What is the minimum body fat that a female should have?
Knowing the correct body fat percentage for women might sound a little too heavy on the science for the non-athletes of us out there.
But understanding this can be helpful when it comes to knowing that your physique is in an a-okay place.
Why? Well, as the late biologist Rose Frisch proposed, evaluating weight alone can be misleading — as muscles are heavy (80% water compared to 5–10% water in fatty tissue), meaning that many athletes she analysed appeared in the ‘normal’ weight range, despite having no periods, as a direct consequence of their body composition.
Normal Body Fat for Men and Women
The World Health Organization takes into account age groups to determine a healthy body fat range. The healthy range for men between 20 and 40 ranges between 8 and 19 percent body fat, while the normal range for men over age 40 is between 11 and 25 percent. Obesity is considered to be a body fat percentage of more than 30 percent.
Women generally have a higher body fat percentage than men because it is necessary for childbearing and estrogen production. Younger women between age 20 and 40 require between 21 and 33 percent body fat, while women age 40 and over require 23 to 36 percent body fat. Anything higher than 40 percent body fat is considered obese.
Measuring Body Fat
There are several methods available to measure your body fat percentage, including underwater weighing and bioelectrical impedance analysis. For convenience, you can try a skinfold measurement test at home using a caliper. It works by measuring the thickness of fat under the skin on different body locations. Abdominal fat, high blood pressure and a low-nutrient, high-calorie diet are usually indicators that you may have too much body fat even if you maintain a normal weight — this is known as normal-weight obesity.