We have already shown that measuring body fat percentage, instead of just weighing body weight is a better way to track your progress when trying to lose fat and build muscle. But it’s also a good idea to use body fat percentage for determining your fat loss goals whether it’s for health, fitness or looks.
The reason for this is the percentage of fat your body has (not your body weight) can greatly impact both your health and the look of your body. There is a general healthy range of body fat percentage that everyone should maintain to keep their body healthy. Falling below or above that range can both be potentially unhealthy. But within that general range is a variety of ranges that will determine your level of muscle definition and the look of your physique.
That said, it’s important to note that average, ideal and healthy body fat percentage varies considerably with gender and age. Example, the ideal body fat percentage for a man to look ripped will be different for a woman. The same thing goes for two persons from either gender who fall in different age groups.
The General Healthy Range – Not Too High, Not Too Low
If we put everything else aside and focus on health only, there is a high body fat level that increases the risk for many diseases including high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Extremely low body fat percentages may also be a health risk. A certain amount of body fat is vital for everyone’s body to be healthy and function normally which is called essential fat. Essential fat is necessary for energy storage, protection of internal organs, and insulation against heat loss.
The overall healthy body fat percentage range regardless of age is 2% – 20% for men and 8% – 25% for women.
For good health, try to maintain your body fat percentage within this general healthy range. However, the only persons who bring their body fat level lower than 5% are physique athletes such as bodybuilders and fitness models. And they only go to this extreme to look as ripped as possible for competition. When they are not competing they will maintain their body fat percentage at a higher level.
Guidelines For Healthy Body Fat Percentage
2% for men and 8% for women – essential fat level (lower is unhealthy)
20% for men and 25% for women – baseline for good health (higher is unhealthy)
Ideal Body Fat Percentage For A Certain Look
If you want a certain level of leanness or muscle definition, then there are different body fat percentages to aim for to achieve a certain look. This ideal ranges will also be affected by gender and age.
Muscle Mass And Body Fat Percentage
The amount of muscle that you have on your body will not significantly affect your body fat percentage. But the amount of muscle that you possess will greatly determine the way your body looks with a certain level of body fat. Having a low body fat percentage with a good amount of muscle will result in a lean muscular look.
But if your body fat percentage is low and your muscle mass level is also low you’ll simply look skinny and frail. That’s one of the reasons it’s very important to preserve muscle when losing fat so that you end up with a sculpted physique instead of looking like “skin and bones”.
The following chart shows ideal body fat ranges for average men and women to get a certain leanness or muscle definition (providing that you do have the muscle to show).
Men Women Impact
2-6% 9-12% Exceptional Muscle Definition (ripped)
7-9% 13-15% Excellent Muscle Definition
10-14% 16-20% Good Muscle Definition
15-19% 21-25% Satisfactory Body Fat Level
20-25% 26-30% Improvement needed
26-30%+ 31-40%+ Major improvement needed
Note: The key to lowering body fat percentage to get exceptionally lean or ripped is to master losing fat without losing muscle. The most important factor for losing fat and preserving muscle is lifting weights during the fat burning phase. To get more specific information about how to set up the perfect fat loss weight training routine, read 5 Principles of Radical FatLoss.