Before you take your first steps toward losing body fat, you should be aware of exactly how much fat is appropriate for your height, weight, age, and body type. There are a variety of methods for measuring body fat — some of which can be done right in the comfort of your own home. Others, however, will require supervision and special equipment. Measurement techniques include:
- Wrapping a tape measure around the circumference of your neck, waist, and hip
- Using a pair of calipers to measure the skin folds at your tricep, thigh, and above the hip
- Sending a tiny current of electricity through your lower body with the help of a body fat scale
- Being weighed while sitting on a chair underwater (this method is very accurate but must be done in a facility with professional supervision)
- Air displacement plethysmography (this involves entering a computerized oval chamber without any clothing to determine your body’s density and fat percentage)
Keep in mind that the last two options are expensive and may not be covered by health insurance providers.
What body fat percentage is considered healthy?
People often begin searching for the best way to lose body fat before even knowing what their percentage is. It’s a common misconception that if you are heavy, you are unhealthy. Your weight may be higher than average due to bone density and muscle mass, but the amount of fat you have could be completely normal.
It’s important to note that fat serves many purposes in your body. It acts as a source of energy, provides insulation, and maintains hormonal balance, especially in women. Therefore, there really is such a thing as not having enough body fat.
Your ideal body fat percentage is dependent upon your age. In your 20s, the range is 16 to 24 percent; whereas in your 30s, it should be 17 to 24 percent. When you reach your 40s, this number should be anywhere between 19 and 28 percent. The range is 22 to 31 percent in your 50s; and after 60, your ideal percentage lies between 22 and 33 percent.
If you fall outside of the recommended range for your age group, Flo can offer some helpful tips for reducing body fat. There are plenty of resources out there claiming to have the secret to losing body fat quickly. But no matter how badly you want to get rid of that cellulite, proceed with caution because these strategies could potentially do more harm than good. Instead, consider a slower, safer approach to eliminating body fat.
Create a plan
A well-thought-out plan transforms your goals and intentions into something that you can visualize. You’re less likely to give up when everything you need to do is clearly laid out in front of you.
First, write down a few realistic, achievable goals and divide them into smaller, more manageable parts. Add various activities and exercises, as well as the nutritional challenges, you’d like to take on.
Stick to a healthy diet
One of the keys to dropping body fat is eating healthy, well-balanced meals. Cut out processed, refined, and fried foods, and replace fizzy, sugary drinks with water. Staying hydrated is essential to overall fitness.
Incorporate lots of leafy greens, fruits, fiber, and whole grains. These provide your body with critical nutrients rather than empty calories. Consume proteins like fresh fish, lean meats, nuts, and legumes.
Perhaps the best way to reduce body fat is to engage in more physical exercise. Working out increases your body’s metabolism, forcing it to burn extra calories. When blood glucose levels are low, your body will turn to its fat deposits as a source of energy. It will continue to do so even after you’ve finished working out.
Being active doesn’t necessarily mean more trips to the gym. Consider taking a brisk walk, going swimming, or just jogging around the neighborhood with a friend. All of these activities will boost your metabolism and improve its ability to burn fat.
Reevaluate your lifestyle
Smart lifestyle changes can also have a very positive impact when it comes to reducing body fat. If you experience a great deal of stress, a hormone known as cortisol is abundant in your bloodstream. This, along with a rise in insulin and ghrelin levels, contributes to belly fat.
That’s why it’s important to get plenty of sleep — seven to eight hours a night is recommended — and to reduce stress, whenever possible. Research has linked sleep deprivation to weight gain, which in turn, may be caused by hormonal imbalance. Leptin (a hormone that decreases appetite) drops in the bloodstream, while ghrelin (the hormone responsible for increasing appetite) tends to spike. A recent study found that after just one week of sleeping five hours a night, participants gained an average of two pounds per person.
At times, stress can lead to heavy alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, beer contains carbohydrates that only add to stubborn belly fat, while wine and mixed drinks are loaded with sugar and empty calories. Therefore, it’s best to stay away from alcohol when you’re serious about eliminating body fat.