Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be?


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I’ve discussed 5 Ways to Measure Your Body Fat Percentage, Ideal Body Weight Formula, and even showed you Body Fat Percentage Pictures of Men & Women, but what is your ideal body fat percentage? What is a healthy, realistic body fat percentage to shoot for so you can have that lean, toned body you desire?

While there is some debate as to what constitutes a “healthy” body fat range, I have below 2 different types of body fat percentage charts, which I will walk you through along with some insights into how to read each chart.

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart #1: ACE

The chart below from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) is one of the most commonly used body fat charts.1 As you can see, women have a higher body fat percentage relative to men for a given level. Women have more fat because of physiological differences such as hormones, breasts, and sexual organs. In addition, women need a higher amount of body fat for ovulation.

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart 1

“Essential fat” is the minimum amount of fat necessary for basic physical and physiological health. There is a lot of controversy over what amount of body fat is optimal for overall health. A research paper by Gallagher et. al. in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2000) came to the conclusion that certain low body fat ranges are “underfat”, which implies “unhealthy”.2 According to this research paper, men who are between 20-40 years old with under 8% body fat are considered “underfat”, whereas a “healthy” range is described as between 8-19%. For women in this same age group, any level under 21% is “underfat” and 21-33% is considered “healthy”.

In my opinion, I think body fat is one important measure of health, but stating a certain body fat level is “unhealthy” doesn’t give the whole story. In fact, some overweight people who exercise can be healthier than their leaner non-exercising counterparts.3 Conversely, to imply that anyone who has a six pack (below 8% body fat for men), is very athletic, and eats well is “underfat”, or “unhealthy” is a stretch. We all have different shapes, sizes, and fat distribution profiles, but I think the chart above is a good starting point.

The limitation of the ACE chart is that while it takes into account gender differences, it does not take into account your age, which is exactly why I included the next two charts.

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart #2: Jackson & Pollock

AccuFitness is the maker of the popular Accu-Measure Body Fat Caliper, which is a one-site skinfold body fat measurement method. When you buy the product, AccuFitness includes a body fat percentage chart based on research by Jackson & Pollock (which has become the industry standard) that I think both aesthetically and from a health perspective is right on the money.

In case you don’t understand how to read this chart, the age column is on the left, the body fat percentages are in the chart, and the colors represent Lean, Ideal, Average, and Above Average ranges. So if you are a 30 year old man, a body fat percentage between 10% and 16% is considered “Ideal” and between 18% and 22% is considered “Average”, and so on. I also like how this chart has the color red to represent percentages that are too high and the green to represent ideal ranges. The first chart is for men, and the second for woman.

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart 2

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart 3

You may have noticed as your age increases, your acceptable body fat within these ranges increases as well. Why you ask? In short, these charts are based on statistical assumptions. Older individuals tend to have a lower body density for the same skinfold measurements, which is assumed to indicate a higher body fat percentage. Older, athletic individuals, however, might not fit this assumption because their body density may be underestimated.

Digging a little deeper, there are 3 types of fat: subcutaneous (under the skin), visceral (around the organs), and intramuscular (in between muscle, like a marbled steak). The amount of subcutaneous body fat you have may stay the same, but the visceral and intramuscular fat may increase as you age. For a visual representation of a given body fat level, you can check out this article:

I hope this discussion of ideal body fat percentage was helpful for you! Let me know if you have any questions.

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170 Comments on “Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be?

  1. Hank
    August 3, 2010 #

    Very sobering fact that no matter what age increases your body fat. Shows the importance of mindful nutrition.

  2. Marc Perry
    August 3, 2010 #

    @Hank – It is a sobering fact, but it’s good news that the subcutaneous fat (below the skin) doesn’t necessarily increase as we age, assuming you are eating right and exercising effectively. I like to think I’m going to be stronger and in better shape when I’m 50 years old than I am right now.

  3. sadie
    August 5, 2010 #

    Do you have any advice for moving fat off a very pear-shaped body? I’m 28, female, and have 21.4% body fat (at least according to the machine at the gym I go to. You just hold it in your hands, so who knows how accurate that is). Anyway, I can see my ribs, but I am still struggling with what can only be called a serious “saddlebag” issue. I think this is pretty typical for pear-shaped women, and a lot of people tell me it’s just genetics, but I’m not sure. I think it may be a hormonal issue, and I’m trying to resolve that with diet, but any advice you could offer would be great.

    1. Marc Perry
      August 6, 2010 #

      @sadie – Having a pear shaped body definitely is genetic and it does have a lot to do with hormones, but I think it is possible to make your body appear less like a “pear”.

      If you want to make the pear shape look less bottom heavy, the goals it to slim down your hips/glutes and increase the broadness of your shoulders/arms/chest, especially shoulders. I think if you can keep the muscle you have, and hopefully increase it a bit on your upper body, while focusing on losing JUST fat, that extra 5lbs of fat loss could make a difference. I’ve seen some pretty impressive changes in hip measurement (you can keep track of your hip/’thigh measurement with a measuring tape) with some of my female clients.

      I’m not a huge fan of BIA measurements for measuring body fat percentage (See: 5 Ways to Measure Body Fat Percentage): . I would encourage you to get a personal trainer at your gym to do the 3-site Jackson Pollock method for measuring body fat. The three measurements that are taken are triceps, above the suprailliac (hip bone), and the thigh. What you’ll probably notice is that the thigh measurement is a lot larger than the other two, because you have that pear shape.

      With all this said, please don’t allow the media to affect your perception of your own body. There is nothing wrong with a pear shape at all! The very sad reality is that many images you see in magazines are of women that are genetically atypical, who have also been airbrushed. Really, I hope you understand different body types are not necessarily more beautiful, or less beautiful. They’re different. Without beating a dead horse, different cultures have different conceptions of beauty and what is “ideal”.

      Best of luck and I hope this was helpful for you!

  4. sadie
    August 10, 2010 #

    Don’t worry, I’m not worried about being a pear. Just being too much pear! :)
    Sounds like good advice; I don’t do nearly enough upper-body work. I wish I could get the three-site body fat test, but the gym I go to doesn’t do them. I’ll check around.

  5. renae
    August 19, 2010 #

    Hi. I have a question regarding body fat. Right now I am 35 years old and right now my body fat is 22.94%. My lean mass is 102.49 and fat mass is 30.51. I have been working out consistently for a year and my body fat has went down since my test in March (it is the same as my Feb one but I gained weight over the month of March and that test was higher. In march I tested at 24.7%. So, in March my lean mass was 106.18 and my fat mass was 34.82. So, I am concerned that I’ve lost lean mass. What can I do about that? And what can I do to get to 20% body fat. I feel that would help me look more toned? How much loss of fat mass would that be? Thanks!

  6. renae
    August 19, 2010 #

    I can tell you my 7 site skinfold too! Chest 13, midiauxillary 14, tricep, 22,subscapular 14, suprailiac 12.5, abdomen 19.5, thigh 26. This is my current ones. I can give u the previous ones if you need.

    1. Marc Perry
      August 20, 2010 #

      @renae – 23% body fat is pretty solid for your age group. What it sounds like is based on the body fat tests (which may or may not be completely accurate), you lost about 4 pounds of LBM and 4 pounds of fat. There are a few reasons why people lose muscle (1) not eating enough protein – try to shoot for roughly 1 gram of protein per pound of LBM, (2) not eating enough calories – as you get leaner, you need to make sure you are not eating too few calories, I suggest somewhere between 20-30% calorie deficit, (3) too much cardio, not enough strength training.

      These are just a few of the reasons (but most common) as to why you may be losing muscle. In order to figure out what body weight you must have to arrive at a desired body fat percentage, check out the second half of this article, “BuiltLean Ideal Body Weight Formula”: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/05/04/ideal-body-weight-formula-how-to-calculate-your-ideal-weight/. It should answer your question. According to my calculations, assuming you keep your LBM the same and lose just fat, your target weight is about 127 pounds, so only need to lose about 5 pounds of fat to reach your goal.

      I think it’s smart you are tracking your LBM and fat pounds. Good luck and thanks for leaving a comment!

  7. Ben
    January 19, 2011 #

    I need some advice on losing some fat. I am 29 years old, 6’1″, 190 lbs and I have 19% body fat. I would like to cut this percentage to about 12%, but I don’t want to lose any weight overall. I think if I drop below 190 I’ll be to skinny looking. Is this possible? What is a realistic time frame to achieve this?

    1. Marc Perry
      January 20, 2011 #

      @Ben – Thanks for the question. This is one of the most popular questions I get from guys and I will be writing about it in an article in the future.

      Right now, your LBM is 154lb, which is well above average, even for your height. In other words, you have plenty of muscle in my opinion. If you were to have 12% body fat at 190lb, that would imply a 167lb LBM, which is typical of a bodybuilder, or someone with a more bulky looking build.

      If you achieve 12% body fat without losing any muscle, then your body weight will be 175lb. The weight is not as important as the body fat percentage. The guys I’ve helped who got eye popping physiques were able to mentally get over the weight issue of feeling to “small” or “light”. In the photo on my DeltaFit sales page, I’m 163lb at 5’11′ http://www.builtlean.com. Do I look small? If you get to 12% body fat and 175lb, you will look bigger than at 190lb and 19% body fat. This is because your muscles will be clearly visible and you will have a much more muscular shape. I’ve helped tons of guys get great physiques and every one weighed much less then they were initially comfortable with, but you should see the smile on their faces when they see their after photo and they have a great six pack and they have the build every guy wants. In fact, I’ve seen guys at 6’1” get all the way down to 160lb and look phenomenal.

      Hope this is helpful and you can overcome the mental “weight” hurdle.

  8. sharon Doerr
    March 17, 2011 #

    Thanks for the easy to see and understand explanations. I am a 69 year old female- still lifting weights and doing push ups- from my toes– but am needing to lose another 4-5% body fat i’m sure.
    Are there any charts that go past age 55? i suppose i could get out the calculator and try to ‘run it down’ one by one, but that’s a lot of work .
    thanks again .

    1. Marc Perry
      March 22, 2011 #

      @sharon – Very impressive that you are doing push ups! That’s great to hear. In terms of figuring out your body fat percentage, you can check out this body fat calculator: http://www.linear-software.com/online.html. I use it all the time and probably should have included it in the post!

  9. Cindy
    March 25, 2011 #

    I’m a 47 year old female in relatively good shape. I weigh anywhere between 133-135 and I’m 5’5. Last time I had my body fat content checked I was 20% (a year ago). My problem area is my mid-section – the old “muffin top”. Its not horrible, but I can’t seem to get rid of it. I eat fairly healthy – lots of protein and workout 3X per week – 45 mins weight training and 30-45 mins of cardio. I know that food in and cardio are key,but am I doing the right thing with doing High Intensity Interval Training (running on a treadmill). I typically walk/run minute on minute off? What’s your advice for losing that mid-section fat? I have been working diligently for almost 6 months now any not seeing any visible results.

    1. Marc Perry
      March 28, 2011 #

      @Cindy – Congrats on your consistency working out. While I know it can be very frustrating not “seeing” results, your body is very thankful you are exercising! In other words, please don’t get discouraged, you are doing great.

      Regarding losing body fat from the midsection, it’s primarily a nutritional challenge. What I would recommend is tracking your food intake for a few days and then seeing how many calories you are eating. It’s a pain in the butt, but it’s well worth the time investment. I wrote an article series about keeping a food journal here: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/06/11/part-1-7-reasons-to-keep-a-food-journal/. Then focus on eating less calories than you burn: http://www.builtlean.com/2011/01/18/how-many-calories-should-you-eat-to-lose-weight/. Finally, adjusting carb intake can also make a difference. For example, when I want to lean out, I’ll eat less carbs at night (salad with veggies and lean meat & healthy fats) to help speed up the fat loss process. I don’t believe in “low carb” diets because they are mostly unsustainable, but I do believe being smart with carbs and eating a moderate level is a smart approach.

      It sounds like you have hit a plateau, so I think if you implement the aforementioned strategies, they can help you overcome the plateau and get into fat burning mode. It sounds like you only have maybe 3-5lb of fat to lose to get to where you want to be, so you are VERY close! Keep it up!

  10. Allan Holtz
    April 9, 2011 #

    Dear Marc

    I’m a 61 year old Caucasian male, 5’8″, weight 156-160 pound. I train for and run 100-mile trail runs (4-8 per year plus a few marathons and 50 mile races), so my training focus is running very long. I started running at age 43 and have finished 125 marathons and 94 ultramarathons since then. I would like to know my body fat.

