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A Comprehensive Guide to Body Fat Calculation

Body Fat Calculator is a quick and accessible way to measure your body fat percentage. It uses various parameters like weight, the circumference of the waist, wrist, hip and forearm to categorise people into Acceptable, Fitness, Athletes, Obese, and essential groups. It is more accurate and a better way to measure body fat and understand the overall health. Before understanding further about Body Fat Calculator, you should know about body fat and its types. 

Body Fat and its Types

Fat is the body’s means of storing energy for extended periods. The fat gets stored in adipocytes, more commonly known as fat cells, and the tissue comprising these fat cells is called adipose tissue. It is generally of two types, white fat and brown fat. While white adipose tissue mainly acts as a reserve, brown adipose tissue helps maintain the body’s temperature. 

You can categorise body fat into two different types based on its location in the body: visceral fat. Sub-skeletal fat and subcutaneous fat. As the name suggests, subcutaneous fat is beneath the skin. Usually, it is less harmful when compared to visceral fat. On the other hand, visceral fat lies in the spaces surrounding the Viscera or the abdomen and causes complications associated with obesity. 

If the fat percentage increases above a certain level, the individual is obese. Obese individuals generally face multiple issues. However, the problem goes two ways. First, you should understand that your body requires a certain amount of fat for the body’s normal functioning. The fat is called essential fat. It is usually around 5% for men and 10-13% for women. Going anywhere below essential fat percentage is associated with significant morbidity and can be even fatal. Then, if you have a high-fat percentage, you may experience obesity-related issues.

What is a Body Fat Calculator?

Body Fat Calculator measures the total fat percentage of the human body. It measures both essential and storage fat. The body fat percentage is generally higher in women when compared to men. It also gets higher as the age increases. It is more accurate than BMI in measuring Body fat. BMI does not take the muscle mass and frame of the individual into consideration. For example, an athlete with a high BMI might have high muscle mass and a low-fat percentage. But BMI calculators would still categorise them as obese based on their BMI values. It does not do justice in these cases. 

Body Fat Calculator accurately measures the body fat percentage, which is the primary reason for obesity. It is calculated based on girth measurements and the circumference of relevant body parts. 

Measuring Body Fat Percentage

There are many ways to measure the body fat percentage, including bioelectrical impedance analysis and skin fold methods. However, these methods require professional equipment and are highly expensive. Hence US Navy method and calculation using BMI are highly used methods for measuring Body Fat percentage. 

Hodgdon and Beckett developed the U.S. Navy Method in 1984 at the Naval Health Research Centre. This method involves measuring related body parts and substituting the obtained measurements in the specific equations provided. For example, measurements of the waist and neck are required for men. However, additional hip measurement is taken for women.

Taking the Measurements

1. The first measurement you need to obtain is the circumference of your waist. Take the help of another person to get accurate measurements. For a man, measure the circumference at the horizontal level around the navel. For a woman, measure the smallest width of the waist. Pulling in and flexing will lead to incorrect measurements. Hence, you should avoid it.

2. The subsequent measurement you need to obtain is the neck circumference. You should take it below the larynx. Stretching of the neck should be avoided to get accurate measurements. 

3. The third measurement applies to women only. Measure the circumference at the largest width of the hips. 

After obtaining the measurements, you can substitute them in the mathematical formula given below. You can calculate it in USC Units or S.I. units. USC, U.S. customary system uses inches while the International System of Units (S.I.) uses centimetres. The formulae are different for males and females. Hence, we should calculate them accordingly. 

Body Fat Percentage (BFP) for Men

USC Units

BFP = 86.010×log10(abdomen-neck) – 70.041×log10(height) + 36.76 

SI Metric Units

BFP =4951.0324 – 0.19077×log10(waist-neck) ) + 0.15456×log10(height)- 450 

Body Fat Percentage (BFP) for Women

USC Units

BFP = 163.205×log10(waist+hip-neck) – 97.684×(log10(height)) – 78.387 

SI Metric Units

BFP =4951.29579 – 0.35004×log10(waist+hip-neck) + 0.22100×log10(height)- 450 

BMI Method

Another method for calculating an estimate of body fat percentage uses BMI. BMI or Body Mass Index requires dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. After obtaining your BMI value, you can substitute them in the given formulae to obtain your body fat percentage. The mathematical formulas are different for males and females. Formulae differ for children and adults, as well. 

Body Fat Percentage (BFP) Formula for Adult Men

BFP = 1.20 × BMI + 0.23 × Age – 16.2 

Body Fat Percentage (BFP) Formula for Adult Women

BFP = 1.20 × BMI + 0.23 × Age – 5.4 

Body Fat Percentage (BFP) Formula for Boys (Below 18)

BFP = 1.51 × BMI – 0.70 × Age – 2.2 

Body Fat Percentage (BFP) Formula for Girls (Below 18)

BFP = 1.51 × BMI – 0.70 × Age + 1.4 

Body Fat Percentage: Reference Range

Ideal body fat percentages differ based on gender and age. For example, it is around 18.4% for women aged 25-30, while 10.5% for men in the same age range. Females and older individuals have a higher body fat percentage. 

