfect spot for the skinfold is in the middle of your upper arm. It is better to fold your skin vertically here.
  2. Measure your suprailiac skinfold. This one is located on the lower belly at the top of your hip bone. Apply the caliper diagonally in this area.
  3. Pull your skin on your thigh somewhere in the middle between your hip and knee applying the vertical fold.
  4. Enter the measurements into this formula:

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.

To convert the result into a percentage, use the following formula:

[(4.95/body density) – 4.5] x 100 = body fat percentage.

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If you are a man, do the following (3,12):

  1. Measure your chest skinfold. Apply the caliper to the middle spot between your armpit crease and nipple. Pinch the skinfold diagonally.
  2. Pinch the skin right near your belly button. Here, you can fold the skin either vertically or horizontally, depending on what is more convenient for you.
  3. Measure your thigh skinfold. The perfect spot for this is in the middle area between your thigh and knee. The vertical fold is the best option here.
  4. Enter the measurements into this formula:

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.

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body fat percentage women calculator
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The YMCA Formula

To use this formula, you are not required to measure your skinfolds. The only measurements you need are your weight and waist size (29).

If you are a woman, use this formula:

– 76.76 + 4.15 x waist size – 0.082 x weight / weight

If you are a man, use this formula:

– 98.42 + 4.15 x waist size – 0.082 x weight / weight

body fat percentage calculator using height and weight
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Using BMI

Although BMI on its own is not the most credible body fat percentage calculator, it still can be employed to gauge the amount of adipose tissue. So, first, you will need to calculate the BMI, using only your height and weight (4, 10):

weight in kg / height in m2

703 x weight in lbs / height in in2

In the table below, you can see 4 weight categories and the corresponding indexes. Based on this table, you can conclude whether your weight is normal, but it is unlikely to show whether you have excess fat.

BMI
Underweight<18.5
Normal weight18.5–24.9
Overweight25–29.9
Obese30 and more

Further, you can enter your BMI in a special formula geared towards measuring the percentage of the adipose tissue in your body composition (13):

For women:

 (1.39 x BMI) + (0.16 x age) – (10.34 x 0) – 9

For men: 

(1.39 x BMI) + (0.16 x age) – (10.34 x 1) – 9

what should my body fat percentage be
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Although this formula is rather convenient and non-demanding, it is not that accurate compared to previous ones. This one is perfect for those with an average body fat percentage. For people with the body adipose tissue amount deviating from the norm, the formula can either under- or overestimate the ultimate percentage.

Ideal Body Fat Percentage

WomenMen 
Minimum fat10-12%2-4%
Athletic14-20%6-13%
Fit21-24%14-17%
Average25-31%18-25%
Obese32% and more26% and more

The table above shows the body percentage ranges for women and men, based on which you can indicate the type of your body. Hence, you can see that 2% and 10% of fat are sufficient for the body functioning of men and women respectively (2). This is quite a drastic difference, which is substantiated by the biological characteristics of the male and female bodies. First off, women need that much fat due to the lower fat oxidation compared to men. In other words, it is much harder for a woman to lose weight than for a man (9, 28). Second, it plays a key role in the female reproductive system. Without a sufficient amount of adipose tissue, a woman cannot have periods and ovulation, which prevents her from reproduction (25). 

The ideal body fat percentage for women ranges between 14% and 31%, while for men the norm is 6% to 25% (2). If your calculations have shown the measures higher than the upper limits, you are considered overweight. Accordingly, you should take steps to lose weight before the obesity backlashes at you. 

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Why is having excess fat unhealthy?

From the biological perspective, obesity is not what your body is used to. Therefore, it is associated with some health issues, the majority of which are severe and fatal. Hence, it is much better to prevent them than find treatment against them (14, 20).

