Determining your percentage of body fat is critical, because the amount of fat in your body is related to your overall health and fitness level.
What exactly is body fat, though?
Fat is one of the basic components that makes up the structure of your body, in addition to muscle, water, bone, and your organs. Two categories of fat exist:
- Essential fat is necessary for normal, healthy functioning, and is stored in your central nervous system, muscles, bone marrow, and organs. In men, essential fat makes up about 3% of body weight, while in women, it makes up about 12% of body weight due to additional fat for normal reproductive function in the breasts, pelvis, hips, and thighs.
- Storage fat is found beneath the skin, in the muscles, and deep within the body to protect organs from injury. Men and women have similar amounts of storage fat.
While essential fat is necessary for healthy functioning and some storage fat is necessary for its protective role in the body, excess storage fat due to weight gain is undesirable.
How is body fat measured?
There are several ways to measure body fat:
- BioImpedance Analysis
- Skinfold test
- Hydrostatic weighing
- Bod Pod
- Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA)
While the DEXA and hydrostatic weighing are the gold standards for measuring body fat, one of the quickest, least expensive, and most accurate ways to measure body fat is with the BIA. This painless test applies an electrical current to the body and measures how quickly the current is conducted. Lean tissue and body fat mass conduct different electrical signals, which helps the machine estimate body composition.
The BIA is DBC's preferred method of testing body fat, with over 100 independent studies over the past 20 years backing its validity.
What is the optimal range of body fat for men and women?
The ideal percentages of body fat for men and women are as follows, based on the BIA:
|12 - 15||16 - 19||Athletic|
|16 - 18||20 - 22||Good|
|19 - 23||23 - 25||Acceptable|
When body fat is too low or too high, it can present problems.
For example, when body fat drops below 16% in a woman, it disrupts hormone function, neurological, and immunological health. When body fat is above 26% in a woman, it sends inflammatory signals and toxins throughout the body.
What about the location of body fat?
Beyond the quantity of body fat, the location of body fat is also an important health indicator.
For instance, when there is an excess of abdominal fat, it indicates high cortisol, insulin resistance, and liver toxicity. When there is an excess of fat around the hips, estrogen dominance is suspected. This is the difference between apple- and pear-shaped individuals. Excess body fat that is distributed equally indicates a thyroid condition, overeating, and/or not getting enough exercise.
What are barriers to losing excess body fat?
Body fat can be extremely difficult to get rid of, especially when dealing with metabolic disorders like the thyroid, and when insulin resistance is present.
Liver toxicity is also a huge impediment to body fat loss. When the liver can’t process environmental toxins, internal toxins, and medication toxins because it is overburdened, these toxins must go somewhere. Often, fat is the safest place for the body to store these toxins, so they don't wreak more havoc than they already have on the systems of the body.
When it comes to losing this toxic body fat, the body is simply unwilling to get rid of it because it is a safe storage for this overflow of toxins. Thus, fat loss is no longer an oversimplified game of numbers; it’s a game of becoming less toxic, less inflamed, and achieving health.
How to lose excess body fat
There’s a reason most weight loss programs, at best, have a 4-6% success rate long-term. That’s because the body fat is addressed only as an excess number of calories and carbohydrates, yet weight loss goes far beyond.
At DBC, we embark on a journey of having a patient properly detoxify to reduce inflammation and achieve health at their current weight. Once the patient is healthy, we often see successful weight loss initiated, and a halt to common yo-yo fluctuations.
Beyond detoxification, the best ways to continue appropriate fat loss include avoiding environmental toxins and adhering to the recommendations here.
Exercising in a fashion that stimulates the metabolism with both interval training and strength training is another key. It doesn't have to be in a gym nor 2 hours long. In fact, shorter bouts (20 minutes) of interval training is more effective. In the grand scheme, fitting exercise into your schedule on a consistent basis is far more important to achieving and maintaining your ideal body composition and long-term health!