The American Council on Exercise Total Body Fat Categorisation

For Women

Essential Fat: 10-13%Athletes: 14-20%Fitness: 21-24%Average: 25-31%Obese: 32+% 

For Men

Essential Fat 2-5%Athletes 6-13%Fitness 14-17%Average 18-24%Obese 25+% 

Jackson & Pollard Ideal Body Fat Percentages

Jackson and Pollard gave ideal body fat percentages based on gender and age.

AgeWomenMen2017.7%8.5%2518.4%10.5%3019.3%12.7%3521.5%13.7%4022.2%15.3%4522.9%16.4%5025.2%18.9%5526.3%20.9%

Possible Drawbacks

Remember that these methods only provide arbitrary or estimated values. One should use methods like bioelectrical impedance analysis, hydrostatic density testing or skinfold technique using a picometer for accurate measurements. However, these tests are expensive and time-taking. 

Health Concerns of High Body Fat

Obesity is the excessive accumulation of body fat and is associated with a high risk of Cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems and psychological issues. 

Cardiovascular Diseases

A study indicates that an increase in body fat percentage can lead to the development of cardiovascular diseases like coronary artery disease and heart failure. Coronary artery disease forms plaques in the arteries supplying blood to the heart. These plaques contain fat, cholesterol and other substances, causing narrowing of blood vessels and decreasing the heart’s oxygen supply. However, the real problem arises when the blood vessels are completely blocked, which causes the death of heart tissue. It is known as myocardial infarction or heart attack. 

According to data, these fats can also deposit in the heart, which causes cardiac dysfunction, further leading to heart failure. 

Another research suggests that obesity is also a risk factor for hypertension. Fats are known to stimulate adrenergic receptors. These receptors cause the narrowing of blood vessels. In that case, the pressure automatically increases, leading to hypertension. Renal mechanisms also explain the correlation between obesity and hypertension. 

Diabetes

Diabetes and obesity are two closely related epidemics. According to a study, several involuted cellular and physiological mechanisms play a role in the development of diabetes in obese individuals.

Another study suggested that healthcare professionals should carry out the treatment of diabetes and obesity simultaneously. That leads to much more effective control of diabetes.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

According to a study, obesity is a potent risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Central obesity is a more significant contributor to this disorder as it leads to cognitive problems in children and excessive daytime sleepiness in adults. It immensely affects the quality of life of these individuals.

Psychological Problems

A review of association studies indicated a significant association between depression and obesity. The association was bidirectional. The association between anxiety and obesity also has adequate evidence. It can be due to the stigmatisation and discrimination faced by obese adults and children. It may further lead to body dysmorphia and eating disorders that significantly affect the individual’s physical well-being. 

Essential Tips to Reduce Body Fat

Keep Track of Your Foods

An increase in your body fat percentage can result from an imbalance in your energy consumption and expenditure. The carbohydrates that your body does not use for energy turn into fats and get deposited in the body. However, you can avoid it by eating mindfully and reducing the consumption of saturated fats.

Following a modified eating plan that keeps you in a calorie deficit can help in reducing body fat percentage. Maintaining a food journal is an excellent way to track your calories. If you have a busy lifestyle, you can use various apps to track your calories.

However, keep in mind to not starve your body. You will not be able to keep up with your daily activities, adversely affecting your health. So, have a diet with all the required nutrients. Consume your meals at regular intervals as it helps reduce your snacking temptations. You can also choose healthy snack alternatives. Avoid on the whim diet plans as they are bound to fail. Instead, choose a sustainable meal plan. The Mediterranean diet is a sustainable diet that you can follow for weight loss. According to a research review, the Mediterranean diet helps prevent various diseases. 

Be Physically Active

We build up fat due to inactivity, and movement burns down the fat. Pick up any activity that increases your heart rate. These exercises which increase your heart rate are aerobic or cardiorespiratory. It is widely popular as CARDIO. If you are a beginner, do not start with vigorous exercise, it is unsustainable. Instead, you should begin with beginner-friendly workouts and slowly build up the intensity. Everybody is different from the other. So, understand what works best for your body.

Various activities that can help in fat loss are:

RunningJoggingWalkingCycling Stair climbingSwimmingDancing 

It is also essential to understand that there is no such thing as target fat loss. It means that it is impossible to lose weight from one part of the body by doing specific exercises. Instead, you will lose body fat in the order decided by your body, primarily based on your genetics. 

Keep Yourself Hydrated

A Research review established that drinking water is associated with weight loss by two different mechanisms. It acts as a hunger suppressant and thereby decreases calorie intake. It also fastens the metabolism and helps in burning down fat. Keeping yourself hydrated is one way to burn fat.

