Ask Alfonso: How Much Body-Fat Is Too Much?
I was reading the piece on carbohydrates and there was a mention of 23% body fat. I have also read some people commenting on your side about having 5 to 6 % body fat …..that’s not a lot, or am I wrong? I understand people want the underlying muscles to show – but is it healthy? Aren’t you cold all the time?
I think that 23% on the other hand is too much. I have 19.6 % body fat at this time, it was 20.1 when I started working out with your program. I know it must come down too, but how much?
So my question is how much body fat is healthy?
Thanks again and again!
What an excellent question –I think you’ve asked something that a lot of people would like the answer to.
Let’s start with the basics shall we? You’ll find varying opinions on what’s normal for body fat levels, and rates are also different for men and women. Men usually fall into the 8 – 15% range, while women are generally between 18 – 26%. I use the word generally loosely because truthfully I think those numbers are averages. I don’t see many men in that range, but I do know plenty that are much higher or a bit lower. And sadly in my experience I personally don’t know or see many women that are the norm as well.
Keep in mind I’m not talking of fit, active individuals. And even if I were, it would only represent about 15% of the population at most. Yes, obviously lowering your subcutaneous fat stores will allow your muscle to show more, but the 5 – 6% percent of body fat you speak of is generally really tough to maintain unless a person is genetically gifted. And it’s extremely rare to see it on a woman, unless they are a fitness or bodybuilder competitor.
But truthfully Ingrid, don’t obsess over this number. Two people of exactly the same weight and bodyfat percentage can look dramatically different. Why is that? Because everyone has their own unique way and places of storing fat. Some people, both men and women, store more fat in their upper back, maybe around the waist, the legs, wherever. It’s never the same from person to person.
As an example, I tend to store more fat around my belly. I always have, and even when my legs, arms, back etc look ripped, my abs are still a bit soft. But, I have a friend who has a much softer upper body and arms, but his abs are shredded. And we’re about the same weight, same height, and same fat %. So numbers don’t really mean that much do they?
The issue of body fat comes into play when you have excessive amounts, or fat that is much more concentrated in a particular area. For instance, we now know that excessive belly fat is an indicator for early onset of diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and a whole slew of other health problems. On the other hand, excessively low body fat can also be detrimental. This usually isn’t due to the actual body fat percentage, but the measures that are taken to achieve it; severe dieting, over exercising, nutrient restriction. This can lead to low energy issues, missed menstrual cycles, and many other issues associated with a lack of proper nutrition.
As for being cold, I had to chuckle. I’m always cold and I’m not quite sure if it’s due to low body fat, more muscle, or a combination of both. But it’s certainly not something I would worry about. Body fat has become another selling point for silly products. We have fat measuring scales, hand held devices, trainers that pinch and poke you and then use a formula to tell you your percentage. It’s all unnecessary and mute as far as I’m concerned.
The old methods – ‘can you pinch an inch’ and gauging how your clothes fit are what I recommend to most people. I’m not suggesting that knowing your body fat percentage isn’t important, as it’s a nice figure to know. But most testing systems have a swing of + or – 5%, and even then are still terribly inaccurate. Things like how hydrated you are, how much sodium you’ve eaten, time of day and which trainer pinches you add to the amount of inaccuracy. So Ingrid I wouldn’t worry, at 20% you’re in great territory and according to medical guidelines you’re healthy. If you’re interested in seeing more muscularity, them maybe try to lose a bit and see how you look and feel. In the end, your eyes will be the best gauge – either you like what you see, or you don’t.
I hope that helps!
Let me know how it goes and if any of you out there would like to book a more in-depth consultation with me – just drop me a line via the How To Book button in the sidebar.
And if you have a question – please just click here. I’d love to help you!
All information contained within this site, Angry Trainer Fitness.com, is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician. No action should be taken solely on the contents of this website. Always consult your physician or qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health or on any opinions expressed within this website. Please see your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or taking any supplements of any kind.
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