Body fat percentage is a very puzzling topic for some people. Knowing how to accurately measure the value, and what to make of the results, is a little science of its own that takes some time to explore, but is well worth it in the end. If you can maintain a low enough body fat percentage, you’ve basically got your weight loss problems solved!
First, you’ll need to establish a reliable method to get your body fat percentage tested though. There are many ways to do that, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages – measuring body fat can never be 100% accurate though.
The cheapest and probably most easily available to you method, is to get weighed while submerged in water. The idea is that muscles mass sinks while fat floats, so your weight underwater is equal to your lean body mass – and then it’s just a matter of simple calculation to derive the percentage. The downside to this method is that it’s very harshly affected by the amount of water in your body, so it’s hard to get consistent results.
Another method is by using electrical current – muscles and fat have different conductivity, so they’ll produce different results when a current passes through them. This can be a bit more expensive to perform, but it usually produces more accurate results on a constant basis.
There are even some portable tools that can perform an electrical test, but the accuracy of those has been disputed strongly, as they don’t seem to perform a current test through all the necessary points in the body. Still, it’s good for getting rough readings.
In all cases, make sure you’re in the same condition when you get tested. It’s not the numbers themselves that are important, but rather seeing your body fat percentage go down every time. But you should make sure that you perform the test at the same time of day, having eaten roughly the same amount of food, etc – this will ensure that outside factors are having the least possible effect on the readings.
If you still want to know what percentages to aim for exactly though – around 15-18% is the recommended norm for men, and a bit higher than that, around 20%, for women. Some athletes can even go below 10% in their peak periods, but it’s impossible to maintain such a low body fat percentage and live healthy – no matter what, your body needs some minimum amount of fat to function.
If you manage to get yourself in the ranges mentioned above, you should notice a strong positive change in your lifestyle, as you’ll already have overcome the most troublesome aspects of weight loss. From then on, it’s just a steady roll uphill as you move towards greater success in shaping your body. After you’ve dealt with the excess fat, you may want to start shaping your muscles into something respectable-looking, and it won’t be too hard either now that you’ve got the basics down.