Body Fat Calculator is a quick and better way to calculate body fat percentage and assess your overall health. It classifies people based on their body fat percentage and categorises them into obese, acceptable, fit, athletes and essential fat categories. There are various ways of calculating body fat percentage, including bioelectrical impedance, hydrostatic density measurements and skinfold methods. However, these methods are costly and inaccessible. Hence a measurement-based calculator is used. The U.S. Navy method and BMI Method are the most popular measurement methods. 

If you have a high body fat percentage, especially high visceral fat, you may experience many complications. These complications include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, obstructive sleep apnea and psychological problems. It also affects the quality of life negatively. However, you can reduce body fat percentage by lifestyle modifications such as modified food plans, exercise, sleep and hydration. These basic principles will take you a long way.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. How do I calculate my ideal body fat?

A. Ideal body fat percentage depends on your age and gender. It is higher in females and older individuals. It is in the range of 5%-24% for Men and 14%-31% for Women. 

Q. What should my body fat percentage be for my age?

A. Body Fat percentage generally increases with age, and hence the ideal range is higher for older individuals. You can refer to the ideal body fat percentage estimates by Jackson and Pollard.

AgeWomenMen2017.7%8.5%2518.4%10.5%3019.3%12.7%3521.5%13.7%4022.2%15.3%4522.9%16.4%5025.2%18.9%5526.3%20.9%

Q. What is a good body fat percentage?

A. Good body fat percentage differs between genders. Below the range of 14% for women and 5% for men is considered dangerous. Above 31% for women and 24% for men puts them under the category of obese. Anything between this range is considered a good body fat percentage. 

Q. How do you cut body fat?

A. You can cut down body fat by staying in a calorie deficit and engaging in physical activities. A calorie deficit means that your calories expenditure should be greater than your consumption. In addition, you should support it with exercises, eating a well-balanced diet, reducing stress, getting adequate sleep etc.

Q. What exercises burn fat?

A. Any exercise which can increase the heart rate can burn fat. These are called aerobic exercises. Some of the suggested activities include:

RunningJoggingWalkingCycling Stair climbingSwimmingDancing 

Q. What exercises burn stomach fat?

A. There is no such thing as target fat loss, meaning it is not healthy to lose weight from one part of the body by doing specific exercises. A healthy weight or fat loss should focus on losing weight from all body parts. In the process, you will also cut down on visceral fat from the stomach.

Q. Does walking burn fat?

A. Yes, walking burns fat. However, it doesn’t necessarily equate to weight loss. You can only lose weight when the energy burnt by walking is greater than your energy consumption. However, brisk walking for half an hour is a perfect beginner’s exercise.

Q. What drink helps burn fat?

A. Water is the only liquid with the proven benefits of burning fat. Other popular drinks promoted for weight loss are green tea, apple cider vinegar and ginger tea. However, green tea was confirmed to have minimal effect on weight loss in a study, while there is insufficient evidence about ginger tea and apple cider vinegar.

Q. What percentage of body fat should a woman have?

A. An ideal body fat percentage for women in sports or similar activities is 21-24%. However, anything around 25-31% is considered acceptable.

Q. Is 30% body fat high for a woman?

A. A woman with 30% body fat is considered borderline obese. However, it is still in the acceptable range, and you can improve it with proper diet and exercise.

Q. What are 3 ways to measure body fat percentage?

A. You can measure body fat percentage using bioelectrical impedance analysis, skinfold methods and measurement analysis. However, measurement analysis is the most commonly used way to calculate body fat percentage. 

Q. How do I calculate my body fat weight and height?

A. Height is generally not considered in calculating body fat percentage and weight. However, you can calculate Body fat weight by using the following formula. THe fat mass (F.M.) formula is F.M. = B.F. × Weight (where B.F. is Body fat percentage.) 

Q. What is a good percentage of body fat?

A. Good body fat percentage differs between genders. Below the range of 14% for women and 5% for men is considered dangerous. Above 31% for women and 24% for men puts them under the category of obese. Anything between this range is considered a good body fat percentage. 

Q. Is it bad to have 25% body fat?

A. It depends on your gender. For example, if you are a male and have 25% body fat, it is considered harmful, and you are categorised as obese. However, if you are a female, 25% body fat is acceptable.

Q. How do you calculate fat needs?

A. Fat intake calculator estimates the amount of fat that an individual should consume. It is calculated based on age, gender, height, weight and activity levels. Fat intake based on age for your reference is given below.

Age(Years)Suggested Fat intake limit2-330% to 40% of Total Calories4-1825% to 35% of Total Calories19+20% to 35% of Total Calories

Q. How do I calculate the percentage of fat?

A. You can calculate your body fat percentage using the US Navy method or BMI Method. It involves obtaining and substituting the measurements into the relevant formulae.  You can check your body fat percentage here.

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