Archive for the tag - body fat percentage

Can Body Fat Be Too Low?

When it comes to body fat, how low is too low?

When it comes to body fat, how low is too low?

Targeting a lower body fat percentage is a common workout goal. And it’s a great goal to have.

But in the same way that too much of a good thing isn’t good, too little of a bad thing isn’t great either. And the truth is, body fat isn’t entirely bad. It serves many important functions including insulation and serving as an energy source. Your body needs some fat to function properly.

Though these numbers can very slightly from source to source, the following are general guidelines on body fat percentages:

  • Essential fat: 10% – 13% for women, 2% – 5% for men
  • Athletes: 14% – 20% for women, 6% – 13% for men
  • Fitness: 21% – 24% for women, 14% – 17% for men
  • Average: 25% – 31% for women, 18% – 24% for men
  • Obese: 32+% for women, 25+% for men

If you drop below these ranges, you’ll likely experience chronic fatigue, slow workout recovery, nutritional deficiencies, increased risk of infection and so on. For women, low levels of body fat (less than 13% - 17%) result in irregular menstruation. In fact, low body fat levels can even result in infertility.

Believe it or not, some individuals actually have zero percent body fat. It’s a rare and potentially dangerous medical condition in which the body is unable to gain weight. The condition was popularized by Lizzie Velásquez who, because of her striking appearance and the resulting bullying, has given motivation speeches and even a Ted Talk.

While reducing your body fat percentage can be an effective goal, it’s important to be target healthy ranges - and to not take things to an extreme. Having too little fat can be a sign of an eating disorder. In these instances, it’s important to get professional help.



I Want 8% Body Fat.

Hey Davey,

I am a 27 year old male who is 6’3” and 240 pounds. Ideally, I’d like to slim down and get a body like yours with 8% - 9% body fat. My question is: What does your typical day’s diet and gym plan look like?


different-body-fat-percentageHey Derrick,

It’s great that you’d like to slim down, but comparing your body to the results of someone else can be a very dangerous game. In your fitness journey, you’ll need to discover what works best for you - and not what works best for someone else, like me.

Moreover, I my gym commitment is significant; if you’re just starting out, it’s unrealistic to sustain nine hours a week at the gym (6x a week at 90 minutes per session). You’ll burn yourself out. It’s much better to start small and then slowly build up over time. After all, I’ve been working out regularly for 13 years.

Having said all of that, I will share my typical gym and diet plan with the understanding that it’s probably not the best or most realistic plan for everyone.

  • 6AM: Wake-up - Half whey protein shake and banana
  • 7AM: Gym - 90 minutes total (25 minutes cardio / 65 minutes strength training)
  • 9AM: Breakfast - Whey protein shake and cereal with almond milk
  • Noon: Lunch - Typically chicken or turkey sandwich on wheat bread with steamed vegetables
  • Evening activity - A few times per week, I’ll increase my physical activity with an afternoon hike, rock climbing, Pilates class or gymnastics.
  • 6:30 PM: Dinner - Typically salad, steamed vegetables and lean meat
  • 9PM: Snack - Varies, apples with peanut butter or casein protein smoothie or fresh berries, etc.

That’s it. In a nutshell, my motto is move more and eat smarter - and that’s exactly what I do. Of course, I still give myself a day off from the gym each week, and there certainly are days where my diet deviates from the above outline. You need to live - but, by and large, I do right by my body.


What Makes Someone Physically Fit?

Dear Davey,

Everyone talks about getting ‘fit’ but what exactly is ‘fit’ and how do you know when you have become ‘fit’? Is fitness a good BMI, fantastic looking body (like yours), low weight, being able to cycle for miles non stop or something else?


Hey Jonathan,

I love your question! And it speaks to the importance of structuring your program around a solid goal.

In the past, I’ve written about the necessity of S.M.A.R.T. goals. That is, goals that are:

  1. Specific: Goals should be laser-focused.
  2. Measurable: Whenever possible, attach real-world numbers to your goals. This could mean pounds, kilos, inches or clothing sizes.
  3. Attainable: A good goal should be achievable with hard work and dedication - but rooted in reason. Don’t make it too difficult. Conversely, don’t make it too easy.
  4. Relevant: The goal needs to be important to you. If it’s not important, you won’t stick with it.
  5. Timely: Attach a date to your goal. Rather than wanting to lose 10 pounds of fat, say that you want to lose 10 pounds of fat in 60 days.

With S.M.A.R.T. goals in mind, your question illustrates the problem of saying you’d like to become fit. For starters, it’s not specific, measurable or timely. So let’s turn “fit” into a smart goal.

body fat percentagesThough true physical fitness takes many complicated factors into consideration (such as cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, balance, etc.), there is an easier way to cut to the point. It involves body fat percentages.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Essential fat: 10% - 13% for women, 2% - 5% for men
  • Athletes: 14% - 20% for women, 6% - 13% for men
  • Fitness: 21% - 24% for women, 14 - 17% for men
  • Average: 25% - 31% for women, 18 - 24% for men
  • Obese: 32+% for women, 25+% for men

Though body fat percentages don’t consider every aspect of physical fitness, they’re a great place to start. And it’s easy to create a smart goal around body fat percentages. For example, you could say,  “I want to achieve 15% body fat by December 31.”

With that S.M.A.R.T. goal in mind, you can certainly structure a fitness program to make it happen!

I hope that helps!



But when most people use the word fit, they’re referring to an in-shape individual with a low percentage of body fat.