Blog Weight Loss How to Calculate Body Fat?

How to Calculate Body Fat?

Body fat does not have to be your enemy. Let’s face it, people often underestimate its importance, especially when that fat accumulates around the belly or thighs. Too much body fat, and it can cause health issues. Too little body fat, and you miss out on the key roles it plays.

Fat serves a role in the body as a source of stored energy when you don’t eat for an extended time. Your fat tissue releases special hormones that control appetite and metabolism(i.e., leptin, adiponectin), which affects insulin sensitivity. 

Last but not least, consuming fat is how you absorb important vitamins, aka fat-soluble vitamins, including A, D, E and K. 

Unfortunately, the issue starts when the percentage of fat in your body exceeds the norm. This can increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions. This all means that you need to keep tabs on your body fat percentage by doing calculations. 

But how to calculate body fat? Rest easy, we got you covered. Read this article and you will find out the easiest way to measure your body fat. Additionally, you’ll get the healthy body fat percentage chart for females and males. 

How do you calculate body fat percentage?

There are versatile formulas to calculate a person’s body fat percentage, but they aren’t 100% accurate. Ideally, measuring body fat is performed via specialized equipment, usually in a doctor’s office or by a personal trainer. Your doctor or personal trainer may use skinfold calipers to calculate fat percentages in specific areas of the body. After taking these skinfold measurements, the doctor inputs them into a computer program or online calculator and the data shows your overall body fat percentage.

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Other good ways to calculate body fat include underwater weighing and bioelectrical impedance (5). Today you’ll learn about the gold standard in measuring body fat percentage, as well as two ways you can assess your current health status at home. 

how to calculate body fat  

Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan

A DEXA scan is the most accurate calculator of body fat percentage available. It is performed via low-level X-rays. It helps you know how much body fat, bone, and muscle are in your body. It’s relatively quick, but not applicable for home measurements. You will need to go to the hospital or clinic that offers this service to get this procedure done (2).


BMI does not measure body fat directly, but it can give us an idea of how much fat mass is on the body by comparing height and weight (1). Although having some limitations, BMI does correlate well with body fat in most people. It is also quicker and easier than other methods of measuring body fat and gives us good insight into our current health status.

The National Institutes of Health offers a free BMI calculator (11). Here’s the simple calculation formula: 

  1. multiply your weight in pounds by 703
  2. multiply your height in inches by itself
  3. divide the answer from Step 1 by the answer from Step 2 to calculate your BMI

To interpret the final number, a BMI (7).

  • below 18.5 means a person is underweight
  • between 18.5 and 24.9 means a person is of a “normal,” or moderate weight
  • between 25 and 29.9 indicates a person is overweight
  • above 30 indicates a person has obesity

BMI has some limitations. It can’t measure the location of fat, muscle mass, or bone mass—all of which contribute to weight. Advanced levels of fitness such as body builders can get an inaccurate reading because of a high body weight due to muscle. Also, age, sex, and ethnicity can impact body fat (10). For example: 

  • Genetically, females have more body fat and less muscle mass than men.
  • Well-trained athletes may have a high BMI from increased muscle mass but little body fat.
  • Older adults carry more body fat than younger adults (10).
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This tells us that BMI measurements are regarded to be a great screening tool for potential weight-related problems rather than to get an accurate body fat percentage. 

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Waist circumference

The second good way to measure body fat, most specifically our visceral fat includes waist circumference. This is a great measure of health status as additional fat in this area can put pressure and stress on organs. 

Waist circumference may predict disease risk and early mortality, providing a clearer picture of health (4). Check out the measuring instructions:

  1. Stand up straight (form fitting clothes or no clothes) and wrap a flexible measuring tape around your midsection, so that it crosses your belly button. 
  2. Inhale and exhale regularly, and then read the measurement (don’t inhale deeply and hold your breath while measuring!). 
  3. Repeat the measurement 2-3 times to be sure of a consistent reading. 

According to the experts gathered by the National Institutes of Health, a waist size larger than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women may elevate the chances of developing cancer, heart disease, or other chronic diseases (13),(12).

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how to calculate body fat  

Why do you calculate body fat?

Accurately measuring body fat percentage is important for identifying potential health risks. As we already discussed in the intro, excess fat is linked to a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions. 

That’s why measuring it on your own or at the doctor’s can give you a clearer picture of your present health situation and what to be aware of.

Knowing your body fat percentage is beneficial for your weight loss goals. You might be using a simple body weight scale for feedback on your progress, but your body fat measurements will tell you more than the scale. 

Fat loss is your goal if you’re participating in intentional weight loss, boosting your health, or increasing your fitness level. People who lose weight may be losing muscle mass instead, which is a problem. You need muscle mass to perform and function more efficiently and regulate your metabolism (14).

By tracking your body fat percentage, you can understand how well your weight loss program is doing to remove fat while sustaining fat-free mass.

To lose weight healthily, you should keep up with a healthy diet rich in lean meats, veggies, legumes, whole grains, and fruits. Substituting sugary drinks with good tea such as black or green tea will increase the calorie deficit and speed up our transformation. 

Remember this, your diet matters more than your exercise in this case. Being engaged in strength training and other sports, while still eating junk food, will not give you the desired results. 

This means that the perfect and simple strategy for a healthy body is to eat better meals, sleep enough, and stay active. 

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Read more: The Complete Guide to Weight Loss Shakes With the Ultimate Secrets to Homemade Shakes or Branded Powders

What is a normal body fat percentage?

