Simply put, the body fat percentage measurement is the estimate of how much of our overall body weight is comprised of fat. For instance, a person weighing 230lb with a body fat percentage of 10% will have 23lb of body fat, or there about.
What I’ve noticed lately is many people asking on forums about what the ideal body fat percentage should be. It’s almost as if there is some definitive answer, and if they don’t hit it spot on, they are either too fat, or too skinny.
The simply fact is, there is no ideal body fat percentage; for a few reasons.
First of all, while we all put on fat in similar ways – the stomach, butt, waist, hips, etc. first – there will always be people who put fat on slightly differently. Some people can wind up with big stomachs, yet, their arms and legs are skinny. Having a big gut is never a good thing, and may cause the person to feel very self conscious and unhappy. For these people, then, the percentage of body fat they have is too high.
On the other hand, another person of the same or similar body fat percentage may put fat on more disperse throughout the body, having more on the legs and arms, and not having such a prominent stomach. This person may not feel or look that fat, and may not be concerned with the fat they have at all. In this case, if the person is happy, the level of body fat they have may be just fine for them.
Secondly, what is it you are trying to achieve? If you are looking to compete in sports, obviously, having overall weight can have it’s benefits – such as in sumo – but, in general, carrying non-functional weight is a burden. Rarely will you see a boxer carrying a lot of body fat, or a runner.
In physique competitions, or just to have abs, even, you’ll need to get your body fat as low as possible. How long? That’s very difficult to say, but it could be anywhere between 6 – 9% body fat.
When all is said and done, the ideal body fat percentage all comes down to the individual in question. Are they happy with themselves? If not, their ideal is the point at which they see themselves more positively. In physique competition and events which having fat is a major detriment, having low body fat as possible is the order of the day. While for a sumo, the more body fat, the more body weight, the better.