    I use both a manual (Accu-Measure) and electric skin fold calipers (FatTrackII). They reasonably agree – current values 13.3 and 12.6 % body fat respectively. Note these values do take into account my gender and age. Then I use 4 BMI tools – 2 tiny handhelds (Vitalio and Taylor). They also provide very similar numbers – current values 24.8 and 24.9 % body fat again with gender, age and weight considered. Then I also have two BMI tools you stand on (both Tanita – the older one gives body fat while the newer one gives body fat and % water). Current values for them are 11.4 and 12% body fat.

    So it seems the body fat values of the different tools of similar method are nicely consistent, however the methods of measurement vary a lot – all the way from suggesting I am under fat to over fat according to typical published tables. So what am I? Have I an appropriate amount of body fat or should I focus on losing body fat? It seems the more I measure, the less I know!

    I measure my body fat daily with each tool and average the values for each technique on a weekly basis. I definitely see the effects of eating out (salty meals give higher skinfold values and higher % water and lower body fat % for the Tanita). A couple days after a 100-mile race my skinfold is high and my Tanita Body fat readings are very low (4-6% fat – which I don’t believe). Then over the next week both measurement techniques come back to “normal” as water retention from the stress of 100-mile races and consumption of extra salt during the run are slowly released from tissues and urinated out of my body.

    I run 2 hours per day normally. Should I be using the “athlete” settings for the Tanita tools, or the “adult”? The handhelds do not have this option. I know the “adult” settings give much higher body fat values. I have been using the athlete setting as I would think with as much running as I do I should qualify as an athlete. The manual skinfold tool requires a suprailiac reading and the electric skinfold requires the sum of 3 readings: 1.5 inches to right of right nipple, an inch to the right of my navel and midway between my knee and hip over my right quad.

    Once I tried to get a water submersion measurement, but I had to jump in the deep end of a pool and climb into the submerged weighing basket. I do not swim and I am deathly afraid of water in my nose, so I chickened out of completing this measurement.

    I have measured my waist circumference. If I extend my belly as far as possible and very loosely draw the cloth tape around my belly I get 36.75 inches and if I suck my belly in and cinch the tape very snug I get 28.0 inches. So unless I use a spring loaded tape, which I don’t have, so the stress of how tightly the tape is drawn is fixed, this measurement offers me little information as well.

    Your suggestions are most welcome.

    Best Regards,

    Allan Holtz

    1. Marc Perry
      April 9, 2011 #

      @Allan Holtz – Thanks for sharing your exercise regimen and how you track your body fat percentage. I have an article where I go into more depth about body fat percentage measurement here: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/.

      I think by far the most reliable body fat measurement is skin fold calipers. I don’t even consider anything else in my training business, unless someone is very overweight, in which case biolelectrical impedance analysis may be a good choice. I use the three site Jackson Pollock method which for men you take your abdomen, chest, and thigh skin fold thickness, then add up the measurements, and apply it to the 3 site chart. If you have thin skin folds, then you are very lean, I wouldn’t worry what the charts say because as you age, visceral fat increases, which cosmetically you can’t see and its not controllable anyways!

  11. Alex
    April 26, 2011 #

    Hey Marc, I used to weigh 185 and I lost 10 pounds in about 3 weeks. Currently I weigh 175 pounds… I really desire being defined. I have always been told I have broad shoulders, which helps me i guess. I work at a highly busy job and I am always off my feet and constantly lifting things and climbing ladders. I noticed how after i lost those 10 pounds, when I tighten my abdominals as I stand facing the mirror I notice my abs show alot more now and I have a 4-pack. What sucks is that when I relax and loosen my stomach, I go back to my belly showing. My question is what can I do to lose this belly because the muscle is there its just my belly that kills me. By the way (I have now 3 weeks working out doing cardio ONLY 3-5 times a week. Unfortunately I dont have time to go to the gym (therefore NO WEIGHTS). And i do understand weight lifting is KEY when building muscle and burning fat faster. My Body fat % is about 23%! So what can I do to lose this belly in about 2-3 months and get defined?? What I need help in MOST is in my stomach because my arms are OK, and my legs are pretty strong I guess. I would love to lose my belly and get a defined stomach and chest! 1 more thing, what things can I eat to help this process? Please, please Help! Thanks!

  12. Alex
    April 27, 2011 #

    Hey Marc, I am a 5’8 Male and I weight 174 pounds. I used to weigh 185 and I lost 11 pounds in about 3 weeks. After I lost the weight I noticed that when I stand infront of the mirror and tighten my stomach, my abs show much more, so i have a 4 pack now. What sucks is when I relax my stomach it goes back to my belly. So my question is what can I do to get a defined stomach, my only problem is the belly, because I have nice arms and broad shoulders and strong legs as well. I do cardio Monday-Friday for at least 50 minutes of intensity. I drink at least 80-100 ounces of water a day. And I stopped eating junk food ever since I lost the weight. My mission is to lose my belly and get toned pretty much. My Body fat % is about 22 %. I am definitely aware that I have to decrease this. Please Help me get my abs and lose my belly. One more thing is that I dont have time to go to the gym so I dont lift to much weight only at my job that I am always off my feet and moving around. Adding to my cardio Mon-Friday I also add in every day 4 repetitions of abs and push ups. So what else can I do to lose my belly in perhaps 3 months? PLease help! Thanks!

    1. Marc Perry
      April 27, 2011 #

      @Alex – I think 3 months as a goal to lose most of the belly fat is a good goal. I’ve come across people who had crazy six packs when they flexed their abs, but had almost no sign of a six pack when they are relaxed. That’s just genetic. In addition, the way your stomach protrudes may be postural. Simply improving posture can substantially improve how one’s body looks. Losing as much fat around your belly is a matter of continuing to focus on eating less calories than you burn while eating clean foods (which it sounds like you are doing), and continuing with your workout routine. Ideally you would be lifting more, but as long as you are doing some strength related work that requires your muscles, you should be ok. It’s imperative you keep your muscle as you are dieting. Losing 1-2lb per week is a great pace of fat loss and I wouldn’t try to lose much more than that. It sounds like you are heading in the right direction so keep it up!

  13. Alex
    April 29, 2011 #

    Hi Marc,

    I “look” a lot better (leaner) also when I hold the “military” posture – stomach in, chest out, head up…But I find my breathing is much deeper, slower, easier and definitely more comfortable if I simply relax my stomach area and appear fatter. Certainly having a thin skinfold reading from behind the kidneys to the navel is good and to be sought after, but I’m not so sure about the importance of that military posture. I think a posture that supports breathing slow and deep is better. I notice my wife is a shallow breather; maybe 10 breaths/minute with a resting pulse in the mid 70′s, while I typically while sitting have 3-4 breaths/minute with a resting morning heart rate of 45-49 bpm before my run. My wife doesn’t exercise unfortunately.

    (5’8″, 158 lb, 61 years young – got a 100-mile trail run (my 6th Massanutten in 6 years) in mid-May

    1. Marc Perry
      April 29, 2011 #

      @Alex – Your resting heart rate is remarkable. Best of luck with the race!

  14. mike
    June 29, 2011 #

    i’m an 18 year old male and i’m 5’11 and weigh 250 pounds. my current body fat percentage is 18% and i was planning on getting down to about 180 pounds. could i do this in a healthy way, and more importantly without losing any muscle mass?

    1. Marc Perry
      June 29, 2011 #

      @mike – your body fat percentage sounds very low for your height and body weight. With what your telling me, your LBM is 205lb at a height of 5’11”. That means your muscles etc. are 20lb heavier than your goal weight of 180lb! If you are using the body scale, or bio electric impedance analysis to measure your body fat, it may be really off. My guess (it’s presumptuous of me to guess because I’ve never seen you, or measured your body fat), but your body fat may be around 25%, or higher. Let’s say you had 35% body fat, in that case your LBM is 162.5. If you reached your goal weight of 180, you would have only 9% body fat. You can check out an article I wrote on 5 ways to measure your body fat percentage. http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/

      It’s possible your body fat is that low, but just from my experience, it may not be accurate. Definitely worth double checking it. Anyways, if you follow the guidelines I’ve written about on BuiltLean.com by strength training and creating a calorie deficit of 25-35% of your calorie burn, you should be able to maintain your muscle mass. For an 8 week program to help you get leaner, you can check out my BuiltLean Program here: http://www.builtlean.com/products/transformation/index.html. Best of luck and thanks for your question.

  15. Jennyfer
    June 29, 2011 #

    What do you think the average LBM of a 5’4″ woman is? I’m 28.

    I’m 5’4″ 172 pounds and was hydrostatically weighed coming up with 19% body fat. Is this well above what is usual for my height? They seemed rather surprised with my results and triple checked just to make sure.

    If it helps any I’m half Cherokee (but I look white other than in body frame) and have rather broad shoulders so could that have something to do with the results being different?

    1. Marc Perry
      June 29, 2011 #

      @Jennyfer – My guess is the average LBM for a woman who is 5’4” is around 100lb. I know this because I’ve had done body fat tests on a bunch of woman who are this height. And the total weight is typically around 120-145lb. If your body fat percentage measurement is correct, your LBM is around 140lb, which is a solid 40lb more than the average. That’s why the people who took your body measurement must have been really surprised.

  16. Toni
    July 1, 2011 #

    I recently had my body fat done with the skin fold test. It came out to be 17% which I was ecstatic about. When I was in my teens, it was probably around 28% or so. Anyway, I’m 39 and have had two children so I became more serious about fitness about six years ago after my last pregnancy. The one thing that I wish more than anything was that I was curvier. I have a somewhat boyish shape like Gwyenth Paltrow (as I’ve been told by people). I’m 5’6″ tall and 119 lbs. My BMI is 19.2 so I’m at a healthy weight. I’m a banana-shaped female and wished I was more hourglass. Is there anything I can do to reduce my waist by a few inches? Current measurements are 34C-26-34. Just wondering.

    1. Marc Perry
      July 1, 2011 #

      @Toni – 17 percent body fat for a woman your age is very impressive. Nice work. In term of changing the shape of your body, given you already are very lean, the only thing I can think of is building muscle on the right place. For example, if you wanted to get your glutes/hips bigger, you could target them with heavier squats, lunges, etc. Sounds like you are doing great though so kudos to you!

  17. Anya
    July 15, 2011 #

    Hi, I recently checked my % of body fat at my local gym and it came up at 28.2%. I am 23 year old woman, 5’5″, weighing in at 139lbs with a classic pear shape. My torso, bum and thighs are my heaviest and hardest spots to reduce. I want to get my body fat percentage down to between 15-18% and lose 20lbs. What is the fastest and most efficient way to achieve this healthier range?

    1. Marc Perry
      July 18, 2011 #

      @Anya – I’m very happy to hear you are ready to improve your body. 15-18% body fat is very lean and certainly sounds like an inspiring goal.

      I think the most efficient way to change your body is strength training 2-3x per week in combination with some traditional, or preferably anaerobic type of cardio (i.e. interval training), then focus on the nutrition. The nutrition is where you should focus a lot of your time and energy to get it right. Eat less calories than you burn (let’s say 1200 calories) per day, with an emphasis on protein intake to help keep you full and repair your muscles. For more information, definitely check out my free Get Lean Guide.

      In terms of specific workouts, you can do a workout like this circuit workout a few times per week: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/09/11/20-minute-full-body-circuit-training-workout/ Just use a squat, lunge, push, pull, twist for 3-4 rounds, or you can also check out my BuiltLean Program, which is more structured. I created for people like yourself who may not be in great shape and want to lose body fat without losing muscle to achieve a lean physique: http://www.builtlean.com/products/transformation/index.html.

      Hope this answer your question and look forward to hearing about your progress!

  18. Anya
    July 18, 2011 #

    Thanks Marc! I appreciate it.

  19. diana
    July 22, 2011 #

    hi my name is diana, i weight 148 pounds and my height is 5’2.i do a lot of cardio during the week but i haven’t lost any weight. however i feel more thinner. i just want to know if i should worry about my weight?

    i’m trying to bring my body fat down, so i do cardio 4 time a week for at least 30min but i also do weights for my legs and arms 2 times a week. is this why my weight does not go down?

