Body fat percentage is a great way to determine health and track weight loss. Average body fat percentages vary between men and women, as well as between different age groups. Below you’ll find a table with the different ranges of body fat for men and women, and illustrations of what these body fat percentages look like. Try to get you body fat percentage measured professionally.
Average Levels of Body Fat for Athletes
Triathlon: 10 –15% 5 – 12
Swimmers: 10 – 16% 6 – 12%
Marathon Runners: 10 – 16% 5 – 10%
Olympic Gymnasts: 11 – 14% 5 – 8%
Sprinters: 12 – 18% 5 – 12%
Tennis Players: 14 – 20% 10 – 16%
Volleyball: 16 – 25% 11 – 14%
LOW TO HIGH LEVELS OF BODY FAT
Essential Fat: 10 – 13% 2 – 5 %
Lean (Athlete): 14 – 20% 6 – 13%
Average (Fitness): 21 – 24 % 14 – 17%
Acceptable: 25 – 31% 18 – 25%
Overweight: ≥32% ≥26%
SUPERSKINNY? – Minimum Body Fat
It is impossible to decrease body fat levels to zero. Body fat can be divided into essential fat and storage fat. Essential fat is needed for the body’s hormone and immune systems to function properly and is stored in the body’s major organs such as the heart, lungs, bone marrow and muscles. Physical and physiological health are adversely affected below the level of essential fat. Women carry additional essential gender-specific fat in the breasts, pelvis, hips and thighs, which is a biological necessity for childbearing. Essential fat accounts for at least 10% to 13% of a woman’s and 5% of a man’s total body weight. Storage fat, on the other hand, is used as fuel for the body in times of need and is also required for good health. It is used to protect the internal organs in the chest and abdomen. The levels of this fat fluctuate, as this is the weight that changes during weight gain and loss.
Essential fat and some storage fat is a required for normal body functioning. This is particularly true for women, in whom very low levels of body fat may cause a disruption/ loss of the menstrual (amenorrhea) cycle, this in turn resulting in an estrogen deficiency, infertility, hair loss, a decrease in bone density and premature osteoporosis. Generally, any woman who seeks to maintain her body fat levels below 12 – 15 % and/ or trains very heavily will experience this disruption. However, this may also depend on how this body fat percentage was achieved and is maintained. The point of amenorrhea is different for all women, for some it may be at 18%, for others at 16% or 12%. It is important to understand that even with resumption of normal menses, some of the changes that have taken place may be irreversible, such as bone mineral loss (increasing risk of osteoporosis – brittle bones). This is particularly true in adolescence, during which, 60 – 80% of skeletal bone is laid down and consolidated. Low estrogen levels during this time will cause inhibition of normal pubertal growth and development.
Amenorrhea is never healthy, desirable or acceptable. This is a sign that something is wrong.If you stop menstruating after a period of weight loss, it may be that you have gone too far. Try putting on a little weight to see whether this restores your menses and make an appointment with your general practitioner.
SUPERSIZE? – TOO MUCH BODY FAT
Body fat is stored in fat cells and everyone is born with a specific number of fat cells. This number does not change. When we gain or lose weight, what does change is the size of these fat cells – they may grow bigger or shrink in size. However, there are exceptions to every rule and there are two instances during which there the number of fat cells can increase:
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