Let’s get it out of the way: there is no perfect body fat percentage!
Like everything in the fitness world, the answer is frustratingly complex and depends on the individual.
Gender, weight, height, activity levels and pre-existing conditions…the list of factors that influence the ‘ideal’ percentage is extensive.
However, in simple terms, body fat is the amount of fat in your body, separate to everything else. This is one of the single most important measurements you should monitor if weight loss is your goal.
For women, anywhere from 18% to 33% is considered healthy. Once you’re outside of that range, the serious problems begin.
How can you calculate your body fat percentage?
While there are many ways to monitor body fat percentage, most are impractical and require a team of experts – and some very complicated machinery.
A quick Google search will reveal ‘easy’ ways to calculate your percentage, but they’re not 100% reliable or accurate.
The Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) used by TomTom’s Fitness Tracker is one of the most accessible ways you can measure your own percentage.
It sends a small harmless electrical current through the body to assess body composition, and will track any changes. Best of all, it’s located on your wrist and not in a lab.
(Click here to find out more about the TomTom Fitness Tracker).
What happens when it’s too high?
By creeping over the parameters of the healthy ranges, certain conditions may start to present themselves, such as:
- Hypertension/high blood pressure
- Increased risk of stroke
- Gallbladder problems
- Respiratory problems
- Sleep apnoea
- Liver disease
- Increased risk of cancer
What happens when it’s too low?
Similarly, going too far under the healthy guidelines can lead to a different set of issues.
- Vitamin deficiency
- Hair loss
- Risk of heart disease
- Reduced immune system
- Low blood pressure
- Fertility issues/menstruation problems
- Muscle cramps
- Mood swings/low moods
- Poor concentration
- Harder to maintain a suitable core temperature
- Distorted eating patterns
How can you change your percentage?
Maintaining a healthy percentage is very important for your long-term health, which is why monitoring your progress is so important.
Factors that can affect body fat levels – either way – are:
Not getting enough sleep massively impairs our ability to function at our optimum during exercise, hormonal regulation and organ function
Frequency and intensity will affect your results. Aim for at least three 30-minute sessions of exercise a week.
Lack of hydration can hinder the process of effective body fat reduction.
Eating a sensible and balanced diet offers the best opportunity to maintain a healthy percentage of fat on the body. Minimising processed food and toxins play a big part here, too!
5. Resistance training
This helps to build muscle tissue, which in turn elevates your basal metabolic rate and assists in the reduction of body fat.
Fluctuations in these can mean more water being stored in the body and fluid retention in the muscles.
As we get older, it’s perfectly normal for your body fat percentage to sit at a slightly higher level.
Some medications come with many side effects that can lead to weight gain and water retention. Always check with your Doctor regarding the specifics of this.