Physiologically, women need more body fat than men for good health.

We need essential body fat as it protects the internal organs, stores vitamins, and regulates hormones. Body fat also changes with age. Here is the body fat percentage women depending on their age (3):

Age: 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-69
super low under 14% under 14% under 14% under 14% under 14%
excellent 14 to 16.5% 14 to 17.4% 14 to 19.8% 14 to 22.5% 14 to 23.2%
normal 16.6 - 19.4% 17.5 - 20.8% 19.9- 23.8% 22.6- 27% 23.3- 27.9%
average 19.5- 22.7% 20.9- 24.6% 23.9- 27.6% 27.1- 30.4% 28- 31.3%
poor 22.8-27.1% 24.7-29.1% 27.7-31.9% 30.5-34.5% 31.4-35.4%
dangerously high over 27.2% over 22.2% over 31.9% over 34.6% over 35.5%

how to calculate body fat  

Here is the body fat percentage men depending on their age (3):

Age: 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-69
super low under 8% under 8% under 8% under 8% under 8%
excellent 8 to 10.5% 8 to 14.5% 8 to 17.4% 8 to 19.1% 8 to 19.7%
normal 10.6 - 14.8% 14.6 - 18.2% 17.5- 20.6% 19.2- 22.1% 19.8- 22.6%
average 14.9- 18.6% 18.3- 21.3% 20.7- 23.4% 22.2- 24.6% 22.7- 25.2%
poor 18.7-23.1% 21.4-24.9% 23.5-26.6% 24.7-24.8% 25.3-28.4%
dangerously high over 23.2% over 25% over 26.7% over 27.9% over 28.5%

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How to calculate body fat percentage with weight and height?

You cannot calculate body fat percentage with height and weight alone. One of the popular assessments based on weight and height, is the body max index or BMI. You calculate the number using your weight and height. If you have too much weight for your height, the excess weight is assumed to be fat. 

The medical community uses this method of calculation because it is an inexpensive and quick method for determining potential health outcomes. If you want to learn how to make measurements via BMI just scroll up to the beginning of this article. 

What is the best formula for calculating body fat?

Besides getting a DEXA scan, the next best formula for calculating body fat is using skin fold calipers and then entering the data into a free calculator online. This gives the most accurate representation of body fat for an individual rather than the generalized idea that is given with BMI.

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Does BMI equal body fat percentage?

No, they are different. Body Mass Index or BMI is a measurement of relative body weight, not body composition (8). It shows whether or not you have a healthy amount of body fat according to the ratio of your weight to your height  – this won’t include muscle, bone, or fat mass (6). BMI may also be used to estimate the risk for diseases, especially diabetes and heart disease. 

A person can have a normal BMI and still have other health issues. It’s because BMI only looks at height and weight, without estimating what is going on metabolically. 

Here is where we want to look for body fat percentage that is calculated by determining how much of a person’s weight is fat and distinguishing fat from muscle. To measure your body fat percentage you should utilize skin fold calipers or a bioelectrical impedance scale.

Read more: Counting Macros for Weight Loss: Pros, Cons, and How-To (A Beginner’s Guide)

how to calculate body fat  


  • Is weight or body fat more important?

If you want to have a healthy body, then focus on your body fat more than your overall weight. Therefore, keeping your body fat percentage at a normal level will decrease the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions. Additionally, fat loss is a healthier goal than weight loss. 

  • How to lower body fat?

Implement a healthy diet. Instead of focusing on eating less, add nutritious products to your daily eating regime: good fats, which may be found in fish, avocados, eggs, seeds, nuts, and olive oil; add more food with fiber, which can be found in oats, fruits, beans, legumes, and nuts; cut back on sugary beverages and meals with added refined sugar; pump your body with protein; lastly sleep well and engage in strength training. 

  • Why is my BMI high but body fat low?

BMI is a good tool for estimating the amount of fat. Yet, it fails to distinguish between weight that is from muscle or weight from fat. That said, some individuals who lift heavy weights regularly and have a high muscle mass may falsely have a high BMI. 

The Bottom Line

How to calculate body fat?

From this article, you’ve discovered versatile ways to calculate body fat. Getting a DEXA scan is the most accurate way to find out your body fat percentage. More accessible options include using a bioelectrical impedance scale or having a fitness trainer use skinfold calipers to measure body fat. Body Mass Index does not equal body fat percentage, but can be a useful and extremely simple tool to assess our current health, as it relates to our body fat. 

It’s a good idea to utilize BMI to identify potential health risks. 


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. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. About Adult BMI (2022,
  2. Body composition analysis (
  3. Body Composition Information and FAQ’s Sheet (
  4. Body Fat (2022,
  5. Body fat percentage charts for men and women (2023,
  6. Body fat percentage vs. BMI – Which is important? (2024,
  7. Body Mass Index (BMI) Calculator (
  8. Body Mass Index and Percentage of Body Fat as Indicators for Obesity in an Adolescent Athletic Population (2011,
  9. Body mass index as a measure of body fatness: age- and sex-specific prediction formulas (1991,
  10. Body Mass Index: Considerations for Practitioners (
  11. Calculate Your Body Mass Index (
  12. Guidelines for Healthy Weight (1999,
  13. Obesity Research (2012,
  14. Skeletal Muscle and Metabolic Health: How Do We Increase Muscle Mass and Function in People with Type 2 Diabetes? (2020,
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