    1. Marc Perry
      July 24, 2011 #

      @diane – sounds like you are putting a lot of your time and energy into exercising so congratulations. In terms of losing weight and body fat, nutrition is the key factor. Here are a couple articles I would highly recommend as a starting point:

      1) Keep a food journal, even for a few days: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/06/11/part-1-7-reasons-to-keep-a-food-journal/

      2) Eat less calories than you burn: http://www.builtlean.com/2011/01/18/how-many-calories-should-you-eat-to-lose-weight/

      3) Divide & Conquer: Small changes add up: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/16/divide-conquer-small-changes-add-up/

      Best of luck!

      3)

  20. Regina
    July 30, 2011 #

    Hi. I am a 28 year old female, 5′ 5”, 120 lbs. and I have enjoyed running since high school. I just started training for a half marathon that takes place in mid-October and decided to check my body fat. It is currently at 16.4%, running only 1-2 times per week on average (high intensity running), but for the past two weeks I’ve been picking it up to 4 times per week and even higher intensity and longer distances. My question is whether I should be concerned at all about my body fat becoming too low over the course of training for the half marathon.

    1. Marc Perry
      July 31, 2011 #

      @Regina – That’s a great question and I think it’s something to track. 16% is low for a woman and my guess is you aren’t too far away (10%) from what would be considered too lean for a women, which can create an unfavorable hormonal environment that is not healthy. I would track your weight each week in the morning, such as Monday Morning: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/23/track-body-weight-with-monday-morning-weigh-ins/. What I have found is that your body can get used to the training and not lose any more weight, especially because you are already at a low body fat level that may even be optimal. If you start losing any more weight, it’s time to eat more food. You can estimate how many calories you burn (http://www.builtlean.com/2011/01/18/how-many-calories-should-you-eat-to-lose-weight/) and try eating that amount of calories to help prevent any more weight/fat loss. You may also consider seeing a sports nutritionist if you have any issues with this process. Hope this is helpful and good luck with your training!

  21. Regina
    August 1, 2011 #

    Marc ~ Thank you very much for the advice and information!

  22. Paulette
    August 9, 2011 #

    Hello, I started with a personal trainer almost 2 months ago and getting results – but realizing she doesn’t understand the science behind measurements. My latest readings showed: 32.9% fat, 44.2 lbs. of fat mass, 90.2 lbs of FFM, and 66.0 lbs. of TBW. That doesn’t add up to 100 % which she couldn’t explain. However, I notice the fat mass and FFM adds up to my weight of 134.4 lbs. But she said water (TBW) was the third component in total weight.
    Generally, how do you rate my fitness scores? I am a 55-year-old woman, 5’4″ and average body type. My BMI is 22.7. What is the ideal FAT % for my age? My trainer’s machine indicates a desirable range of 23-34 %.

    1. Marc Perry
      August 9, 2011 #

      @Paulette – I think your analysis makes sense. FFM stands for “Fat Free Mass”, which means everything in your body but fat. FFM is also called Lean Body Mass, or LBM. TBW is probably the percentage of water weight. I’m not a huge fan of Biolectric impedence analysis (BIA) as a way to measure body fat, but you’re on the borderline between calipers and BIA.

      I think your trainers estimate is reasonable, but my website is called BuiltLean, so I think a good goal is 25%-30% bf, so 120-129lb with an LBM/FFM of 90lb. Keep in mind body fat percentages are algorithmic and automatically increase as you age. I should also mention the quality of the calories you eat makes a major difference for overall health, so body fatness is really just one measure of health and of course aesthetically, it matters. Hope this is helpful!

  23. Paris
    August 12, 2011 #

    Please help. I recently discovered that I am at 29% body fat, which was rather shocking. I am female, 41, 5’3″ and 125 lbs. I work out hard at least 3x a week for 90 minutes (30/30/30 cardio, stretch/core, weights) and I eat well. Not a vegetarian, but a pretty healthy sensible eater. When you look at me, clearly there is muscle definition, except in low abs where I had 3 c-sections. I am baffled by % of fat and now confused as to what to do to lower the % to a fit level, where I thougth I was. Please advise.

    1. Marc Perry
      August 12, 2011 #

      @Paris – 29% body fat for a 41 year old women is pretty good. If you look at the Jackson & Pollock body fat chart, you’ll see that 29% is a hair away for the “ideal” body fat percentage for a woman your age. If you lost only 3-5lb, you would be in the ideal category (actually only 3lb). In addition, body fat percentage measurements are not perfect and can vary based on numerous factors, so if you look defined, I wouldn’t be concerned at all. Definitely nothing to worry about. Keep up the good work with eating well and exercising!

  24. Katie
    August 12, 2011 #

    I am a 37 year old woman and am working at getting back in shape after a bad leg break almost a year ago and back surgery this spring. I am cycling an hour three times a week, strength training with a TRX for an hour twice a week and riding dressage five times a week, doing pilates at least an hour a week. I am pretty happy with my weight (body fat is about 22% weight is 148- I am 5’8′) but would like to regain strength in the leg I broke and my core. Any suggestions of what to add in with my routine? In regard to diet I am eating a great deal of lean protein (120g), vegetables and whole grains.

    1. Marc Perry
      August 14, 2011 #

      @Katie – Happy to hear you are recovering from those tough injuries and exercising so much. Great job. In terms of getting your legs and core stronger, here’s what I would recommend:

      1) Legs – I would definitely talk to your doctor/physical therapist about exercises because they know about your injuries. One think to mention is working on squats with one leg and both legs can help improve leg strength. Exercise ball squats against a wall can be great to take away pressure off your lower back. Lunges and step ups can work well also.

      2) Core – The only way I train abs is by doing back to back exercises with little to no rest. So for example, you can do bicycles (if your back can handle it) follow without any rest by planks. You can do this in the beginning of your TRX workouts and you only need to do this for 3-5 rounds, which is a total of 6-10 sets. Every week you should make the abs workout a little harder by adding more reps, or making the exercise more difficult. Two of my favorite lower back exercises are the bird dog on an exercise ball and lying leg curl with hip extension on an exercise ball (you can search google for demonstrations of these). It should only take 10 minutes in the beginning of your workout and the beauty is that your core will be working extra hard for the rest of the workout. This is a great way to really emphasize core development.

      Hope this is helpful and keep up the great work!

  25. vinay
    August 15, 2011 #

    i am 21 yr old weigh about 79kg and my ht is 171cms i look plumpy what can i do

  26. vinay
    August 15, 2011 #

    i was thin three yrs back but suddenly i gained about 20kgs

    1. Marc Perry
      August 17, 2011 #

      @Vinay – I have a few suggestions for you:

      1) Download my Get Lean Guide. It’s a great overview of how to get a lean body.

      2) Read the following articles and implement them (I already included these in some of my comments on this page):

      1) Keep a food journal, even for a few days: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/06/11/part-1-7-reasons-to-keep-a-food-journal/

      2) Eat less calories than you burn: http://www.builtlean.com/2011/01/18/how-many-calories-should-you-eat-to-lose-weight/

      3) Divide & Conquer: Small changes add up: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/16/divide-conquer-small-changes-add-up/

      At the end of the day, your body reflects two things (1) your genetics, and (2) your habits. At this point, we don’t have much control over our genetics, but we can change our habits. Changing your eating habits for example can help you lose the excess weight. Good luck!

  27. Kate
    August 19, 2011 #

    Hi im so glad i found your article. This has been botheringe for a while but a while back i had my body fat % measured by weighing underwater and doing some calculations. The result came out to 12% body fat. Now im pretty sure this is accurate because i was tested several times because the guy thought there was something wrong with the calculations for it to come put so low cor a female. I dont have an eating disorder but i am a healthy vegan and i eat a lot of legunes, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. and i dont work out strenuously or even regularly. My body is also functioning properly and i have a healthy bmi since im 5’7” and weigh 126 lbs. I gain muscle easily and i dont even have to work out for my abdominal muscles to be fairly visible. The guy who tested me told me i needed to gain fat because my percentage was far too low for a woman. Even going to he doctor and getting a physical there is nothing wrong and even getting blood work i was not deficient in anything. Is he right? Should i really try to gain more fat? The only time i gained weight and fat was when i was eating very unhealthily at odd ours in the night. I recently started to exercise again because i know its good for you and because my family has been pushinge into actually having better cardiovascular health. No changes so far in weight. I read the comment above about the girl who is training for a marathon and had 16% body fat and it really makes me wonder if im normal or just have predisposition to be very very lean. Thank you for your input. Reading everythinv has enlightened me in areas i was confused.

    1. Marc Perry
      August 19, 2011 #

      @Kate – I think you should listen to your doctor. As long as you are not experiencing any issues with menstruation, your blood work is ok, and you feel energetic, I’m hard pressed to believe you “need” to gain more fat. If you start experiencing any issues though that are related to being “under fat” or having too low a body fat percentage, than you should certainly address the problem.

  28. Lon
    August 20, 2011 #

    Hi and thanks for your site.

    18 months ago I got an Omron Body Composition Monitor with scale which measures weight, fat, visceral fat, skeletal muscle, and resting metabolism.
    I’m 5’7″ and 60 years old.

    Latest measurements : Weight 153.8 Fat: 8.6% Visceral Fat 8, Skeletal muscle 42.5%, Resting metabolism 1575 kcal.

    I weight train 3-4 days a week and aerobic 2-3 days. Eat semi-vegetarian clean food, no junk. Don’t drink. Active lifestyle. In 18 months as monitored by the Omron my body fat has gone from 11-12% to the 8-9% range (present), and I have gained 2-3 pounds. So it appears at 60 yo when I’m supposed to be losing muscle mass I’m gaining it. Does this sound right? And how accurate is the Omron which uses the bioelectrical impendance method for measurements? I measure the same time, upon rising before anything to eat or drink.

    TIA…. Lon

    1. Marc Perry
      August 21, 2011 #

      @Lon – It sounds like you have a solid workout plan and have been making nice progress so congrats. When it comes to body fat percentage measurements, my favorite is using the calipers. BIA can sometimes be unpredictable, but if it allows you to track your progress over time easily, then it’s fine. I have an article which goes into more depth about the different body fat measurement methods here: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/.

      I think it sounds reasonable that your body fat has decreased along with an increase in muscle mass over an 18 month period. That’s not unusual. The 8-9% sounds pretty low, but if you look lean, then it’s certainly possible. As you get older as I mention in the article, your subcutaneous body fat does not necessarily have to increase. At the end of the day, if you look lean and fit, and feel lean and fit, that’s what matters, the absolute numbers are less important, because they are technically only estimates based on an algorithm.

      Keep up the good work!

  29. Lon
    August 22, 2011 #

    Marc,

    Thanks for the feedback I have looked at your fat measurement page and intend to get measured with the calipers at my club. I did do that a couple years ago (at the waist only), and it came out something like 26%. Now know from your article it has to be measured in 3 places.

    I know the fat i do have is around the waist (not surprising at my age). I certainly don’t have “washboard abs” , but I know I’m quite lean everywhere else. So it will be good to get a “second opinion” with the caliper method at 3 places.

    Thanks for your help.

  30. Juliette
    August 22, 2011 #

    Hi Marc – I’m a 5’8″, 23-year-old woman who weighs 238 pounds. I mix cardio with strength training at least a few times a week. I’ve used calipers and online calculators (like the Ymca Body Fat Percentage calculator here: http://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/body-fat-percentage-calculator), which both estimate I’m between 37-38% body fat. My bioelectrical impedance scale estimates that I’m about 34% body fat.

    But using those two measurements (34% to 38% body fat)- that would mean that a healthy weight for me at 21% body fat would be between about 188 and 200 pounds. Isn’t that high? Is it that strange to find women my height with healthy body fat percentages at 200 pounds?

    1. Marc Perry
      August 23, 2011 #

      @Juliette – I understand what you’re saying. My instinct is that your body fat percentage is probably in the high 30′s (37-38%). Measuring body fat percentages above 30% is tough and not extremely reliable. So that means your LBM is probably around 145-150lb. It’s unusual for someone your size not to lose at least some muscle as you start losing a lot of fat. In addition, some of the LBM may be water weight that may come off pretty fast. So your LBM may actually decrease to 130-135lb (maybe even less) over time as you lose fat. That would be my guess. So then your “ideal” weight would be closer to 155-60lb, which is definitely reasonable for a woman (especially an athletic woman with a bigger bone structure) who is 5’8”. I can tell you with certainty the most important thing to focus on is losing the fat without losing muscle and see how things pan out. You never know until you try. Then you can come back to BuiltLean.com and give everyone an update!

