What does percent body fat mean?

You must have heard the term body fat percentage. It is the percentage of fat present in your body. If your body weighs 160 pounds and you have 10 percent of fat then your body contains 16 pounds of fat tissues and 144 pounds of lean tissue or fat free tissue like bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood etc. total body fat percentage is the sum total of the stored fat in our body and the fat required by the body for metabolism and reproductive functions. fats required for metabolism and reproductive functions are called essential fats.

Body fate percentage is better way to know about our body fitness and health than weight because only weight does not tell about the composition of body. Excess fat can cause diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some type of cancer. Percentage of fat required by our body varies depending on age, gender, physical exertion.

For men body fat must range from 18 to 25 percent more than this will be considered obese while in women it should be from 25 to 31 percent. This shows that women body requires more essential fats because of child bearing and other hormonal functions. Athlete women fat percentage ranges 14 to 20 percent while in men it is 6 to 13 percent. So the essential fat required for a women whether athlete or not is 10 to 12 percent and for men is 2 to 4 percent. It shows that no matter how active you are your body fat percentage should be low.
Age is another factor for which varies the fat percentage. 40 to 59 can have 23 to 33 percent fat percentage for women and 11 to 21 percent for men. So we can say that with the age your body fat percentage also increases.

Now question arises how to measure body fat percentage. Here are few methods:-

It is a small clamp like device that shows the amount of fat present just below your skin through skinfold measurement at different parts of body like waistline, back of arm etc. calipers are not expensive and easy to operate that is why they are used more widely. But it is not as much accurate as other methods.

More sound technologies are used by researchers, university centers and hospitals:-

Under Water Weighing
It is much accurate method but expensive because of special equipments and needs time. This works on the basis that fat tissue floats under water whereas lean tissues sink so underwater weight is used to know the fat mass of your body.

It is a machine that measures the amount of air displaced by your body. It is as accurate as under water weighing. It is also expensive but a bit convenient than the underwater weighing as it requires less time and there is no need for underwater submission.

DEXA (dual X-ray absorptiometry)
Low level X-rays are used to know the amount of body fat, muscle and bone. It is a quick process and it considers bone while comparing body fat to muscle.

Bioelectrical Impedance
It is least expensive of all methods but its accuracy depends on fullness of stomach, how much a person has exercised recently and hydration. It works with measuring the speed of electric current when passed through body. These can be used at home but their accuracy depends.

To measure the excess body weight, it is better to measure fat percentage than body mass index (BMI). BMI tells us about the relation in height and weight for a person’s health. Body fat percentage distinguishes between muscle mass weight and mass of fat while BMI just give a single figure of all masses. BMI is used more than body fat percentage because it is costly moreover it is not always accurate even if performed by expert.

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