What is Good Body Fat Percentage?

Woman measuring her body fat percentage

The quest to understand one’s body fat percentage is a common inquiry among many individuals. However, it is imperative to grasp the concept of body fat percentage and its calculation. Body fat percentage refers to the proportion of one’s total weight that is comprised of fat. This includes both storage body fat and essential body fat. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of body fat percentage, its significance to overall health, and the methods employed to calculate it accurately.

What is Body Fat Percentage?

Body fat percentage varies between men and women due to inherent biological differences. For instance, an extremely well-defined male bodybuilder striving to minimize body fat percentage could achieve levels as low as 3-4%. In contrast, a female bodybuilder aiming for similar results would typically reach a minimum of 8-9% body fat.

In terms of athletic individuals, a male athlete in exceptional shape may possess around 10% body fat, whereas a woman of equivalent athleticism and appearance may have approximately 18-20% body fat. Conversely, comparing overweight individuals, a male with 30% body fat would exhibit distinct physical characteristics from a female with the same percentage.

How to Calculate It

Several methods are available for calculating body fat percentage, some of which require specialized equipment or professional assistance, and are acknowledged for their superior accuracy. However, it is also possible to estimate body fat percentage at home using a body fat calculator. This method is convenient as it necessitates no specialized tools or lengthy appointments with experts.

By employing a basic tape measure and allocating approximately five minutes, one can acquire the necessary data to obtain an instantaneous estimate of body fat percentage. It is advisable to corroborate the estimate with other methods if desired. To ensure the most accurate calculation of body fat percentage, several best practices should be followed.

When to Take Measurements

To obtain the most precise results, measurements should be taken in the morning, ideally prior to consuming food or beverages. Throughout the day, body weight can fluctuate, making it prudent to gather measurements under consistent conditions.

What to Use

After weighing oneself, body measurements must be taken. It is recommended to use a soft, flexible tape measure composed of cloth or fiberglass, as elastic tape measures may yield inaccurate readings. Ideally, a tailor’s measuring tape should be employed.

How to Take Measurements

When measuring the circumference of body parts, the tape should be taut against the skin to ensure it remains in place. However, it should not be excessively tight as to cause indentations. Measurements can be recorded using either English or metric units.

The measurements required differ slightly between men and women. For men, only waist circumference needs to be measured. Conversely, women need to measure additional body parts, including hips, wrists, and forearms.


  • Current Weight

Utilize a digital scale whenever possible.

  • Waist Circumference

Measure the largest part of the abdomen, typically at the level of the umbilicus (belly button). Ensure the tape measure remains parallel to the floor. Avoid holding one’s breath or sucking in while obtaining the measurement.


  • Current Weight

Utilize a digital scale whenever possible.

  • Waist Circumference

Measure the largest part of the abdomen, typically at the level of the umbilicus (belly button). Ensure the tape measure remains parallel to the floor. Avoid holding one’s breath or sucking in while obtaining the measurement.

  • Wrist Circumference

Measure around the smallest part of the wrist. This measurement may require assistance from a partner, as it can be challenging to measure single-handedly.

  • Hip Circumference

Measure around the largest part of the hips, usually at the posterior extension of the gluteals (where the buttocks extend backward).

  • Forearm Circumference

Measure around the widest part of the arm below the elbow. It may be easier to have a partner assist with this measurement. Maintain a relaxed arm position during measurement, allowing it to hang alongside the body without bending or flexing.

Once the necessary measurements have been obtained, input the data into the body fat calculator to calculate the body fat percentage accurately.


Upon obtaining the body fat percentage, individuals may be curious to know how their result compares to others of the same gender within various categories. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has defined five distinct body fat ranges or categories. It is important to note that these categories are based on general body fat norms and may not provide an exact representation of an individual’s specific level of fitness or health.

The Significance of Measuring Body Fat Percentage

Why is measuring body fat percentage important? While monitoring weight loss progress using a standard bodyweight scale may be tempting, body fat percentage offers more comprehensive insights. When engaging in intentional weight loss or striving to enhance health and fitness levels, the primary objective should be fat loss rather than mere weight reduction. Preserving lean mass, which encompasses bone, blood, connective tissue, organs, and muscle, is crucial.

It is worth noting that weight loss may occasionally result in muscle loss, which should be avoided. Maintaining muscle mass facilitates optimal bodily function, improves metabolic rate, and contributes to enhanced glycemic control. By regularly measuring changes in body fat percentage, one can assess the efficacy of fitness or weight loss programs in achieving fat loss while preserving fat-free mass.

How to Decrease Body Fat

Given the cultural emphasis on thinness in many societies, it is common for individuals to desire weight loss at some point. However, it is essential to recognize that reducing body fat may not be a suitable objective for everyone. It is highly recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions regarding body fat reduction. Additionally, it is crucial to acknowledge that the following information does not pertain to pregnant individuals, as weight loss should not be pursued during pregnancy.

If you are currently taking medications or undergoing cancer treatment and intend to lose weight, it is imperative to seek guidance from a healthcare provider to ensure safety and appropriateness. Once your doctor has assessed and determined that reducing your body fat percentage aligns with your overall health goals, you can consider it as a green light to embark on your journey towards improving your body composition.


Other methods of measuring body fat exist but have not been detailed in this article. Whichever method one chooses, it is crucial to adhere to consistency and employ the same method each time to ensure accurate data. If the goal is to alter body fat composition, a balanced approach comprising of nutritious eating, avoiding fad diets, and regular exercise is recommended. Consulting a healthcare provider to assess potential health risks and develop a comprehensive plan for maintaining overall well-being is advisable.

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