  31. Mareli
    August 23, 2011 #

    Hi Marc,
    I just turned 40, my weight is 57kg – was 56 a year ago. have been going to Gym for a year now, my BMI is 20, my body fat percentage is 12% – my weight has gone up and my body fat percentage down. Fine, but how do i know what is lean and what is fat? i don’t feel my clothes sitting looser.

    i go to gym at least 4 times a week, my gym instructor work out a program for me , and evaluate me every 6 weeks, weight, measurements and change program. I do mostly strength training.

    1. Marc Perry
      August 23, 2011 #

      @Mareli – If I understand your question correctly, you figure out what’s fat and what’s muscle by using a little math. so if your total weight is 57kg and your body fat percentage is 12%, that means you have 6.8kg of fat, and around 50kg of lean body mass, which is everything in your body besides fat: blood, bones, muscle, organs, etc. FYI, about 43% of your body weight is skeletal muscle. It sounds like as long as you are tracking your measurements, you should be able to figure out differences in your body over time.

  32. Mareli
    August 23, 2011 #

    sorry, my height is 1.68cm

  33. Buh
    September 7, 2011 #

    Hi Marc, would like to get your comment on my stats below:

    Age: 31
    Height: 5’6″

    Last 073011:

    Weight: 147.75
    BF Estimation:
    Fat Index: 24.7%
    Fat Mass: 36lb 5 oz/16.5kg
    Free Fat Mass: 111lb 7 oz/50.6kg

    compared to 090711

    Weight: 146.68
    BF Estimation:
    Fat Index: 26.1%
    Fat Mass: 38lb 1oz/17.3kg
    Free Fat Mass: 108lb 9oz/49.3kg

    why did that happened? lost my weight but increased bf?

    1. Marc Perry
      September 9, 2011 #

      @Buh – I checked out the stats and had a couple questions:

      1) What body fat measurement technique are you using? Unfortunately, none of them are perfect, especially BIA. For more, check out 5 Ways To Measure Body Fat Percentage.

      2) Given that I don’t know what you were eating, or how you were working out between these two time periods, I cannot opine as to why this may have happened!

  34. Buh
    September 11, 2011 #

    Hi Marc, thanks for your reply..btw, here’s my answer to your questions.

    1. it’s a machine that measures Wt, Ht, Bp, BFE, Age and Gender and HRA. i will get the brand of the specific machine and get back to you.

    2. i’ve workout 3x a week but no cardio extensive cardio on both dates..diet is that i made sure that am within or below my daily recommended caloric intake which is 1265..i usually eat, wheat bread, pan grilled chix breast, brown rice and takin whey proteins..

    anyway, am currently including cardio routines during my rest day started last 2 days, same workout sched and same diet..will again check the stats after a week or two to monitor my progress..

    here’s my cardio exercise:
    Jogging: 5 flr- G flr Jogging, stairs of 147 steps back and forth x 2 sets
    Squat Trust: 4sx10r
    M.Climbing: 3sx10r (1-2-3-1,1-2-3-2.. count)
    Squat Jump: 3sx10r (1-2-1,1-2-2.. count)

    btw, i’ve already bookmarked your site and will visit it frequently to learn more. More Power to you and Mabuhay!!!

    1. Marc Perry
      September 12, 2011 #

      @Buh – I think the change in measurements over the time span you listed is negligible, especially because you are using a machine to measure your body fat percentage. With that said, my guess as to why you didn’t get the results you want, or hit a plateau may be because of a few reasons:

      1) Metabolism dropped – your metabolism can drop when you decrease calories. In other words, your body got used to the amount of calories you were eating. Sometimes eating relatively more calories on a workout day for example can help speed things up.

      2) Macronutrient ratio wasn’t right – Total calories is important, but breakdown of protein, carbs, and fat is also important. It’s something you should consider tracking. Keeping your carb intake lower without question aids in fat loss, but it’s more difficult to sustain. See what can work for you.

      3) Your workouts are not becoming harder over time. Are bodies are resistant to change, so making the workouts harder over time can force our bodies to improve: Exercise Progression.

      I think I may make this comment into a blog article about how to bust through a plateau! Thanks for your question.

  35. Buh
    September 15, 2011 #

    Thanks for your usual assistance Mark, i’ll take note on all your advises..you enlighten me alot and help me towards reaching my goal..i’ll keep you posted on my improvements…

  36. Buh
    September 15, 2011 #

    I will wait for the article on how to bust through a plateau, i think i really need that..

  37. angela
    September 18, 2011 #

    I really need help and can’t afford it so I hope you can help me,I’m 41 and I’ve been sedentary for about 10 years my body fat is @53% and i weigh 315lbs,I wanna do something about this what can i fo

    1. Marc Perry
      September 19, 2011 #

      @angela – I have some action items to share with you below. Keep in mind you should consult with your doctor about these suggestions:

      Mindset of Pain vs. Pleasure – In general, human beings seek to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. I think it’s important to associate pleasure with working out and eating healthy, and pain with skipping a workout, or not working out, or eating unhealthy foods.

      Start walking – Going for a 10-20 minute walk every day could do wonders! That’s something that you can commit to right now. Maybe you do it first thing in the morning before anything else to start your day. Don’t contemplate it and let your inner monologue run free, just do it! Over time, you can increase the pace, the distance, or the time.

      Purge your cupboards – Besides giving you a fresh start, getting rid of all the unhealthy foods (sugary desserts, chips, breads etc.) on your house/apartment will make it easier to stay on track. Can’t emphasize how important this is. Out of sight, out of mind (for the most part). Don’t hesitate, just throw out ALL the unhealthy stuff. Don’t worry about the cost of the items you are throwing out. I can assure you the money will be more than saved with decreased medical expenses. You will be saving yourself thousands of dollars. Sugary, processed foods belongs in the garbage!

      Track You Eating Habits – Keep a food journal for a week. Write down everything you are eating, when you eat it, what you feel like when you eat it. This will make your subconscious thoughts/habits conscious. Again, don’t contemplate this, just do it. Doesn’t have to be perfect. If you saw a top nutritionist, he/she would make you do this.

      Make Small Changes – Once you start to learn more about your eating habits from tracking them, then you can make some changes. For example, any sugary drinks, you can replace them with water. Takes a couple weeks to get used to it, but you’ll be amazed. You can apply this same concept to the rest of your eating habits.

      I understand you think you are in a tough spot, but it’s simply an opportunity to improve your body and achieve the health that you deserve. You can do it. The journey isn’t easy, but it’s worthwhile.

  38. Ian
    September 27, 2011 #

    Hi Marc

    I think the reason that body fat percentage increases as people get older is a product of muscle reduction as opposed to fat increase. It is a matter of proportionality. So, while the absolute weight of fat in a persons body may not change over time, the fact that they carry less muscle creates the effect of the obesity range receding. So you are right when you say that health derives from much more than fat levels. But the question remains as to whether muscle loss that results from ageing, a combination of basic physiological change but also through adopting a more sedentary and therefore unhealthy lifestyle, is actually healthy. So I think I would not fully support the Jackson and Pollock chart.

    1. Marc Perry
      October 2, 2011 #

      @Ian – I understand and respect your opinion. Muscle loss as we age is referred to as “sarcopenia”, but it is preventable well into our 60′s. Muscle loss is certainly a variable I should have mentioned in the article (need to update it). Of course, adopting a sedentary lifestyle is obviously NOT healthy, but if someone is losing muscle as they age, it’s not necessarily from a more sedentary lifestyle, it can simply be biological as you point out. The Jackson Pollock chart as I state in the article is not perfect because it’s based on an algorithm, but it’s the best chart I’ve come across. If you find a better chart, let me know!

  39. Linda
    September 30, 2011 #

    It appears the colors on the chart would continue in the same directions if the chart continued, but it end at age 56. People older than 56 still care about their health so I wish the chart would continue. I am a 62 year old female with a large bone structure by all standards found on the internet. I swim 40-50 lengths of a pool (not olympic but normal) 3-4 times a week and try to walk once or twice a week. I would like to know what number is appropriate for me. I don’t think the standard would really be the same for women 56 on up to 90!

    1. Marc Perry
      September 30, 2011 #

      @Linda – You are certainly right that the chart does not go past 56 years old. It appears that the slope of the line that defines acceptable body fat ranges is linear, so you can continue it. You can see that the difference in 5 year increments is roughly 0.6% body fat, so you can continue the graph downwards and just add 0.6% body fat for every 5+ years above 56. Is this perfect? No, but neither is taking body fat percentage, or defining an ideal range, but it’s a helpful guideline. Hope this helps!

  40. France
    October 13, 2011 #

    Hi,
    I’m 39 years old :
    Height: 5.4 feet
    Weight : 177lbs
    Fat %: 24%
    Lean muscle mass : 137 lbs..
    My question is … I have been going to the gym for the last 2 months and have lost 20 pounds, 6% fat and increasse lean muscle mass by 2.5 pounds.. by only doing cardio no weight training … I have been doing 60 min. of cardio a day but still manage to increase my muscle mass. I have always dreamed of weighing 140 pounds but it seems not realistic considering my lean body mass is 139.5 … How can I loose lean muscle mass ???? in order to be able to reduce my weight to 140 ????

    1. Marc Perry
      October 13, 2011 #

      @France – Quick question, how are you measuring your body fat? Have you measured it with multiple methods (i.e. body fat calipers at the gym with a smart trainer, body fat scale BIA?

  41. France
    October 13, 2011 #

    Hi Marc,
    Thank you for responding so quickly. Indeed, the fat percentage was measured with fat calipers at the gym with a professional trainer.

    1. Marc Perry
      October 16, 2011 #

      @France – I think body fat calipers are more reliable than BIA, so sounds like you are doing the right thing. With that said, I would get another trainer to calculate your body fat as well, just in case. Calculating body fat percentages over time is not easy and unless the trainer is very experienced, the calculations can easily be a bit off. Your LBM sounds very high for your height relative to the average, but maybe that’s just how it is.

      I would recommend continuing to lose fat without losing muscle and see how it goes. In other words, see how you look at 20% body fat. You may be very happy. Trying to lose muscle on purpose in my opinion is not a great idea. As you get older, you will start to naturally lose some muscle (sarcopenia), so every pound of muscle you have naturally is a great thing! Also, having more muscle helps keep your metabolism humming. I’m sorry to say but I’m not comfortable advising how to purely lose muscle for aesthetics because this website is also about being fit and healthy as well!

  42. frank
    October 17, 2011 #

    hight 6”
    weight 183
    male
    age 24
    hello i have a question.. iv been eating realy well for the last 4 months now. iv been eating the right amount of calories protien fat and carbs every day i balance my meals eat cottage cheese whole weat and never eat take out.
    i work out about 3 times a week with weights and i go for about a 30 min run once or twice a week. iv noticed i lost alot of weight i have alittle fat on my belly and alittle on the chest area but i see it improving so im not concerned that it wont go away. iv been using 15 pound weights i do arms chest shoulders and sit ups 20 reps 5 set kind of work out i see im loosing weight but not gaining tooo much muscle. i wanted to know if i should be using maybe 25 lb weights now and also if i work out twice a day 3 times a week is that bad? please get back to me!( i take protien with creatien in it after work outs)

    1. Marc Perry
      October 17, 2011 #

      @Frank – Congrats on the results you are achieving. That’s great to hear. Here are my comments:

      1) Strength Training Frequency – I think working out 3x with weights is great. For me, lifting 3x per week is the sweet spot. I also think lifting full body 2x per week is another option, but if you enjoy lifting and have the right routine, 3x per week can be fantastic.

      2) # of Repetitions – In general, 1-6 reps is considered strength, 8-12 is considered hypertrophy (muscle breakdown/building), and 12+ is considered endurance. In a perfect world, you would lift in each of the three rep ranges, just being careful with the strength rep ranges. I personally don’t go below 6 reps because the stress on my joints is too great. For example, you could have one workout where you are lower rep, around 6-8 reps, then another where you are 8-12, then another where you are 15-20. You could even split it up by month, like in a “periodized” program.

      In general, I do think you should try to lift heavier weights and progress your workouts over time. For more reading, check out this article:
      Progression 101

  43. buh
    October 18, 2011 #

    hi marc, hope you can publish an article on how to bust plateau anytime soon..thanks..