The following are some of the possible health issues associated with obesity:

  • Type 2 diabetes. Obesity can disrupt normal insulin action and interfere with your blood sugar levels.
  • Digestive diseases, including gallbladder diseases and liver problems.
  • Cardiovascular diseases and strokes. Excess fat has a propensity to boost cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which are the typical preconditions for heart diseases.
  • Different types of cancer, such as ovaries, prostate, liver, rectum, and other organs.
  • Reproductive problems. Although fat is essential for the reproductive systems of both women and men, too much of it can lead to infertility. Indeed, obesity often causes erectile dysfunction in men and the absence of menstruation in women.
  • Osteoarthritis. Excess fat puts much mechanical pressure on the weight joints and causes inflammation.
  • Sleep apnea. Obesity is often the main driver of one’s unstable breathing in sleep. Consequently, the person can stop breathing for some time, which sometimes might lead to suffocation.
  • Mental disorders. Overweight people tend to suffer from depression and low self-esteem, which may prevent them from having a normal social life.
  • Physical pain in different areas of your body.
body fat percentage calculator
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Other inconveniences caused by obesity

Apart from the numerous health conditions obesity causes, there are other inconveniences as well. First, overweight people are less productive (measured by absenteeism) than others in the workplace. At the same time, the employers tend to spend more on health care for the obese (15), which might be the driver of the insecurities in the latter. Similarly, there is a higher probability of discrimination in employment because employers might be reluctant to hire people with excessive adipose tissue. Besides, people with excess fat sometimes become the victims of ridicule, being censured for their “ugliness” and “laziness.”

If you tend to let yourself off the hook, raise the white flag when things get tougher than you expected, send yourself on an unconscious binge-eating trip – BetterMe app is here to help you leave all of these sabotaging habits in the past!

How to decrease body fat percentage?

There are multiple weight loss strategies available online, many of which involve either dieting or working out. However, to slim down healthily and effectively, it is crucial to combine these two aspects. You should be prepared for a lengthy body transformation journey which might eventually become a part of your lifestyle.

So, if after using a body fat percentage calculator you have found out that you have the fat surplus, stick to the following recommendations:

accurate body fat percentage calculator
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Work out regularly

Working out is an integral part of a comprehensive weight loss plan that also aims to promote a healthy lifestyle. To blast adipose tissue fast, you should regularly engage in cardio exercising, which will make not only your calories burn, but also your muscles grow.

Here are the examples of cardio activities ranked from the easiest to the hardest:

  • Walking. Go for a brisk 30-minute walk 4 times a week. This activity is recommended for the beginners, for whom it is hard to work out with weights or do HIIT (21).
  • Jogging. Jogging for at least 20 minutes 4 times weekly. This is a more intense exercise than walking and activates your leg muscles better. You can start jogging when you have lost some weight and feel capable of doing this for the required amount of time (21).
  • Moderate cardio activity. You can do low-impact cardio exercises, start dancing or try Zumba. Doing these for 30 minutes 3 times a week will make your fat melt (21).
  • Resistance training. This type of workout requires additional equipment, such as weights, resistance bands, stepping platforms, etc. Building muscle with the help of resistance training makes your calories burn faster (1).
  • HIIT. Hands down! This type of cardio activity is the most challenging and, consequently, the most helpful in weight loss. During a HIIT workout, you have to alternate between the intervals of extremely hard work and rest. The common HIIT pattern for weight loss is working out at a moderate pace for a minute and increasing the intensity to the maximum for half a minute (1).
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Start eating healthy

  • Increase your fruits or vegetable intake. Fruits and veggies might be the healthiest foods, which are recommended for everyone regardless of their eating habits. Indeed, these are rich in nutrients and vitamins but contain few calories, being a perfect choice for people on a weight loss program. Starting your weight loss journey, you don’t need to cut out indulgent foods immediately. Hence, you could make them healthier by adding fruits and veggies to them. As you are getting used to your new meal plan, you can start excluding foods that are not weight-loss-friendly from your diet (19).
  • Eat fewer carbs. If you indulge in pastry and sugary foods, you need to substitute them with less caloric products. Too much refined carbohydrate can cause an imbalance in your gut bacteria and are full of empty calories, which makes weight gain inevitable (27).
  • Decrease your salt intake. Salt excess is associated with increased food intake and obesity (17).

Sleep at least 6 hours a day

Since it is impossible to sleep and eat at the same time, sleeping, undoubtedly, positively contributes to weight loss. Furthermore, sleeping for 6-8 hours can slow down your visceral fat growth (5, 21).

Drink plenty of water

A glass of water can make you feel full and thus prevent you from overeating (23).

Body Fat Percentage Calculator

Conclusion: Why should you use a body fat percentage calculator?

