What You Need to Know About Body Fat Percentage—And How to Lower It

Figuring out how to banish body fat and hit your fitness goals can often come down to three things: understanding your body fat percentage, how to measure body fat, and learning  how to lower it.

Understanding body fat and how to lower it won’t come overnight—it takes fitness professionals years to master it. But with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to hitting new body fat percentage lows and achieve the abs you’ve been dreaming of.

In this guide to how to measure body fat and lower it, we’ll cover:

  •       What Does Body Fat Percentage Mean?
  •       How to Measure Body Fat Percentage
  •       How to Lower Body Fat Percentage
  •       Is Body Fat Percentage the Same as BMI?

    1. What Does Body Fat Percentage Mean?

      To put it simply, body fat percentage means the amount of fat in your body versus everything else like organs, muscle, etc. Ideally, you want the fat percentage to be as low as possible, although your body does need a certain amount of fat to function properly. 

      Everyone’s body is different, so healthy body fat percentages will look different for everyone. Men and women, like everything else in life, will be the most different when it comes to body fat. A man with 20% body fat can look fit, while a woman with 20% body fat could look out of shape. 

      Muscle mass has nothing to do with your body fat percentage, in case you were wondering. And most people have no idea what their body fat percentage would be—it’s incredibly tough to judge someone’s percentage just by looking at them. 


        2. How to Measure Body Fat Percentage

          Without actually measuring your body fat percentage, it’s almost impossible to guess accurately unless you have a trained eye. When it comes to how to measure body fat, there are quite a few different ways to do it. Your best bet for consistency and to accurately measure progress is to measure the same way each time under the same conditions.

          1. Use weekly progress pictures to compare yourself and take a best guess at how your body fat percentage is progressing.
          2. Body fat calipers on multiple areas of your body. This option is not for the faint of heart, since you have to actually pull your fat away from your muscles and pinch it with the caliper. A chart will then help you figure out your percentage. This method isn’t always the most reliable, unless you’re pinching in the same areas and with the same accuracy each time. But if you’re looking for a general guide and a cheap method, this is a good option.
          3. Physically measuring yourself is an old-school but easy and free way to measure your body fat. You measure certain areas of your body, plug in numbers (or do it in your head, if you’re a math whiz!), and get a final number. Unfortunately, it uses so few data points that it should be used as more of a guideline than anything.

          1. Body fat scales are a neat tech route you can go. They use electric currents to measure your body fat percentage quickly, but it can vary based on a number of factors, including how much water you drank that day.
          2. A tool called The Bod Pod can use air displacement to measure your body fat percentage fairly accurately, but this is definitely a pricier option. It would be a good supplementary option to one of the first two options every 6 months to a year to make sure you’re on track. 
          3. A water displacement test is definitely one of the more accurate methods when it comes to how to measure body fat, but it’s incredibly inconvenient and pricey.
          4. DEXA Scanning uses X-rays of your body to calculate your body composition. Again, a pricey option that involves lying on a table and getting a full body X-ray, which isn’t for everyone.

          Always keep in mind that even the most accurate options aren’t always going to be 100% right each time, so use them more to track overall trends. Combine these measurements with how you’re feeling, the way your clothes fit, and your energy and fitness levels to get the best understanding of your progress.


            3. How to Lower Body Fat Percentage

              A few small changes in your diet and lifestyle can help bring down your body fat percentage a few points, but if you’re trying to make a bigger change, it gets tougher and tougher to lower your percentage, especially as you get leaner.

              • Caloric Deficit: one of the quickest ways to lose weight and lower your body fat percentage is to eat a caloric deficit (meaning you’re using more calories than you consume each day). Be careful though, you could be losing muscle along with fat.
              • Strength Train: this will help you burn fat and gain muscle at the same time, effectively lowering your body fat percentage. Check out BR+ for great workouts you can do anywhere, including strength training from your home gym.

              • Experiment with Diets: some people respond best to a low-fat diet, others to a high protein diet. There are tons of diets to choose from (Paleo, Keto, etc.) so find what works best for you. The goal is to find something that fits with your lifestyle so that you can keep at it, as that’s when the real changes will happen. Check out our Nutrition Guides to make eating for your goals simple and delicious.
              • Intermittent Fasting: this lifestyle has gotten some great fat loss results. At the very least, try working out before you eat each day so that your body uses your fat as fuel, rather than the energy from the food you just ate.

              • Track your Food: if you’re not seeing fat loss results, you might be eating too much. Even if you’re following the serving guidelines, there could be hidden calories in something you’re eating. Use a food tracker each day, weigh your food, and sub our lighter versions where possible.

              Check out this 24-minute, at-home fat loss workout for effective and fast results.

                4. Is Body Fat Percentage the Same as BMI?

                  A lot of people get Body Mass Index (BMI) and body fat percentage confused. While they’re both great ways to track your health, they each give you different information. BMI uses just your height and weight to determine if you’re likely to be underweight, normal, overweight, or obese.

                  Your BMI is also not incredibly accurate as it uses just two metrics (your height and weight), and it also doesn’t factor in your body fat percentage at all. It can help drive your weight loss goals, but your body fat percentage will help you focus more on getting shredded abs.

                  Learn more: What Does BMI Index? (And Does BMI Really Matter?)

                  Find out ways to burn more fat with these exercises.

                  Body fat percentage is a good metric to know when you’re considering your overall health, and it’s especially helpful to know how to measure body fat in an accurate and consistent way. Once you understand how to measure body fat, it becomes much easier to track your progress and motivate you daily to keep hitting those fit body goals.

                  BodyFat Percentage Playlist for BR+ Subscribers:

                  (Not a subscriber? Get 3 Months FREE!)

                  Start Strong Episode 3

                  Fast & Furiously Fit Season 5 Workout 1

                  Stay Safe Episode 6

                  MAXHIIT Live Season 1 Class 4

                  Sweatflix Live 2020 Episode 6

                  Start Strong Episode 9

                  Strength Challenge Workout 2

                  CrossHIIT Workout 2

                  BR20 6--Glutes & Hamstrings

                  HIITMAX Live 311--Hamstrings & Glutes, Strength, Cardio & Resistance


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