  44. Gerri
    October 21, 2011 #

    Hi Marc,
    I am a 42 years old woman. I workout 5-6 days a week. Lifting weights mostly and some cardio. My body fat varies from 19% to 18.6% and I weigh around 123.4 to 124 lbs and I am 5″5. The thing is that I would like to reduce my body fat to 17% and it just seems to be taking forever. I watch what I eat, in that I keep track by writing everything and avoid carbs. I also track how many calories I burn when I workout by using a heart monitor. I often visit your site here to get workout tips so as not to hit a plateau and I think I am doing everything correctly, however my body fat is not going down as quick and I do see the importance of losing fat and not muscle and that’s why I make sure to focus on lifting weights. Do you have any addtional advise to help me decrease my body fat. Btw I use a scale to measure my body fat and I measure it daily.
    Thanks

    1. Marc Perry
      October 24, 2011 #

      @Gerri – Sounds like you are taking your health very seriously, which is great to see.

      If I were you, I would think critically about your body fat goal. At the end of the day, it’s just a number. Do you look and feel great where you are right now? I mean 18.6% is awfully close to 17%. The other thing to consider is the body fat algorithm. As you age, whether or not you are gaining more body fat, your body fat percentage will go up using any measurement device! It’s because it’s built into the algorithm. Another way of saying this is if you were 26 years old and took the same exact skin fold measurements you have now, the reading would probably be like 15-16%.

      Ok, so with that said, it sounds like you are hitting a bit of a plateau, but you are still going in the right direction. That’s great. Once you are already lean, it becomes increasingly difficult to lose body fat. I would recommend re-reading (or reading if you haven’t read it yet) My How To Get Ripped article. Keep in mind even if you are losing 0.25lb per week, you are still only around 4-6 weeks from your goal!

      Thanks for participating on BuiltLean and reading the articles! Good luck on your fitness journey.

  45. Maria
    October 23, 2011 #

    Hi, I just stumbled across this site and I like what I am reading, definitely very informative…I am a mom of 5 who used to be 200lbs and am now down to 125lbs over a period of 5 years, my body fat is 13%, and I’m 5’6 and 31 years old. While I am happy with my weight now, I still have a flabby belly…my question is if its possible to lose that without surgery after 5 kids? (I eat very healthily…very little processed foods and workout at least 3x a week plus I do a 20min ab workout on alternating days)

    1. Marc Perry
      October 24, 2011 #

      @Maria – Wow is all I can say! Congrats on your transformation. Very, very impressive.

      13% body fat is VERY low for a woman. That’s less than most fitness models. I’m surprised to hear you still have a “flabby” belly at such a low level of body fat. Maybe it’s excess skin after the pregnancies + being at 200lb? I’m not really an expert in this area I must admit. I do encourage you to speak with your doctor about it and see what he/she has to say, or check out some other blogs/website that you can trust for good, honest information.

      Again, congrats on losing all that weight and I’m sorry I can’t provide more insight.

  46. Ted
    October 27, 2011 #

    Hey Marc,

    Do you happen to know what measurement technique (i.e., DEXA, UWW, skinfold, BIA) was used to develop the Jackson-Pollock charts? I ask because there can be a fairly significant variation between these different methods. My DEXA results usually indicate about a 5-6% greater body fat value when compared to the results from skinfold calipers used by a skilled operator. (Which, by the way, ticked me right off the first time! Thought I was one number, and found out it was 6 percentage points higher!!)

    Thanks,
    Ted

    1. Marc Perry
      October 31, 2011 #

      @Ted – Sorry for the late reply ted. I came across an article a while back on Jackson Pollock and how they created their methodology, but I searched around and couldn’t find it again. I do know that they contributed a quadratic equation vs. the linear model and they have different number of sites (3, 7, and 9). In addition, I’m pretty sure the results were compared to hydrostatic weighing in order to create the skin fold algorithm. Jackson and Pollock did their calculations in the 70′s, whereas DEXA wasn’t invented until ’94.

      Body fat percentage is never perfect. I personally prefer skin fold calipers because that’s aesthetically what matters. Think about what you are looking for aesthetically and how you want to feel. Whatever the body fat percentage is, it is.

      The only way to know a human’s body fat percentage with certainty is cadaver dissection!

  47. Mika
    November 7, 2011 #

    Hi marc.I’m:
    -24 years old
    -168 cm @ 5ft.5
    -62.4kg @ 137.5 lbs
    total body fat measured was 16.6%, visceral fat is 5% and subcutaneous fat is 10.1%
    (measured using some kind of machine which I have to hold on to 2 bars and the results shown on the indicator after 1 minute)

    My question is how can I reduce my total body fat to about 10% or to a percentage which can reveal my abs or show my toned body while maintaining my muscle mass?Is it possible to maintain my muscle mass without losing my current weight?I’m just aftraid that I might look quite thin if there is loss in my current weight but I know that to get ripped, you have to lose some amount of body fat or reduce your calories intake in order to get that result?I’m quite happy with my current shape right now, just that I need a guide on how to look tone and maintain my size at the same time. Am I suppose to go for circuit training, full body workout or split body workout?Thank you Marc.

    1. Marc Perry
      November 7, 2011 #

      @Mika – I completely understand your question and I’ve helped A LOT of people in your same situation go from lean to very lean.

      I have some reading for you to do:

      How to Get Ripped

      Full Body Workout vs. Split Routine: Which is Better?

      These articles should answer your questions.

  48. Ted
    November 7, 2011 #

    Thanks for the quick reply, Marc. So here’s part two of my question: Depending on which charts you look at, the “overweight” category typically starts at around 20-25% BF. As I mentioned, I just had a DEXA and came in at 20%. 21% is considered overweight (according to the chart that was included with the analysis). At 20%, I’m pretty trim. No doubt there is fat there to lose, but I just can’t imagine an objective fitness/medical professional calling me “overweight”. So, just where did these numbers come from? Do you happen to have any references that show that BF% > 21% is unhealthy? Do you generally agree with such values? If not, when do you think a person “crosses over” to a body comp that has negative health impacts? I mean, clearly one has to have some fat or you’ll die. When does it turn from a positive to a negative, health-wise? Do you happen to know of research that supports any of this? I should add that the charts in the analysis I got are made specifically for DEXA and not for calipers, although that just makes things even more confusing, as the DEXA usually registers about 6% HIGHER than calipers, which would imply that “overweight” would begin 6 percentage points LOWER (or at 14%!!) when using calipers. I’m concerned that people (me!) may be going for levels of BF that are lower than necessary if good health is the primary concern (rather than definition, cut, or contest prep.). Thanks again for your time and information!
    ted

    1. Marc Perry
      November 7, 2011 #

      @Ted – I understand your anxiety and appreciate your attention to detail. I still think the jackson-pollock charts are pretty solid, so I would follow those for your age group. As I said before, the only way to know you body fat percentage perfectly is to be a cadaver. Some people say the “pinch and inch” test is a decent measure of body fatness and health. If you can pinch more than an inch of fat on your body, may be worth losing a bit more. In terms of health and fatness, there is a correlation between body fatness and poor health in that people who have more body fat tend to eat poorly and not exercise and thus have worse health. With that said, there are literally sumo wrestlers who are in perfect health just because they exercise so much. Furthermore, genetics has an impact. I don’t want to confuse you anymore and dig into a hole that doesn’t end. If you exercise (strength, cardio, flexibility) and you eat nutrient dense, unprocessed foods in a balanced way, and you look like you are lean, I wouldn’t care at all what any machine said about body fatness. One more thing, I just did a BIA test that said I was at 16% body fat, then body fat calipers are around 6-7%. I personally only care about body fat calipers and NOTHING else (especially true as you get leaner)! Do you have a lot of energy? Do you like how you look? That’s what matters!

  49. Dani
    November 8, 2011 #

    So…here’s my stats:

    age: 22
    height: 5’6″
    frame size: small-medium

    May 09, 2011

    weight: 90
    body fat %: 3%

    Aug 03, 2011

    weight: 112
    body fat%: 17%

    Nov 08, 2011

    weight: 105
    body fat%: 9%

    I’ve been trying to gain weight the past six months, lost some, and now I’m trying to gain some again. My ideal weight is 120 pounds. How can I reach this weight, upping my body fat percentage a bit and gaining muscle as well??

    1. Marc Perry
      November 10, 2011 #

      @Dani – I think the answer is simple, but difficult to implement: (1) eat more food and (2) lift heavier weights over time. Focus on basic compound exercises (squats, lunges, push, pull, and twists. How much weight you gain is something you can track every week by weighing yourself and every month with body fat tests. In terms of eating, you may need to eat 5x per day. In terms of calorie level, you basically need to do the opposite of what this article suggests: http://www.builtlean.com/2011/01/18/how-many-calories-should-you-eat-to-lose-weight/. I do plan on writing a lengthy article on how to build muscle, so stay tuned!

  50. November 27, 2011 #

    hi my weight is now 152 , have lost 24lbs and body at is 29 percent …

  51. jack
    November 29, 2011 #

    Hi Marc! I do cardio 3 times a week and hit the gym around 3-4 times a week. And I also check the amount of calories that I take every time I eat something. Here are my stats:

    MALE
    Age: 21
    Weight: 142lbs.
    Height: 5’6″
    BF: 16%

    Am I on the right track? I have a low weight, but my body fat seems to high. It looks alarming in my perspective. I don’t know… Hope to hear a reply from you. Thanks! :)

    1. Marc Perry
      December 1, 2011 #

      @jack – Congrats on all the exercise you are doing. That’s fantastic.

      In regards to your comment that your body fat is “alarming”, I don’t agree. If your body fat was around 30%+, then it would be alarming. 16% is considered lean, so you are doing just fine. If you want to get even leaner, you can continue to improve your eating habits and learn more about not only the total calories you are eating, but also the quality of calories and the breakdown of calories. For more info, you can check out my post: 7 Reasons to Keep a Food Journal.

  52. jack
    December 3, 2011 #

    Hey Marc! Thanks for replying. I do have my own food journal. I’ve been using it for months now. Just to give you a brief background, my previous weight was around 155lbs and I’ve lost a lot after having the food journal around. It’s actually very, very helpful.

    The problem is people notice that my body has gone thinner (which I think is OK) and most of them think that I’ve lost the muscles that I had gained (which I think is NOT OK).

    Reason: Several weeks ago, I had to stop using the gym since office work was really loaded, so I resorted to do some jogging in the morning for weeks/months and “hardcore” pushups as an alternative for weightlifting. I read an article that doing too much cardio can burn your muscles instead of fats. And I guess the article was right.

    Question: Since I’m back from the gym, can protein shakes help me recover the muscles that I’ve lost faster? I mean, is it really necessary for a person like me who has lost the muscles that I had? I know protein shakes are very convenient for a busy person like me, though. Hope to hear a feedback from you. Thanks a lot!

    1. Marc Perry
      December 4, 2011 #

      @jack – in terms of gaining the muscle back, just eating a bit more food with an emphasis on protein while slowly lifting more weight focusing on basic exercises (squat, lunge, bench, etc.) should help your body get back to it’s previous homeostasis when it had more muscle. Protein shakes after a workout can be helpful to aid inrecovery and keep you anabolic (in muscle building mode), but real food is debatably just as good, if not better, so protein is not 100% necessary. One way I keep track of my muscle aside from my weight is my strength levels. Do keep track of your strength levels, which I actually think is more important than the amount of muscle you have.

  53. Tammy
    December 3, 2011 #

    Hi Mark,
    I recently purchased the Accu-Measure Caliper. Was wondering if you can clarify exactly how to read this chart. When I measured myself using the calipers, I measured 20 mm and at the age of 52 would place me in the “Lean” category according to your chart. Your chart is exactly the same as the one they sent me. However,the chart that was enclosed with the calipers has a mm chart accross the top of it, You are to find your measurement across the top and then at the intersection where you find your age. So according to the chart enclosed my body fat percentage is 32.1 and am “Average”. My goal is to get at an atheletic level, approximately 15% body fat.
    Thank you!
    Tammy

    1. Marc Perry
      December 6, 2011 #

      @Tammy – the latter method you described is correct. You need to find your age, then go across to find the number of millimeters. That’s an approximation for your body fat, which as you say is at 31%. Given your age, I would be surprised if you were at 15%, because that’s very, very low (basically have veins along your arms, very little fat on your stomach (can’t pinch more than like 1/4 of an inch). Hope that clarifies it for you.

