Body Fat Composition And Ideal Body Fat Percent

Body Fat Composition vs Body Weight

Managing weight is not the important detail. Managing fat is what you are after. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs and have 35 percent body fat, your body fat would stay the same even if you were on the moon. In fact, you would weigh about 167 lbs fewer and still be 35 percent body fat.

Fat is the problem, not weight.

Types and Amounts of Body Fat

Two kinds of fat, brown fat and white fat (i.e., adipose tissues), plus cell membrane fat, make up your total body fat composition. There is no way to know how much of each kind makes up your total body fat.

Brown fat is the new kid on the block for fat loss. At one time it was thought to be present only in infants. Recent research shows its presence in adults. It occurs mostly in the upper chest area and around the neck. The importance of this discovery is that the more brown fat you have, the more able you are to balance other types of fat. Brown fat directs the metabolism of that awful belly fat that most folks want to lose.

When you have too much white fat, it shows mostly as too much fat around your belly. White fat also adds up easily on buttocks and thighs and on upper arms.

White fat is therefore the fat that you want to lose. Ideally, you would even make more brown fat to help you lose white fat. Scientists have been able to get mice to to this in laboratory experiments. Nobody yet knows how to make this happen in humans. Pharmaceutical companies are, of course, working hard to discover a new drug that will do it for you. Nothing along this line is yet available.

Body Fat Recommendations

You can measure your percent body fat in three main ways. Each method has a different level of accuracy. Keep in mind that your body fat percent will vary depending on the method of measurement.

Buoyancy in water offers the most accurate method. This involves specialized equipment for underwater weighing. Impedance devices, such as those in bathroom scales, are the next most accurate. Handheld devices that use this method are also available. On average these devices read about 3 percent higher than does the submersion method.

Calipers provide the least reliable data. Calculations of body fat percent based on pinching with calipers relies too heavily on the strength and accuracy of the examiner.

No single body fat percent is ideal for everyone. Good health and fat management spans a range of body fat composition. Recommended percentages of body fat are higher for women. They are also higher with age.

Nutritionists generally recommend the following body fat percents as the healthiest by gender and age group:


20 to 40 yrs, 21 to 33 percent fat

41 to 60 yrs, 23 to 35 percent fat

61 to 79 yrs, 24 to 36 percent fat


20 to 40 yrs, 8 to 19 percent fat

41 to 60 yrs, 11 to 22 percent fat

61 to 79 yrs, 13 to 25 percent fat

These are the target ranges for good health. It is probably obvious that being above these ranges is the foundation for overweight (i.e., overfat) and obesity. There may be no limit to how high it can go. One of my clients, a woman in her 50s, measured at 48 percent body fat. Wow!

The Other Extreme Is Low Body Fat

What may not be so obvious is that numbers below these health ranges are not necessarily healthier just because they are lower. You need body fat in the right amounts, of the right types, in the right places for optimum health and body image.

Want to find out more about body fat composition, then visit Dr. Dennis Clark’s explanation of the silly number one fat loss secret for your ideal body fat percent and how easy it is for you to get it.