A healthy body fat percent for humans must be within a certain range, otherwise health will be compromised whether too low or too high. In addition, body fat levels dictate how we look but can mislead many into false thinking. For example, take a sumo wrestler who just looks plain fat; science proves that they have the largest fat free muscle mass (FFMI) levels of all humans! So, they aren’t short in the muscle department. But regarding the ‘body fat healthy percentage’ question they fall very short. Because dangerously high body fat levels leads to multiple diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Contrarily, we’ve shredded influencer’s that seem to live their entire lives looking like they repel body fat. Sounds good. Yet, at super low levels of body fat health dive bombs metabolically and hormonally… despite looking healthy! However, the below side effects might be worth it if the individuals income relies on being in extreme shape. By the same token, many of these influencers who stay lean year round typically use performance enhancing drugs. But important to point out again is that their look tricks you into believing they are at peak health and strength.
Low Body Fat Percent Side Affects
- All day hunger
- Poor sleep
- Low libido
- Lower training performance
- Plateau in training and even a loss of muscle/strength
- Raised irritability with friends and family
- Lower energy and in turn productivity
- Inconsistent moods
- A loss of motivation to work hard
- Malnourished body (faster ageing due to minimal nutrition/calories)
- Unbalanced sex hormones (a terrible environment for muscle building)
- High Ghrelin (hunger hormone) and low Leptin (satiety hormone) which is terrible for fat loss
- A loss of passion for exercise/healthy living and
- Food obsession
- Mental fog
Body Fat Percent and Aesthetics
Unfortunately, these days we can’t tell what normal bodies look like due largely to performance enhancing drugs (PEDS). For example your favorite influencer, actor, athlete or sportsman/woman:
- Could be using PEDS, it’s not hard to believe when actors get in incredible shape in only 3-6 months packing on 20+ pounds of muscle (that would naturally take most people 3-5 years!)
- Lance Armstrong, Maria Sharapova, Ben Johnson to name a few, prove PEDS in sports clearly exist.
- People now even use app editors to bend and pull their bodies into better shape
- The film industry uses computer generated imagery (CGI) to make your heros look even more hoeroic
- Then there’s things like brilliant; angles, lighting, tans and pumps!
Then there’s us. LOL. Asking ourselves deep rooted questions and crying in front of the mirror over our poor man’s/woman’s genetics. One thing I do appreciate more these day’s is that more people who use PEDS are showing more honesty of said use. And I think this is super important for those who want to achieve their best results whilst maximising their health profiles. Because they can see the forrest from the trees. Which over time will result in body dysmorphia normalising…a bit more!
Furthermore, we never see those we look up to in more vulnerable positions such as taking a dump. Or slouching on the couch eating pizza. But we see ourselves everyday in these unflattering positions so it’s easy to fall into judging oneself too much. At our Body Reach Instagram on occasion we’ll show reality images (that we would otherwise be happy to delete!). Because it shows a balance between posting your best. And showing others your normal. Consequently, this positively contributes to body normalizing.
The Body Fat Percent Solution
So, now we know not to confuse aesthetics with health and peak performance. But then what is a good goal to aim for? That’s both physically appealing, mentally sound and physiologically healthy? In my humble opinion I believe the optimal range is as stated below. And in this blog you can see some body fat percentage visuals.
10-15% is the range for men. At 10% you will look incredible and certainly beach lean (possibly even at 12%). Although, at 10% you might look somewhat like you don’t lift in clothes as a natural. But when clothe-less you will look super impressive, especially if you have a few years of smart lifting up your sleeve. At 15% you will look bulkier and like you definitely lift when clothed but not as beach ready. Personally, I feel great until I go sub 10%.
Females naturally have around 8-10% more bodyfat than men due to reasons such as reproductive health. A great range to aim for is somewhere between 18-23%. And again, circa 18% will have you beach lean!
Body Fat Percent Considerations
One thing to be aware of with your body fat healthy percentage is, when beach lean you’ll still have pocket areas of fat (my lower abs/love handles for example). And these areas will stand out more because you’re lean eveywhere else! Moreover, this is completely genetic and these ‘stubborn’ pockets of body fat aren’t really stubborn. They are sort of like your last reserves and will ONLY dissipate if you stay in your calorie deficit longer. But this is when the true anguish of getting lean begins.
For example, it might be your lower abdominal’s, love handles or the backs of your thighs that hold your last bits of fat even when beach lean. And unless you get stage lean (which I don’t recommend unless wanting to compete seriously) you won’t ever get fully rid of them. And this is why this topic is really important because at a point we have to accept some body fat discomfort and storage. Because a certain amount of it is required for you to feel your best! So, it’s often not worth going below 10% for men and 18% for women.
Furthermore, you could have two people stood side by side with the same body fat but look quite different based on where that body fat is stored. Personally and unfortunately for me my last bits of body fat are on my lower abdominals. So, in the past I have been 7% body fat via calipers and the bod pod but looked ~11%! Some people hold their last remnants of fat on the back of their legs which nobody sees. And their abs have veins in them, so they look leaner despite not being! The result is, I look blockier at the centre whereas they look like greek gods! Yet, muscle mass could be the same!
Healthy Body Fat Percent Advice
If I can pass on some sound advice it would be that there is genuinely more to life than being shredded. Why trade a few abdominal for the feeling of vitality and strength? Because honestly, a healthy body requires…healthy bodyfat levels. So, if you’re within the recommended healthy body fat ranges, accept that all the natural, normal folk will all have areas of ‘stubborn’ body fat. And this is perfectly normal!
If you are higher than these body fat ranges, work moderately and sustainably until you get there with diet breaks when required. Regarding your own body fat percentage you can use a bod pod, dexa scan, book a caliper test or compare against body fat percentages such as the above blog for best guesses. Which you’ll get more accurate with over time.
What are your body fat targets? Have you been shredded before, if so tell us your experience below.
For any questions on hiring us as your coach please get in touch via this page!