  54. Aaron
    December 11, 2011 #

    Hi Mark,
    I have been on such a weight loss struggle for the past 2 years. My stats are:
    HT: 5’11
    WT:178
    Waist: 32in
    age: 21

    previously in 09/10 i was
    ht: 5’11
    wt: 150
    waist: 28
    age: 19

    in between those periods i reached 213lbs and have lost 35lbs. I work out 5 days a week alternating between cardio and upper body strength. I intensify each workout as i feel neccesary but ive been putting on weight but staying the same size. i dont kno where its going and i understand muscle gain but how would i go about obtaining a more curvacious and feminine physique then muscle gain?

    1. Marc Perry
      December 13, 2011 #

      @Aaron – Sorry to hear you are experiencing these issues. You mentioned at length your exercise routine, but what is more important is your nutrition. I would pay particular attention to your nutrition if I were you. Check out this article I wrote on How to Keep a Food Journal and How Many Calories Should You Eat To Lose Weight.

      What I normally suggest is to focus on losing fat without losing muscle to reveal your physique. From a body composition/aesthetic perspective, that’s the goal.

  55. Ka Ren
    December 14, 2011 #

    Marc,

    I am a female who is 53 yr old, I am 5′ 6 1/2″ tall and I weight 167.8 lbs, I’ve lost 130lbs over a 6 yr stretch of time (maintaining, gaining and losing again). I have not gained more than 20 lbs back at any given time. I am in the final stretch and I can almost see the goal weight that I have set for myself. I have a bathroom scale that tells me my weight, BF%, BMI, hydration level and bone mass. I am about 8 lbs away from that goal but my body fat % is still obese or above average according the charts in this article @ 40.1%. This mornng my BMI is 26.6, bone mass 5 lbs and water 43.7%. I do believe that when I hit my goal weight of 160 that my BMI will be with in the correct range (the high end though) for my age and height but I am concerned about my BF%. I have some saging skin in my thigh, abdomin and breast areas, my arms look pretty good and I can see some definition in the sides of my abdomin. How does saging skin fit into the equation of BF%?

    I workout 6 days a week doing either strength (total body; working different areas on different days), flexibility, or cardio workouts. I am currently doing Weight Watchers as my weight management program of choice and I do use Whey protein on the days that I workout. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables and drink lots of water. Should my goal weight be lower?

    I thank you in advance for any advice you can give me.

    1. Marc Perry
      December 17, 2011 #

      @Ka Ren – The goal weight you choose is ultimately and one in which you should consult with your doctor. My opinion is that a weight range of 135-140lb would likely be a better range for your height and one that would generally be considered a healthier body weight range. Given you are measuring your body fat with BIA (See: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/), I don’t know the answer to the excess skin question. The change is likely minimal, but also not sure about the implications of using body fat calipers either. Again, my best guess is the excess skin would not change the result very much because a skilled professional will pinch the fat and measure it, excess skin shouldn’t have much of an impact. Hope this helps and good luck on your weight loss journey.

  56. Keri
    December 16, 2011 #

    Hi Marc,
    What a great website! Today I met with a personal trainer at a new gym trying to sell me training sessions. I had been working out 4x a week until I went back to grad school and after 4 months without working out I am feeling very out of shape. My body stats worried me until I came across your site and now I am confused. I would appreciate some advice from someone not trying to sell me something. To measure my body fat percentage he used a machine that I hold handles, here are my stats: I am 34years old, 5’10, have about 19% body fat, which he said translates into about 24lbs of fat on my body. I am pretty lean, with the exception of my love handles, and a bit of weight or lack of tone on my legs/ butt. Since my 4 month hiatus I think I have lost about 10lbs of muscle. I was led to believe that both fat figures listed above were high and that 12 months of personal training would fix that, dropping the overall body fat from 24 lbs to about 10. My question are: am I in need of these costly sessions, or can I achieve my goals independently? And also, are my stats indicative of high body fat percentages, or a bad muscle to fat ratio? Also I am roughly 135lbs, at my peak previously I was 145, pretty muscular, with still some problem areas such as my love handles. Although at that peak I plateaued very quickly. Phew! Long message, thank you for your time, and again for providing such an awesome resource!!

    1. Marc Perry
      December 17, 2011 #

      @Keri – Whether or not you can achieve your goals independently is a question you must answer yourself, but I hope the answer is a resounding “Yes I can”. The BIA body fat measurement tool you used is not extremely accurate, so it’s possible you may be leaner than what the machine suggested (See: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/). With all that said, consistent exercise and proper eating should help you get the more muscular body you had back. If you’ve been there before, I don’t see any reason why you can’t achieve the fitness level again. Furthermore, from your descriptions of your leanness and your height and weight, it doesn’t sound like you have a big fat problem.

      While you came to my site because I wasn’t selling anything strongly, if you do choose to go on your own and workout, you should consider my BuiltLean Program (or find another program) or create your own Fitnesss Plan. It’s important to have a plan any way you slice it to help you stay on track and realize your goals. Good luck!

  57. Allan Holtz
    December 17, 2011 #

    Dear Ka Ren,

    I have a Tanita balance that via bioimpedance reports % body fat, % water and % lean mass. It has an input option of either athlete or adult. I don’t know whether your balance has this option or not. If it does, are you currently using the athlete option? The athlete option will show a much lower % body fat than will the non-athlete option. Given that you say are working out regularly and have been doing so now for some time, the athlete option might be a better fit for you.

    I am male, age 61, height 5’8” and weigh 162 pounds. I have run 2500-4000 miles a year for each of the past 10 years and my weight has varied between 152 and 165 pounds during that time. I began running almost 19 years ago at 176 pounds. I use the athlete option on my Tanita. This balance typically says I am 10-14% body fat. This number varies depending on my hydration status. I have a couple small handheld bioimpedance body fat tools without an athlete option and they usually say my body fat is between 24 and 27%. That is a big difference. I also use a handheld skinfold accumeasure plastic caliper and using a single point side measurement it suggests my body fat is 15%. This skinfold measurement shows much less day to day variation, as it is less sensitive to salt and hydration status.

  58. Scott
    December 22, 2011 #

    Here are my stats. I am a 35 year old male. I am 5ft 10in with a medium to medium large frame. I weigh 185lbs without clothing and have a body fat percentage of 11.5%. I workout 6 days a week. I do cardio and Core training with weights for no more than an hour total each workout. Am I on the right track as far as being healthy and fit; given the information above?

    1. Marc Perry
      December 22, 2011 #

      @Scott – Sounds like it to me. If you are eating unprocessed, nutrient dense foods in the form of mostly meat, eggs, veggies, fruits, and nuts/seeds, then you are really doing well! Also may consider creating goals for yourself such as doing a certain number of pullups, or push ups etc. to keep track of your fitness level.

  59. Tasneem Rais
    December 23, 2011 #

    Hi,
    A very, very helpful mail.thnx! Wish u a Merry christmas n a prosperous New Year!

  60. Jack Spratt
    December 25, 2011 #

    Hi Marc,

    good article.

    I’m a 41 year old man, 187 cm high and weigh 68kg. My body scales report a fat percentage in the 7 to 8 percent range. How accurate do you think this measure would be seeing as it’s pretty low according to your charts?

    1. Marc Perry
      December 28, 2011 #

      @Jack Spratt – 7 to 8% does sound low, but you don’t have much body weight for your height, so it doesn’t sound impossible. If you have striations in your shoulders, clear vascularity in your arms, can’t pinch much more than 1/2 inch of fat on any part your entire body excluding the buttocks, then you probably have a low body fat percentage possibly in the single digits. I have a photo of what it looks like approximately to have single digit body fat percentage here: http://www.builtlean.com/2011/05/11/how-to-get-ripped-and-cut/ . If you got your body fat percentage taken with a 3 site (or higher) skin fold caliper reading as pretty accurate.

  61. Rachel
    December 30, 2011 #

    Marc, my body fat percentage is 22.7% and although the chart shows it as “ideal,” it’s not ideal to me. I have a lot of flab that I want to get rid of in the stomach. Do you have a recommendation of what body fat percentage would be good and not too low? Being that my % shows “ideal” and I want no flab, the % will probably be charted under “lean.”

    1. Marc Perry
      January 4, 2012 #

      @Rachel – Top female fitness models have around 15-17% body fat. That’s a low level that’s likely acceptable for most women. Once you start getting down into the low teens, that’s when you can start having menstrual problems etc. It’s also very, very difficult to get that low unless you are genetically predisposed, or you have a very strict diet and exercise regimen. Hope that helps!

  62. Cjcherri
    January 5, 2012 #

    35 year old female, 5’6″ at 124lbs. Visceral fat reading at 3 but body fat reading at 30.3 percent ( base on ormon scale).

    How reliable is this scale? Besides weight reading

    1. Marc Perry
      January 7, 2012 #

      @Cjcherri – The scale you are using is a “BIA” scale. I prefer measuring fat directly by pinching it (body fat calipers). The body fat percentage sounds high given you are 5’6” and weight only 124lb. A 30% body fat would imply that you have only 87lb of LBM. Most women I come across who are around your height and weight have an LBM around 95 to 100lb. So at 95lb LBM, that would put your body fat percentage at 23%. For more info on methods of body fat percentage, check out this article: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/.

  63. Sam
    January 6, 2012 #

    Marc,

    I’m 5’7 180lbs, but I’m far from fat or obese. I workout regulary and eat healthy and drink lots of water. However, even though I don’t lift heavy weights I tend to get a more swole appearance than cut or lean look. As I stated I workout 5-6 days a week doing various exercises from dumbells, to push ups, pull ups, yoga, kenpo, cardio, etc. What can I do to get more cut?

    1. Marc Perry
      January 7, 2012 #

      @Sam – That’s great to hear you are exercising regularly and intensely. Kudos to you. When it comes to losing body fat, it’s more a matter of creating a calorie deficit than anything else. So even if you are working out and eating “healthy”, that doesn’t mean you are creating a calorie deficit. For more, check out this article: How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight?

  64. Ash
    January 12, 2012 #

    Marc,

    I had a 7 sight caliper test early October and then 12 week retest just last week. While I have always been relatively lean and could definitely be considered in the “athlete” range I’m questioning the calibration of the calipers!! The first caliper test recorded 16.5% (97.5mm) and the second just last week was 12.5% (84.6mm)!! I am definitely leaner and more defined but to visualise I would have picked 20% and 16% as a more accurate change. 12.5% just seems a bit excessive considering my training compared to the best female figure athletes. Im not bad, but im not THAT good either!! Am I crazy to question the results? Do you have any good links to images I could compare and get a better visual understanding?

    1. Marc Perry
      January 12, 2012 #

      @Ash – Given the stats you provided, your LBM is 120lb (54kg), which is pretty high, but reasonable given someone your height. 12.5% is very low, my guess is you should have pretty decent vascularity in your arms and striations in your muscles at that level. To check out women who are a similar weight and height as you (some of them will list their body fat percentage), check out this link, which is to Bodyspace (a community of figure/bodybuilder enthusiasts): http://bodyspace.bodybuilding.com/search.php. Hope that helps!

  65. Ash
    January 12, 2012 #

    if it helps im 23, F, 175cm and sit around 62-63kg. The caliper test suggested I’m sitting on 54.95kg LM and 7.85kg FM. I do 30 mins HITT cardio and weights circuits (a lot of HITT BW and combo type exercises) 3-4 times a week plus pilates/yoga when I my work schedule allows it..

  66. January 13, 2012 #

    Hey Marc,
    Thanks for your great advice. I’m 27 and have come a long way from 6 months ago. I started at 230 lb. / 29% bfat and am now down to 195 lb. / 19% bfat … the problem is I’m still chubby and I am getting a little discouraged and lazy again. I want to keep going and get down to at least 12% body fat. (eventually lower 6-8% but 12% seems more like a reasonable short term goal considering my stats now). Are you saying its not possible to have a 6 pack at 10% body fat, since you stated 8% usually has a 6 pack?
    Thanks bro!

