You’ve already heard me go on about the difference between “Weight Loss” vs *Fat Loss*… but today, I want to really “get under the hood” a little more so we can better gauge the importance. We’re going to focus on this for Men initially, and then – in a follow up article – I’ll shine the light on the unique aspects of this topic that distinguish the details for Women also.
So, the first simple fact to acknowledge is this: Body Fat Percentage is FAR more relevant than the number on the scale (be that in lbs or kg).
The second simple fact is: You can take two guys who both weigh 190lbs but look entirely different in terms of their “leanness”. One could look very soft, have ‘muffin tops’, a bit of ‘podge’ on the belly, and you could possibly refer to as being “skinny fat”. The other could look like a World Class Boxing Champion – lean, strong, maybe even looks like they weigh *more* owing to the amount of muscle definition. Yet the number on the scale is the same. It’s all relative.
Now, you might be asking yourself: “Well, if I should focus less on the ‘poundage’ and more on the percentage [of body fat], then what number should *I* be looking to drop down to?”…
That’s a potentially loaded question. Thing is, you could end up setting yourself an unrealistic goal. You need to think more about dropping the number until you’re happy with what you see in the mirror. In other words, it’ll be better to just focus on reducing your body fat levels until you get the kind of definition you’re happy with, rather than obsessing over a different number (i.e. now instead of the lbs/kg on the scale, you’d be obsessing with reaching – say – 10% body fat).
Like with the example before where you have two guys weighing 190lbs each, but one’s lean, and one’s fat(ish)… you should also note that what *YOU* look like at – say – 14% body fat may actually be reallyyyy good, whereas 10% may be a) a tad too lean (?), and/or b) hard to maintain [possibly].
So, what does 10% body fat even look like? What about 20%? Well, let me show you some examples…
As you can see, the single digits is Bodybuilding territory – you pretty much have to dedicate your day-to-day life to achieving and maintaining a physique like this. Basically, this isn’t achievable for a lot of people because the level of commitment to getting so “shredded” is just devoid in the average person. The “singles” will show a level of muscularity and definition that is so detailed that at the super low-end, you’ll even notice striations in the muscles, and vascularity (visible veins) is noticeable even without a “pump” [necessarily].
Low-end double digits… so, the 10-15% range is actually very achievable for virtually anyone. It’ll take hard work [if you’re above 20% body fat] to get down to this level of lean, but keeping it will be a lot easier than shooting for sub-10%! Definition in this range is fair, and vascularity can sometimes be noticed.
The 15-20% range is a reasonably healthy range. It obviously doesn’t shout ‘ripped’, but it’s a good range to be in as far as avoiding health complications goes. A lot of “Weekend Warriors” will typically fall into this zone; you can be perfectly ‘fit & healthy’ here, but just don’t expect great muscle definition or any vascularity at all.
Upwards of 20% for a man isn’t ideal, however, keeping it in the 20-25% range is acceptable if you don’t mind looking out of shape. No offense guys – just being real here. At 20% some guys can just about pull off looking like they are fit, but once you start creeping towards the mid-twenties, that’s where you’re staring down the barrel of love-handles and beer-bellies! Get a grip on this NOW – because it can easily escalate if you let it.
North of 25% is where alarm bells should start ringing. I don’t say this because of aesthetics; I say this because health complications are inevitable! Think about it – now over a QUARTER of your entire body is just *FAT*!! At this level, the levels of *visceral fat* (the fat surrounding your organs) is going to be far too high. This is the point at which you are now “classed” as Overweight, and there are several metabolic issues that could arise from having this much bodyfat, which include: IBS, Diabetes, Atherosclerosis, Insulin Resistance, and more.
NB: I am *not* saying that you will get these conditions if your body fat goes above 25%. I am simply stating that there is a strong possibility. It would be prudent to consult your doctor and get checked for any of these conditions before jumping to any conclusions!
Once your body fat levels are at [or above] 30%… well, you’ll a) classify as Obese… and b) seriously want to consider lifestyle changes! Staying at this range for too long can not only lead to health complications, but if you start approaching the 40% mark, you could almost be doing irreversible damage to your body. (Note: ‘almost’).
I said to ‘get a grip’ [on things] at 20% (keep in mind – this is for MEN)… but if you’re at or above 30% then I strongly urge you to do something about it! Consult a nutritionist, hire a Personal Trainer, seek out professionals who can help get you back on track!
Now, this is where I should reiterate the importance of the “number on the scale”… because you could very easily be 30% body fat at 190lbs! A lot of people think that to be “obese” you have to be massive [in stature], round and robust. However, it is very plausible to have obese levels of body fat, but look “skinny”… enter the term: ‘Skinny Fat’ – one of the most dangerous “physiques” that a man (or woman) can have.
Why ‘dangerous’ you ask… well, because as far as your ‘frame’ goes, you’re not particularly “large”, and so, it’s only natural to assume that you’re healthy, right? Wrong. Just because you don’t carry large deposits of fat *around* the body, doesn’t make it any healthier, and doesn’t change the fact that there’s still a high percentage of your body’s composition that is made up of *fat* [that you can’t necessarily see].
Being “skinny fat” can lead to a false sense of security regarding your health – believing you’re ‘perfectly fine’ – when in reality there could be a LOT going on that you’re unaware of.
But let me be clear – as I want to wrap this up… the biggest concern here should not be about aesthetics, but about your health. Period! So, while it’s great to have a revelation that you want to drop your percentage of body fat by a good ten [plus?] percent, the aesthetic side of things should be the proverbial “cherry on top” – the bonus of getting down to a healthier level of body fat. If you weigh a little over 200lbs, but are a respectable 15% body fat, then that *weight* may sound like you’re “overweight”, but your body fat says otherwise. Remember – muscle weighs more than fat, so that’ll be what’s tipping the scale (so to speak).
Guys – specifically – I hope you got a better understanding about weight and body fat here. Definitely consider getting your numbers checked – you can easily get tested at your gym (they should have callipers, which are a reasonably accurate way of measuring body fat). A combination of Resistance Training, some HIIT, a good diet, and a couple of effective supplements will get you to where you want to be.
That’s all for now – I’ll publish the Women’s version of this article shortly.
In the meantime, remember: Train Hard, and Train Smart!
Yours in Training,
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO