PT on the Net Research

Body Fat Percentage Chart


Question:

My clients often ask me about normal body fat percentages. Do you have a chart outlining this?

Answer:

There are charts online to find standards on body fat levels. The American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine established normal body fat levels some years ago. Their charts look like this:

General Body Fat Percentage Categories

Classification   Women (% fat) Men (% fat)
Excellent 14-20% 6-13%
Good 21-24% 14-17%
Average 25-29% 18-22%
Fair 30-32% 22-25%
Poor 32% + 25% +

The numbers haven’t changed much over the years. Remember, these are standards, and while the numbers may give you an indication of what’s going on, there are still other factors to consider. It seems the gold standard of measuring body fat is still the hydrostatic method. It appears to be quite accurate but is inaccessible and can be costly for the majority of people. The other forms of testing can be less accurate but will sometimes give you a ballpark number for a client’s body fat. Skinfold measurements have inherent tester flaws, and impedance technologies can have errors as well with individuals on different levels.

When I work with clients, I get their measurements done followed by an advisement on what the numbers mean and what their personal body fat percentage should be. Everyone will have their own. For example, I was just working with an ex soccer pro who had a slender build, solid with a little bit of a pooch belly. When we measured his body fat, it was 10 percent. That's considered athletic or excellent standards wise, but I advised him that his personal percentage is probably lower than that and should be lower than that. If he has 10 percent body fat, is a former athlete and has a slight gut, that's a little high for him. After gaining some experience, you can sometimes ballpark a client’s body fat percentage just by looking at him or her. Likewise, by this same method, you’ll be able to determine if a client’s personal body fat level correlates to the standards on the chart. Good luck.