    1. Marc Perry
      January 14, 2012 #

      @Curt – Congrats on making those impressive changes in your body. That’s fantastic. It’s impossible for me to say you will have a six pack at 10% body fat because some guys hold fat on their abs more than other parts of their bodies. My best guess is that you should have the outline of a six pack, and probably a 2-4 pack (still not bad!). Because you have lost so much weight, you should recalculate your target calorie intake. My guess is a 1800-2000 calorie diet could do the trick (depends on how active you are, assuming 3x workouts per week). Here’s an article worth checking out: http://www.builtlean.com/2011/01/18/how-many-calories-should-you-eat-to-lose-weight/. Don’t get discouraged. You’re in a great spot, at the very least maintain what you have worked very hard to accomplish!

  67. Dee
    January 13, 2012 #

    Hi Marc,

    I’m 41, 5’3″, weigh 123 pounds and wears size zero jeans. I just had my body fat percentage measured at the gym before my workout regimen. I’ve heard that dehydration plays a factor in measuring the body fat percentage so I made sure I didn’t wait until after my workout. The gym uses a handheld device that sends a low voltage of electricity and it measures the percentage by how fast the electricity travels from one hand to the other. My measurement came out as 24.9 percent. Most people there couldn’t believe the result. They said by looking at me that they figured it would be a lot lower than that; some of them had even guessed it at 14 to 16 percent. I have a very physical job, do strength training and cardio everyday. I guess looks could be very deceiving!

    1. Marc Perry
      January 14, 2012 #

      @Dee – The BIA method you used is notoriously inaccurate for measuring body fat for people who are lean. For example, when I get really lean, my body fat is around 6% and I have veins literally coming across my stomach. Using BIA like what you used, it says my body fat is like 15-16%! If i have 15%, the average person probably has 40%! The point is that I would strongly prefer a skin fold method from a skilled professional which directly measures you fat.

      For more on ways to measure body fat, check out this article: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/.

  68. Cjcherri
    January 14, 2012 #

    I wanted to know the accuracy of body fat monitor on ormon body composition scale. The body fat given by trainer ( with caliper) is just under 20% which is not too different from ormon machine. So now I know it is anywhere close to be accurate. As today it read 32.5% for my body fat with 3 visceral fat…. Doesn’t add up

    1. Marc Perry
      January 16, 2012 #

      @cjcherri – Check out my comment to @Dee. I think calipers are much more reliable/accurate (as proven by research) compared to BIA, especially for people who are leaner. In my mind, BIA is helpful for when you are not able to grip the body fat because it’s too large, like people who have over 30% body fat. Generally speaking, the BIA overestimates body fat. For more info, check out this article: http://www.builtlean.com/2010/07/13/5-ways-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/.

  69. cjcherri
    January 14, 2012 #

    Another question to you Marc:
    I recently went to see my doctor for physical and he thinks that I should add a few more pounds to my existing weight while I am contented with my weight now. He is concerned that I am a bit underweight for my age and height (35, 5’6″) Although I did try taking my doctor’s advice and up bump my food intakes, for some reason, I am not gaining weight nor am I losing weight. Good example was no work out (cardio or weight training) for 3 weeks over the holidays and eat a lot more than my body need to consume (which I was told is 1800 cl.), maybe twice with lot of sweets (holidays) and carbs (holidays again).

    As a trainer, what would you suggest? I think My body is happy where it is so that I am not losing weight or gaining weight.

    1. Marc Perry
      January 16, 2012 #

      @cjcherri – Consider yourself lucky! I’m sure most women wouldn’t mind having your metabolism. By the way, what is your weight?

  70. QWoods
    January 15, 2012 #

    Hi, I’m a college student and when I have time, I go to the gym and when I can’t, I do a lot of home exercises and dance. As a woman what kind of abdominal exercises can I do to get rid of this small and developing “pouch”? I eat pretty healthy I believe. I don’t eat beef or pork and I eat a lot of fruits and vegatables. However my weakness is bread. I am 5’10 and 146-150lbs and my body fat is 24.6% . I don’t think this is good and I think 22% would be ideal for me.

    What do you suggest? Thanks in advance!

    1. Marc Perry
      January 16, 2012 #

      @QWoods – Getting rid of the “pouch” has very little to do with abs exercises and a lot more to do with creating a calorie deficit while strength training. This article is a must read: How many calories do I need to eat to lose weight?. 20-22% body fat sounds like a solid level for a woman your age.

  71. Cjcherri
    January 16, 2012 #

    Marc:

    As of today ( I only weight myself once a week in Mondays), I weight 122lbs.

    1. Marc Perry
      January 16, 2012 #

      @Cjcherri – I’m really surprised to hear your doc thinks you should add a few pounds. Maybe his perception of body fatness is skewed given the average american is overweight. I would get a second opinion if I were you and especially if your doc is not lean himself.

  72. Katie
    January 17, 2012 #

    Hey Mark,
    I just did the BOD POD today and found out my fat %. I’m 34 and 6’1″ (tall) and weigh 162lbs. My fat % came out to be 18.9%. it put me in the “lean” category and i feel pretty lean everywher but my stomach. I have had 2 kids the youngest being 22 months but i just can’t stand the blubbery tummy. I saw on on of your posts that doing crunches doesn’t really help that and eating better does. I eat pretty well but never see changes in that area. I really want to be able to wear a bikini and feel confident when i sit down…lol any ideas as to what i should to do make a more lean tummy area?

    1. Marc Perry
      January 17, 2012 #

      @Katie – 18.9% is definitely better than average so good for you. As I’ve said many times on this website, losing fat is primarily a nutritional challenge, but exercise is still a very important ingredient. With that said, I would read these two articles if I were you:

      How Many Calories Should You Eat To Lose Weight?
      7 Reasons to Keep a Food Journal

      Good luck!

  73. Rachel
    January 20, 2012 #

    Hi, I was just wondering how fast you can actually lower your bf%. I’m approx 26-27% and weigh 133lb. I would like to get that down to around 20%. I’m not sure but I think I need to lose about 18-20lb? How do you work that out?? I lift weights 3x a week and do intervals + steady state cardio every other day for a total of an hr a time.Plus I am sticking to calories around the 1200 mark (I track everything)

    I lost 25 pound from June last year to Xmas and I really want to lower my bf% before I go on holiday in 16 weeks time. I cut out all processed food recently (this last 2 weeks) and the scales haven’t budged. I know I can’t have built muscle on such a low calorie deficit and short space of time. Either way I will stick to it, I’m feeling ok not hungry or anything so I will just plodding along till I see results.

    1. Marc Perry
      January 22, 2012 #

      @Rachel – There is a specific formula for arriving at your “ideal body weight” which is based on your desired body fat percentage. The article is right here: Ideal Body Weight Formula.

      If you have 26% body fat at 133lb, you have 35lb of fat and 98lb of LBM. To get down to 20% body fat keeping the same LBM (assumes no muscle loss), you need to lose 10lb of fat, so your new body weight will be 123lb. The formula is current LBM/(1-desired body fat percentage), so it’s 98/(1-.20) = 122.5. Done!

  74. Dave H
    January 20, 2012 #

    Hi Marc,

    I’m 5’11 and 170 lbs. I’m getting married this summer and have been on a major fitness drive since January 2011. In that time I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made. I’ve lost just over 45lbs and my bodyfat has dropped from 32% to 16%. The problem is I’m not sure how accurate my bodyfat measurements are going on what has been written above. I’ve been using the BIA method because that’s what’s available at my gym. Given my stats, does 16% sound accurate to you.

    Also, I’m hoping to try and get to under 10% by June. If I am 16%, do you think this is achievable.

    Thanks for all the great advice!

    1. Marc Perry
      January 22, 2012 #

      @Dave H – Congrats on your impressive transformation. That’s fantastic! I do think 16% sounds reasonable as a body fat percentage for someone at your height. That implied a 142lb LBM which is slightly below normal (145lb seems to be the average from what I’ve come across for someone your height).

      Getting down to 10% body fat by June is definitely a realistic and achievable goal. If you keep your LBM at 142lb and lose 11lb of fat, you’re at 10% body fat. Losing 11lb of fat in 4-5 months is very possible, even as you get leaner (it can get harder to lose fat as you get leaner, so plateaus are inevitable). Good luck with the wedding!

  75. Ehab
    January 21, 2012 #

    Great article with scientific informations
    thank you

  76. Rachel
    January 22, 2012 #

    Many thanks!

    Im going to try Lyle Mcdonalds Fast Fat Loss Handbook as it’s basically around losing fat and keeping lean lbm. 10lbs seems a very realistic goal on this plan.

    Many thanks

    Rachel

  77. Jennyfer
    January 23, 2012 #

    A while ago I posted as being 5’4″, 172 pounds, and 19% body fat according to the hydrostatic method. I am now the same height (of course) 180 pounds, and 18% body fat. It seems if I do anything more than a brisk 15 minute walk I put on muscle mass. I do have too much testosterone for a woman but I don’t think it should amount to this.

    My question to you is if you believe there should be a maximum weight for certain heights and body frames, even if the majority is muscle mass.

    If so, what do you think could be done to get me within that range?

    1. Marc Perry
      January 24, 2012 #

      @Jennyfer – I think we all come in different shapes and sizes with different bones structures etc. so it’s difficult to make broad generalizations. As long as you are natural and not taking any drugs, which I assume you are not, I don’t see anything wrong with having a lot of muscle naturally. I also don’t believe there is a theoretical limit. I can say that 145lb LBM for a women who is 5’4” is highly unusual, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are “unhealthy” or anything like that. It sounds like you genetically have far more muscle (like 40lb) more than the average women and can put it on easier. I’m sure there are a lot of female athletes that would be jealous!

  78. D. N
    January 24, 2012 #

    Hi Marc,

    Thanks to your response from Dee. It was very comforting to read that. My situation is very similar to hers. I’m 42, 5’5″, and weigh 122 pounds. And depending on the brand, I can be a size zero too. I just had my body fat tested at the gym with the hand held device. I had just finished a 4 mile run outside, walked inside and had my body fat measured pretty much right away. Had I known that I needed to be hydrated for the test, I would have drank some or a lot more water prior. Anyway, my measurement was 25.5%. Needless to say, I was shocked! No one could believe it by looking at me too. I’m a runner. I’ve done marathons and was a sprinter in college. I run, do yoga, weight train and do other forms of cardio 5 days a week. I was thinking to myself, I must not be doing something right. I’ve always thought of myself as an athlete, not just someone who works out, but this test made me think twice.

    1. Marc Perry
      January 24, 2012 #

      @D.N. – Thanks for sharing. Happy you found the site and came across my/Dee’s comments.

  79. Jemma
    January 25, 2012 #

    Hi Im a 23 year old girl, 5.8 and my body fat % is 13.8%, I do spinning about 4 times a week and also some strenth training and have a normal diet. I am still quite curvey so do not want to make my % higher but Im worried that it may be too low and unhealthy?

    1. January 29, 2012 #

      @Jemma – That question is a question for you doctor. 13.8% is very low, but it doesn’t sound too low, which is sub 12% in general for a woman. If you have normal menstruation, you have high energy, and you eat healthy foods in appropriate amounts, I don’t think your body fat is “dangerously” low, but again, it’s a conversation you should have with your doctor. Also, I would get your body fat percentage checked out again using skin fold calipers by another source as a point of comparison.

  80. Nance Lee
    January 27, 2012 #

    Hello! I am a 53 year old woman who used to be in killer condition a couple of decades ago – taught aerobics classes, ran, etc. Then I hurt my knee and just quit working out. Finally I decided to see what else I could do besides run, and found hot yoga classes. After 2 1/2 months of consistent practice and a good diet, I have seen a lot of visual improvement, though the scale hasn’t moved. So I think I have lost fat and gained muscle. Most of the subcutaneous fat remaining is right in the gut and a bit on the upper thighs.

    To try and get a better understanding of body composition, I just bought a hand held fat calculator. Right now I am measuring 29.6% body fat. I want to get to 20%. At my age, is that possible? Reasonable? Thanks!

    1. January 29, 2012 #

      @Nance Lee – Happy to hear you are back in action and working out! I think anything is possible. The one challenge is that some form of resistance training would be very helpful for you to get a leaner body, because if you diet and just do Yoga, my guess is you may lose a bunch of muscle/functional strength. I understand you may have put on a little muscle, but it’s very hard to keep as you diet down without resistance training (even swimming sprints could at least provide some more resistance). I think 24-5% could definitely be possible, with a lower body fat than that taking a tremendous amount of time and effort. As I mention in the article, the body fat algorithm results shift up as you age so even if you keep the same subcutaneous amount of fat, the algorithm will show you as increasing body fat percentage over time.. In fact, I also think you should get your body fat taken with a body fat caliper because BIA hand held calculator is notoriously inaccurate (a bunch of my comments mention this).