Despite being necessary for your body, excessive fat can do a lot of harm to you. The body fat percentage calculator helps to calculate your body fat percentage, which is the measure that shows you how much adipose tissue you have in correlation with your bone and muscle mass. If you are a woman, and your body fat percentage exceeds 31%, you are obese and thus prone to a variety of serious health conditions. The same goes for men with more than 26%. Therefore, you should use a body fat percentage calculator of your choice to avoid obesity and maintain a healthy weight. Measuring your adipose tissue is easy and not time-consuming. Additionally, you can do it yourself with the help of a caliper. Then, with the help of a particular formula, you can find out your body fat percentage. 

If after calculating the body fat percentage you got the “obese” result, you should not give up. There are numerous ways you can solve this problem by losing weight. To do this, you should adhere to certain recommendations, which involve healthy eating, regular workouts, sufficient sleep, and drinking water in great amounts. Take up a challenge and try this 20-min Full Body Workout At Home to get a snatched body.

FAQs

What should my body fat percentage be in order to have abs?

It should be within the athletic range. Nonetheless, you still can have abs even with excess fat. The only thing is that these will not be visible.

How much weight should I lose to get the normal body fat percentage?

It depends on your age, sex, height, weight, and other parameters. What you need to remember is that you should not lose more than 2 pounds a week.

What body fat percentage should I have to be an athlete?

As a rule, female and male athletes have 14-20% and 6-13% of adipose tissue, respectively. Yet, its measure does not always determine whether you should do sports.

DISCLAIMER:

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. 

SOURCES:

  1. 9 Ways To Burn Fat Fast (2018, bodybuilding.com)
  2. Body Fat Measurement: Percentage Vs. Body Mass (n.d., webmd.com)
  3. Body Fat Percentage Test Using Jackson-Pollock Formula (n.d., livestrong.com)
  4. Calculate Your Body Mass Index (n.d., nhlbi.nih.gov)
  5. Can you lose weight while sleeping? (2014, edition.cnn.com)
  6. Energy metabolism, fuel selection and body weight regulation (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Fat and Bone: An Odd Couple (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  8. Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, and K (2017, extension.colostate.edu)
  9. Gender Differences in Fat Metabolism (2001, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  10. Healthy weight (n.d., cdc.gov)
  11. High salt intake causes leptin resistance and obesity in mice by stimulating endogenous fructose production and metabolism (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  12. How And Why To Measure Your Body Fat Percentage (2018, bodybuilding.com)
  13. How to Convert BMI to Body Fat Percentage (n.d., livestrong.com)
  14. Obesity (2020, mayoclinic.org)
  15. Obesity in the Workplace: Impact, Outcomes, and Recommendations (2018, researchgate.com)
  16. Percent Body Fat Calculator: Skinfold Method (n.d., acefitness.org)
  17. Salt-weight connection (2017, webmd.com)
  18. The Beneficial Effects of Body Fat and Adipose Tissue in Humans (1997, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  19. The best way to lose weight boils down to these three things (2018, nbcnews.com)
  20. The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity (2020, cdc.gov)
  21. The Truth About Belly Fat (n.d., webmd.com)
  22. Toxicological Function of Adipose Tissue: Focus on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  23. Water May Be Secret Weapon in Weight Loss (2010, webmd.com)
  24. What We Talk About When We Talk About Fat (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  25. What’s a Healthy Body Fat Percentage? (2019, livestrong.com)
  26. White Adipose Tissue Is a Reservoir for Memory T Cells and Promotes Protective Memory Responses to Infection (2017, cell.com)
  27. Why Do Carbohydrates Make You Gain Weight? (2019, livestrong.com)
  28. Why It Really Is Harder for Women to Lose Weight and What To Do! (2019, health.clevelandclinic.org)
  29. YMCA Body Fat Calculator (n.d., easycalculation.com)
Lilly Lawrence

Lilly Lawrence

Lilly is a professional writer specializing in health and science writing. She’s highly inspired by questions of science, which particularly concern nutrition, fitness and medicine. She is a firm advocate for a healthy lifestyle, which is why she creates informative articles based on scientific research and strives to deliver clear and yet detailed information on how to take care of your body and mind. Lilly never fails to flesh out her articles with no-frills nutritional advice, up-to-date fitness tips, and latest medical research data which helps readers get a better grasp on the issue they are concerned about.

Kristen Fleming

Kristen Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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