It isn’t much of a surprise to know that having too much body fat can negatively impact your health. This also applies to too little body fat. The majority of people are primarily focused on how much body fat they have. What they don’t pay attention to, and they should, is where their body fat is distributed. How much body fat you have and where it is distributed can be very telling.
Body Fat Percentage
Body fat percentage is the primary statistic people seem to be fixated on when measuring how much fat they are carrying in their bodies. There are many ways that people can go about calculating how much body fat they have. You can use skinfold calipers to measure it, or you can use much more elaborate and expensive scans.
Take the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver, D.K Metcalf. He measured his body fat at the 2019 NFL Combine using a machine called the “Bod-Pod.” When he got out of the machine, his body fat percentage was calculated at 1.6%. That is a very low, very unhealthy, and very wrong body fat percentage, as you will soon find out. The average NFL wide receiver’s body fat percentage is around 12%. Having 1.6% body fat would negatively impact D.K’s performance as you need a certain amount to function normally so that calculation is a bit off.
Now that you know about some ways to measure body fat, let’s take a look at healthy body fat percentages for both men and women.
What Are Healthy Body Fat Percentages for Men and Women?
For both men and women, a healthy body fat percentage varies depending on age and the amount of physical activity. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has a body fat chart for men and women that changes based on physical activity, and the Beth Israel Lahey Health Winchester Hospital gives healthy body fat percentages based on age. Used together, you can get a good idea of what are nutritional body fat percentages
For men ages 20-39, a healthy body fat percentage is from 8%-19%. From ages 40-59, a healthy body fat percentage ranges from 11%-21%. From ages 60-79, a healthy body fat percentage is from 13%-24%.
For women ages 20-39, a healthy body fat percentage is from 21-32%. From ages 40-59, a healthy body fat percentage ranges from 23-33%. From ages 60-79, a healthy body fat percentage is from 24-35%.
These are the ideal healthy body fat ranges men and women should try to be in. Of course, just like any method of measuring body fat, there are limitations. For example, these charts don’t take into account height and body fat distribution.
Types of Body Fat
As you may have learned in your science class, there are good fats and bad fats. It is a bit more specific than that, though. There are three types of body fat, and they affect your body in different ways. They are:
- Subcutaneous Fat
- Visceral Fat
- Brown Fat
Subcutaneous fat is the fat that is right under the skin. It is the type of fat that you can feel and grab. It makes up about 90% of our fat storage in the body. Subcutaneous fat is essentially just stored energy. It can pump out the hormone leptin, which lets your brain know that you are full. It also makes the hormone adiponectin, which helps to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. While you may think of it as a bad fat because of how it appears on your body, subcutaneous fat is more helpful to your body than you realize.
Visceral fat is one of the “bad” fats. It is found around your liver, heart, and intestines. You can’t feel it; it just sits in your abdominal cavity. Because it surrounds some vital organs, too much excess visceral fat can cause serious health complications. It can travel to the liver, from which it is turned into cholesterol. Cholesterol, when it travels into the bloodstream, clogs up arteries. This can lead to many heart problems in the future. For this reason, it is important not to carry too much visceral fat.
Brown fat is a good type of fat. A lot of it is found in babies, but adults carry a small amount of it inside of them as well. It is usually stored in the chest and shoulder areas. The way brown fat helps you is by burning extra calories to keep you warm. If you are walking outside during a cold time of the day, the chances are that the brown fat helps you stay warm!
Lifestyle Changes for Healthy Body Fat Distribution
Unfortunately, you don’t have complete control over where your body fat is distributed. That doesn’t mean that you can’t reduce excess visceral fat. There are many lifestyle changes you can go about to achieving a healthier body fat distribution.
Exercise is one of the most apparent changes you can make in your life to control the buildup of excess body fat. Strength can help build muscle, which burns more fat. High-intensity cardio can also burn fat.
Lower down your stress levels. Reducing stress helps your body from releasing the stress hormone cortisol. Keeping it in check reduces the frequency of when it is released.
Avoid sugars and opt for healthy fats. Sugars can spike your insulin levels, which leads to you storing fat. Choosing more complex carbs and proteins can aid in maintaining healthy insulin levels. Avoid any saturated and trans fats and, instead, get more polyunsaturated fats. These include nuts and salmon, which have healthy fats.
Sleep is another crucial lifestyle change to achieve a healthy body fat distribution. People who slept less than six hours gained more visceral fat than people who slept more than 6. Make sure to catch those zzzs!
Keeping track of your body fat percentage and how it is distributed can help you see if you need to make any lifestyle changes. These changes can help you get that visceral fat under control for a healthier you!