  81. Summer
    January 30, 2012 #

    Marc,

    I’m a 47 year old, 5’3″ woman who wighed 204 at my highest weight. I don’t have any idea what my body fat percentage was then, but I’ve lost 20 lbs since then, primarily by switching my diet from low-fat, high-protein and pretty much average carbs to high-protein, moderately low-carb and a bit less worry about fat content (on the advice of the endocrinologist who tested me for hypothyroidism and found my thyroid normal but my fasting blood glucose in the high-normal range). I’m generally healthy and take no daily medication, supplementing my diet only with a good multivitamin and omega-3 fish oil and flaxseed oil gelcaps.

    Twice in the past three months, while losing the 20 lbs, I’ve had my body fat percentage measured using the handheld electronic device brought to my workplace by the woman who takes these and other measurements for employees participating in their health monitoring program. The first time, the percentage indicated that I had 107 lbs LBM, while at the 2nd, I had 108 lbs LBM. I was properly hydrated both times, near as I could tell, since it was in the middle of a workday and I keep a bottle of water at my desk which I drink and refill during the course of the day.

    I’m wondering what the average LBM is for a 5’3″ woman with average bone structure? At age 35 I had my body fat % done at the gym I was using at the time, and was told I had only 83 lbs LBM, which seemed low to me. I do moderate cardio and strength training (have to be careful due to old knee injuries that have left me without a left ACL and with a torn meniscus), but I rather doubt my workout routine has added 25 lbs of muscle to me, and suspect the measurement taken at 35 may have been inaccurate, especially given the shape I was in at the time (I weighed approximately 130 lbs then, with only a little flab).

    The one thing that has changed since then, other than my weight and my age, is that I was on BC at 35 but I’m not now. Could going off BC account for an increase in LBM?

    My current goal is to get down into the lower end of “ideal”/upper portion of “lean” for my age, according to the chart (and back into my old size 6 – 8 jeans). Given that my overall health is deemed appropriate to someone slighly younger according to my doctor (BP is great, bone density is very good, still not menopausal, etc.) I’m kind of looking at the 41-45 y/o numbers rather than those for my actual age. That puts my goal weight, assuming I neither add nor lose muscle somewhere in the ballpark of 140ish. Does this sound feasible/reasonable, and if I’m willing to work very hard, like something I can accomplish before summer begins? I have a high school reunion this year, which is helping to motivate me!

    1. February 1, 2012 #

      @Summer – Congrats on your weight loss success so far. That’s great to hear. I think 108lb as an LBM sounds reasonable. The average I’ve found just from my experience is around 95lb to 105lb, so you are slightly above the average. With that said, as your weight comes down, you may lose some LBM in the form of water loss. So my guess is you’ll settle around the 100-105lb range. Yes, I think the measurement when you were 35 was inaccurate, sounds 20lb too low by your description of your weight and what your body looked like. In general, you should take any and all measurements with a grain of salt, because none are perfect. I think losing 0.5-1.5lb per week is a good goal. If you lose more, then great, but don’t get discouraged if you lose less. Maybe you could project losing 1lb of fat per week and see where that gets you…and yes, I’m sure 140lb sounds very reasonable, maybe even 130 like when you were 35.

  82. Dre
    January 31, 2012 #

    @Mark

    I’m 32 years old 6’2 250 lbs with 29% body fat , which says I’m obese I run 3 miles 3 days a week and sk several strength training exercises , I don’t know what else to do , I don’t look or feel obese at all

    1. February 3, 2012 #

      @Dre – Happy to hear you are exercising effectively. While exercise is certainly important, if you are not eating less calories than you burn, it’s not physiologically possible to lose weight. With that said, I would strongly recommend Keeping A Food Journal for a few days. Follow the link to learn more. The more you can learn about nutrition and be a mindful eater (i.e. you know everything that is going into your body and how it affects your body), you will achieve the body you desire.

  83. joelle
    February 1, 2012 #

    Hi Marc,

    Im a 20 year old mum of two (youngest 6 months) Im 122 lbs and body fat % is 21 and my waist measures 27inches. Im currently on Jillian Michaels 30 day shred, circuit training consisting of strength, cardio and abs 20minutes a day (all i have time for!) Im pretty “fit” and have no trouble exercising and pushing myself to the limit. What is my ideal fat % and weight loss to lose fat not muscle? Before children i was a dancer- classical ballet (i no longer train) and my fat percentage was 14%.

    1. February 5, 2012 #

      @Joelle – That’s up to you. There really is no “ideal” body fat percentage, because it depends on what works for your body and how you look and feel. Anywhere around 20% would be considered healthy and lean for a women your age. 14% is considered very lean for a women.

  84. Holly
    February 2, 2012 #

    Marc,

    Thanks for the great information here! I am 32 y.old, weigh 131lb, height 5.5 and exercise regularly, teach dancing. Today’s measurements showed that my body fat was at 22.5. For my age, height, weight, is that an ok level to be at? I think I am fit, although I always had some fat on my tummy. The fitness instructor recommended that I should try to lift more weights. And he is probably right because I do more cardio exercise than lifting. Your thoughts? Thank you!

    1. February 3, 2012 #

      @Holly – your body fat percentage sounds fine to me. I would consider it leaner than average, but not super lean. With that said, I’m a big fan of strength training for a ton of reasons and I think it should form the foundation of an effective exercise plan for not only fat loss, but overall health and well-being. FYI, the cardiovascular system supports the muscular system, not the other way around. This doesn’t mean you need to lift every day, but a coupld 30 minute full body strength training workouts are going to go a LONG way for you! To get you started on the right foot, check out this Circuit Training Workout.

  85. Victor
    February 3, 2012 #

    Hi.. 4 months ago I was 118 kg and had 25.5% body fat, started working out with a personal trainer 3 times a week, wrote him a food diary every day.

    Now.. 4 months later, i am 103 kg and 16.5% body fat. Isn’t this something to be happy about?

    I’m 24, 190 cm height.

    1. February 5, 2012 #

      Viktor – Yes, your results are excellent. You lost 33 total pounds, with 30lb being from fat and only 3 pounds from LBM. In 4 months, that’s great progress.

  86. Leah
    February 3, 2012 #

    hi,,, im so confused right now what really am to my body some says that my body is just right for my height. Other says i should loose more weight …
    My everyday routine exercise is im doing abs exercise and a waist trimmer for 1 hour sometimes 40 minutes so far so good im sweating everyday.Is my body is proportionate ?? just im overweight or chubby? Should i reduced more weight?

    My body stat:
    Height: 166 cm
    Weigh: 78 kg

    1. February 5, 2012 #

      @Leah – It’s difficult for me to properly answer your question without seeing you in person, taking your body fat percentage, and learning more about your lifestyle habits. With that said, my best guess is your Lean Body Mass (based on averages of what I’ve seen) is likely around 125lb – 130lb, so your body fat percentage is roughly around 25-8%. You could always have a discussion with your doctor about ideal weight ranges and what works for you. FYI, check out this post: Ideal Body Weight Formula .

  87. Audrey
    February 4, 2012 #

    Hi Marc,

    I am a 47 year young women. I have gained 2 pant sizes in the past 3 years and would like to go back to where I was. I believe the gain was due to a move and many other stresses in my life in addition to going from excellent eating habits to very poor eating habits. In the past few months the stresses have subsided and my eating habits are much, much better.
    Right now, I spend an hour twice a week lifting 5lb weights along with stretching and yoga. My thought was to add walking 3x’s a week.
    I heard that too much cardio burns muscle not fat. What is too much cardio? Most importantly, how do I lose fat without losing muscle?

    1. February 7, 2012 #

      @Audrey – Please see my Get Lean Guide for more information on how to lose fat without losing muscle.

  88. Joshua
    February 5, 2012 #

    Hi Mark i just started working out 2 months ago I started at 6’0 215 pounds 19% body fat and now I am 210 pounds 15.5% body fat and thats because I am workingout and doing cardio 5x a week and quit dirnking pop is that a pretty good improvement in that time period? But now I want to keep doing my same work out routein but focus on better eating what do you recommend for good foods?

    1. February 5, 2012 #

      @joshua – Congrats on starting to exercise. That’s great news! Your results are very good for the short period of time you’ve been exercising. Your approach to improve your eating sounds excellent. The goal is to eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods. So for example, fruits (all berries, orange, grapefruit, banana), vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds, dairy selectively, and whole grains selectively. We plan to put up a lot more posts on specific foods etc., so stay tuned.

  89. Joshua
    February 5, 2012 #

    and I am 21 years old

  90. Kristin Cok
    February 5, 2012 #

    Hi Marc,

    I started with a personal trainer almost a year ago. I am 5:10 female that originally started out at 247 pounds and 40% body fat and I am now 177 pounds and 29.5% body fat. I am trying to figure out how to reduce my body fat % further. What makes this number decrease? It is it strictly nutrition or is nutrition and cardio or is it nutrition, cardio and strength training?

    1. February 7, 2012 #

      @Kristin Cok – Continue to eat less calories than you burn is the simple answer to help you continue to lose fat. Yes exercise is helpful to help you keep your muscle and it burns extra calories, but do focus on the nutrition. Here’s an article to check out: How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight? Keep up the progress!

  91. Leah
    February 5, 2012 #

    Marc,
    Thank you for the post about the ideal body weight formula. I learned that im 27.6 overweight. Im 24 years old by the way. Whats my body fat percentage?? Am I in the average category?? above average?

    1. February 7, 2012 #

      @Leah – Check out this article to arrive at your body fat percentage: 5 Ways to Measure Body Fat Percentage.

  92. Rose
    February 7, 2012 #

    I am extremely concerned, I am a 36 yr old athletic female that enjoys working out and going to the gym as much as 6 days a week. I am in sizes 6-8 Aussie size. Weighing at approx 48 kgs 153cm in height. My body fat % is 36% which puts me in the obese range????? What is wrong with me? I have gone to a few different machines and it tells me the same thing.

    1. February 7, 2012 #

      @Rose – That does sound hard to believe. If you haven’t gotten your body fat checked with a body fat caliper by a skilled trainer, I would do that before you get any more concerned!

  93. Nolan
    February 7, 2012 #

    Marc,
    I’m 20 years old, 6’1″ tall, with a weight of ~195lbs. My bodyfat is down to 12%, but im still not seeing the ab definition i was hoping for. I work out my core atleast 5 times a week, but still nothing seems to be helping. I even eat healthy! What can i do to help?

    1. February 7, 2012 #

      @Nolan – Congrats on your success so far. Seeing your abs has little to do with abs exercises. I would focus on getting your body fat down into the single digits with nutrition. For more info, see this article: How to Get Ripped.

  94. Andrew
    February 7, 2012 #

    Marc,

    I am somewhat confused as to whether I’m actually obese or not. I have a BMI of 33, at 21 years of age. I am 6’3′ and 270 with a 35 inch waist. I work out hard five times a week with a cross training day on Wednesday. I am in relatively good shape Cardio wise with a 26 min 5K time, and I am in the 1000 pound club in regards to the three core lifts (bench, squat, power clean). It still is troublesome to me though that ‘technically’ I am obese. What should I do, and should I be worried?

    1. February 7, 2012 #

      @Andrew – Most NFL football players would be considered obese according to BMI. Check out this article for more info: Ideal Body Weight Formula. It sounds to me like you’re in great shape, so even if you were technically “overfat”, i think the only issue from a health perspective is that it may be putting excessive stress on your organs to run such a large machine (i.e. your body).

  95. David Baker
    February 8, 2012 #

    Hi Marc, I am a former D1 athlete, currently 6’1″, 210lb, 16%bf. It is possible to get my bf 9-12% with my height while staying within the 205-210 weight range?

    1. February 13, 2012 #

      @David Baker – Well, it’s hard for me to say something is not possible, but in my mind, getting ripped at anything over 190lb at under 6’2′ means you will look HUGE. Your LBM is 176lb, so getting down to 190lb will give you your 9% body fat. I think you MUST read this article and pay attention to step #1: How To Get Ripped. I’m telling you when I get ultra lean at 165lb (I’m 5’11″), people think I’m 200lb. Crazy, but true.

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