Personal Training

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Understanding Body Fat

Many people are in the quest for weight loss. Though it is admirable to start on such a journey, most of the time folks gets lost in the numbers. We get obsessed with weight loss and dropping a pound or two that we lose the essence of why we started in the first place, which to some make them discouraged and they end up giving up entirely.

Some people need to drop a lot of weight, make no mistake about it. There's a reason why about 66% of our population is considered overweight and a third of the population is considered obese. So for them its about seeing the number drop in the scale.

Others however are in a lower scale when it comes to their weight, but them too need to lose a few pounds in order to be in an acceptable range of weight that would be considered healthy and of course fit.

In a nutshell if your goal is to lose weight, burn fat and put on some muscle you must do the following:

- Exercise regularly which includes some sort of cardio or metabolic training
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
- Eat protein, fruits, veggies and healthy fats

You will lose weight and you will drop body fat, all while increasing strength, performance and toning your body. In a nut shell, if you follow the above recommendation you will see results; how much? Well it depends on several factors. That's a different topic and I'll address it later.

What I want to do today is help you understand the numbers when it comes to fat loss. I wrote an e-mail the other day to my subscribers list, talking about how many people wish the had a six pack abs and what it takes to get there. Depending on your current goals and physical condition your weight can be a good way to determine your overall dietary condition, but a much more important factor would be to determine how much body fat percentage you have. Fat loss is the key, once you are at a decent weight it's all about fat loss. The weight may go up or down a bit, but it all has to do with fat loss.

For example its not the same a man who weighs 170 lbs with 32% body fat - than a guy who weighs 170 lbs with 19% body fat, or a woman who is 130 lbs with 29% body fat than a woman who is 128 lbs with 20% body fat... there's a huge difference in body composition.

Body fat is the percentage of your body's mass which is made up of fat, there is essential body fat and stored body fat. Essential body fat is necessary for life and bodily functions. Stored body fat is accumulated fat in adipose tissue which helps protect organs. Too much body fat and you will find it in our bellies, thighs, arms, butt, etc. Not only too much of it doesn't looks good but it can also decrease energy, focus, sex drive and lead to many illness.

So its a good thing to get rid of unwanted body fat, and not only for esthetics purposes. Exactly how much? What is the ideal or realistic body fat percentage too shoot for?

Understanding fat loss by the numbers can give you a better idea as to what to strive for. These numbers will vary and be different for women and men. Women have higher body fat than men mostly because of physiological differences in hormones, sexual organs, ovulation and other things. Also keep in mind that as we age our acceptable body fat increases regardless if you are a man or woman; there are physiological changes in our bodies that creates this environment.

Below I'm showing you a chart that is most acceptable when it comes to body fat percentages provided by the American Council of Exercise (ACE). The only thing I find against it, is that it doesn't breaks it down into age groups. However I still think its a good starting point.

Men Body Fat Percentage
Essential Fat : 2 -5%
Athletes:  6 - 13%
Fitness: 14 - 17%
Average: 18 - 24%
Obese:  25 - up %

Women Body Fat Percentage
Essential Fat : 10 - 13%
Athletes:  14 - 20%
Fitness: 21 - 24%
Average: 25 - 31%
Obese:  32 - Up%

This is not the only measure of health and fitness, but a strong one. However you could have a low body fat percentage and still be weak and unhealthy. On the other hand I've known a few people who appear to have a higher body fat percentage than what would be considered normal and yet they are strong, fast, athletic and in good health.

Knowing your body fat percentage will also help you determine if your weight/fat loss goals is realistic. Remember my equation earlier... It's not the same to be a woman who weighs 130lbs with 29% body fat than a woman who weighs 128lbs with 20% body fat.

The difference in weight loss is just 2 lbs... but the overall body composition is different given the fact there's a 9% of body fat dropped.

So before you decide that you need to "lose weight", remember to consider that "weight" consists of both lean body mass and body fat. Try to keep your weight loss goals realistic, and remember, keep the calorie-burning muscle, and lose only the fat.

With sound nutrition and a good fitness routine you can lower your body fat regardless of genetics.

I hope I've helped you to better understand the term of body fat.

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