Why You Need to Know Your Body Fat Percentage
Do you know what your body fat percentage is, right now? Do you know what a healthy body fat percentage is for your gender? Do you know why you should care?
Your body fat percentage is a value that tells you how much of your body weight is made up of fat. In terms of your overall health, your body fat percentage can be one of the most useful numbers available to you, even more so than your scale weight and much more so than your Body Mass Index (BMI).
If you have an interest in living a healthy lifestyle, try your best to eat a healthy diet, and work to keep your body weight under control, your body fat percentage is a crucial number to know that will help you in many different ways. Here are just a few.
#1 Get The Context Of Your Weight
Knowing how much you weigh tells you very little because people can have the same body weight but have completely different compositions, body types, and health risks. You body fat percentage puts your weight into context, telling you far more about your yourself than how heavy you are. Here are the body compositions of three types of people, all around the same weight (~154 pounds) and height (5'10"). To make each of these easier to talk about later, we’ll give them each a fictitious name.
Bill has a body weight of 154.0 pounds and a body fat percentage of 28.3%. Notice the large differences between the bar for Body Fat Mass (43 pounds) and SMM (Skeletal Muscle Mass 56 pounds). Because of this very large difference, despite being a normal weight, Bill likely falls into the category of what is popularly called “skinny fat.”
Ted has a nearly identical weight to Bill – less than half a pound in difference – but has a body fat percentage of 15.6%, almost 13% less than Bill! This is because, unlike Bill, Ted has average amounts of muscle and fat for a 5’10” person. (74 pounds skeletal muscle and 23 pounds body fat mass)
Within about a pound of both Bill and Ted is Brian, with a body weight of 154.8 and a body fat percentage of 10.1%. His SMM (80 pounds) and Body Fat Mass (15 pounds) are the complete inverse of Bill, who had a skinny fat composition.
Now it's true that even without these charts, it would be quite obvious to tell skinny fat Bill from athletic Brian just by looking at them.
However, the more extreme examples of Bill and Brian are helpful to illustrate how three individuals with roughly the same scale weight and BMI can have wildly different body compositions-- something that scale weight cannot reveal.
Of the three individuals, Bill stands to be the most at risk for health problems because of his high body fat percentage and low muscle mass, but especially so because his weight and BMI are considered normal.
Without the content body fat percentage provides, it’s very difficult to understand what your weight means when you stand on a scale and whether or not you should consider making changes to improve your body composition.