Losing body fat makes a big impact on the way you look. A female could lose 8-10 pounds but not much body fat and not look very different after that weight loss. On the other hand if she also loses 5-10% body fat in addition to that weight loss this often means losing several pant or dress sizes, losing many inches all over, PLUS a more toned curvy look. Here's ALL you need to know on the best body fat percentage for women who want to look lean fit and curvy vs. athletic, muscular, and ultra ripped.
There are dozens of ways to figure body fat but the most practical are the body fat scale, body fat monitor, and skinfold methods.
Bioelectrical Impedance (BIA) using a bodyfat scale or a handheld bodyfat monitor are most practical
because it's easy and you can do it yourself in the privacy of your own home.
Both machines send a low, safe electrical current through the body to evaluate
its composition. According to the ACE Personal Training Manual "BIA can be as
accurate as the skinfold method if the client stands still, is well hydrated,
has not exercised in the past six hours, or consumed any alcohol in the past 24
The skinfold method using body fat calipers is also affordable and simple. This is the most widely used in health clubs by trainers and the margin of error is only 3.5%. You CAN do skinfold yourself but it will probably be more accurate if someone with experience does it for you. The sum of your skinfold measurements can then be calculated with a formula or looked up on a chart that comes with your calipers to determine your bodyfat percentage.
Your body fat percentage tells you how much of your weight is fat and how much is other (lean muscle, water, bones, etc.). Your body fat percentage also tells you if you fall into the obese, healthy, fit, athletic, or the ultra lean body fat ranges.
What your body fat percentage will not tell you is whether you have ideal body fat because there is no such thing as an ideal body fat percentage for women or for men.
In reality, achieving fitness range body fat or lower, does not mean that you are going to be happy with how your body looks since body fat percentage expresses itself differently on each person depending on body type and other genetic factors. So body fat percentage is just a number that allows you to see how much of your weight is fat while body fat ranges give you a general idea of what is considered healthy and extreme. Here is what I tell my clients when they ask about this.
Good Body Fat Percentage is anything that isn't in the obese range.
Healthy Body Fat Range is also anything not in the obese range and anything above the essential range.
Ideal Body Fat Percentage range for women is the range that YOU feel your best at and there is no set number on this.
Low Body Fat Percentage is anything that feels un-natural and very difficult to maintain (more on this below).
It's one thing to be in what the charts consider a healthy or fitness range body fat and another to have the body you desire. The problem with charts and numbers in general is that same body fat percentage can look quite different on women of different heights and body types so focusing on percentages too much without looking at the bigger picture can make you a little obsessive and very frustrated.
So what if you're percentage is in the average or fitness category but
you're still not happy with the way you look? If you are in a healthy range then
it's perfectly o.k. to want to try to lose body fat to achieve a certain look or
If your goal is a leaner more toned look with a few sexy curves then aim for the lower end of the fitness range and the mid to high end of the athlete range. This will allow you to look fit and healthy while still maintaining some of your natural curves. If you are still not happy at that point you can continue to lose body fat slowly to see what happens but be careful about going too low or you WILL lose your natural curves (boobs, butt, hips).
If you're already in the low end of the athlete range and what you want is a more muscular figure competitor look with body fat that is 13% or lower, then first you must realize that achieving ultra low body fat takes a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice.
In addition, once you go ultra low you DO lose all the fat on your hips,
chest, and possibly your butt which is the reason most figure competitors eventually
end up getting implants or what I like to call surgical curves.
The truth is that most women find it very difficult to drop below 14% body fat without resorting to extreme measures including obsessive dieting, over-training, supplements, anabolic steroids, and many other tricks used by figure competitors.
According to Tom Venuto, fatloss expert and author of The Bodyfat Solution, "it’s pretty un-natural from a biological perspective to walk around with really low body fat. It’s not beneficial from a survival-of-the-species point of view to have low body fat. So the metabolic adaptation becomes more pronounced the leaner you get". In other words the lower you go the harder it gets to keep losing bodyfat because IT'S NOT NATURAL!
Keep in mind that finding a range that is right for you is strictly a matter of personal preference that is based on your upbringing as well as what media images of women have influenced you most.
If you have a lot of weight to lose and if you're following all the guidelines listed above then you will more than likely lose weight and bodyfat simultaneously and at a fairly quick pace. For some people fat loss will outpace weightloss simply because they don't have much weight to lose or because they may be adding a bit of lean muscle.
BUT, "putting on lean muscle" is not as common as women think and is often used as an excuse for bad eating habits. Most women CAN NOT put on so much muscle that it prevents weight loss and fatloss unless they are bodybuilders using a lot of steroids and supplements. If you're struggling with "stubborn fat" or slow weightloss be sure to fine tune your diet or train with more intensity or both.
If you have less than 10 pounds to lose the number on the scale may drop at a snail's pace and you will have to rely on other measurements to keep yourself focused. Measuring inches, trying on smaller clothes, or taking pics or video can help you see what the bodyfat scale or body weight scale isn't showing you just yet.
If you're losing inches and you've gone from a size 10 to a size 4 that should tell you that you're making great progress. If you still find it difficult to accept that the number on the bodyfat monitor or weight scale isn't where you would like even if you are getting fitter, leaner, and smaller then focus on more important fatloss milestones like endurance, strength, core stability, flexibility and mobility.
Fatloss and weightloss usually goes hand in hand with improvements in fitness level and fitness ability and focusing on what matters will get you to your goal weight, bodyfat, size, measurements, etc. eventually. In the end it's all just numbers anyway. It's how you look and feel when you're working hard to be your fittest and healthiest that matters most!