The Numerous Numbers of Health and Fitness Part 3: Body Fat Percentage

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series I talked about Weight and BMI, both of which are “numbers” that are used in the health and weight loss field that frankly don’t mean much. Today I am going to talk about a pretty important number and the one that you should track and pay attention to the most: Body Fat Percentage. Body Fat Percentage (BFP) is your total mass of fat divided by total body mass; body fat includes essential body fat and storage body fat. Body fat percentage is usually calculated by the caliper method (those pinchers a personal trainer may have used on you). If you are in the military, the tape test method is used, taking different circumference measurements and using an equation to calculate body fat. Electronic body scanners that use electronic waves also measure BFP (you grip two rods in your hands attached to a machine that generates and calculates this). The body fat percentage is a measure of fitness level, since it is the only body measurement which directly calculates a person's relative body composition without regard to height or weight. This is a decent way to measure fitness level, and higher body fat percentages has been linked to a likelihood of health issues. The big problem with this scale is that it does not take into account height, frame size and weight, but does take into account sex and age. The healthy range for men between 20 and 40 is between 8 and 19 percent body fat, while the normal range for men over age 40 is between 11 and 25 percent. Obesity is considered to be a body fat percentage of more than 30 percent. Younger women between age 20 and 40 require between 21 and 33 percent body fat, while women age 40 and over require 23 to 36 percent body fat. Anything higher than 40 percent body fat is considered obese. Of course, if you are in the military, your branch has specific guidelines that consider you over or under the maximum body fat allowed.

This is a lot of information I know. I am sure you are saying, "OK, so now what?" Now, you really need to track your body fat. You can have a buddy help you out and do your measurements for you, or go into your gym and have a personal trainer do the calculations. Take your measurements at least once a quarter. I highly recommend that you don’t pay attention to weight and only track BFP. This will give you a great idea of your fitness and health progress. As you get healthier and fitter, your body fat should go down. That is the bottom line.

So now you are thinking, "How do I get my body fat down?" Well…GET HEALTHIER! More specifically here are my top 5 tips that will get your body fat burning faster:

#1:  Stop eating sugar and simple carbs.

#2: Increase your consumption of proteins, healthy fats, and non-starchy veggies.

#3: Eat smaller meals frequesntly throughout the day, paying attention to portion control.  

#4: Include High Intensity Interval Training as a part of your weekly fitness routine.

#5:  Seriously…stop eating sugar and simple carbs.

Do you see a pattern? Nothing stores fat faster than the consumption of simple carbs. They break down easily and quickly and are great for storage. They also increase your LDL (bad fats) and cause inflammation in the body. Going long periods without food also communicates to your body that you need to store energy (fat).

In summary, track your body fat. The only way to improve this is to change your nutrition. I learned this the hard way. I thought if I just worked out enough, I could counteract a poor diet. My body fat was always in the higher range. As soon as I changed my nutrition, my body fat started burning like crazy. Implementing high intensity interval workouts took it even further. Nutrition is the key to body fat reduction. So, dump that soda and go get some water!


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