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Categories: General Health

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

By Marc Perry / April 12, 2018

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.

“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, just find your age on the left hand column, then see the corresponding body fat percentage to the right. So if you are a 30 year old man, a body fat percentage of around 12.7% is considered ideal.


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.

I hope this discussion of ideal body fat percentage was helpful for you!

Do you want to drop body fat without losing muscle? Then start my 12-Week Body Transformation Program.

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208 Comments

  • Maipambe Mutala says:

    Hey I'm 26 year old, 1.65cm height , weighing 77kg. Is my health at risk?

    • Kristin says:

      It's great that you're thinking about your health, but a better health indicator than weight is your body fat percentage. If you're very muscular, you could weigh more than what's considered "healthy" according to BMI. Other factors that contribute to your health are your diet, exercise routine, stress management, and sleep. We recommend that you eat a diet based primarily on whole foods (lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats & carbs), exercise at least 3x per week, and sleep 7-9 hours per night.

      If you're concerned about your weight and health, I recommend speaking with your primary care doctor. They'll be able to assess your heart rate, blood pressure, weight, body fat composition, and blood values to determine your current health and fitness status. I hope that helps!

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  • Bill Sanford says:

    I used to be always worried over my weight. Now, no more. I was morbidly obese for most of my life. When I taught spin classes, I was still 6'6 and 305. I have switched my "Learning" about how to think about LBM and how it has affected my life.

    I had surgery for my morbid obesity. I was in my high thirties to 40ish for LBM. I lost about 90 pounds, so far, and lowered my LBM a bit. To say I am psyched is a huge understatement.

    Currently, I am 6'5, and 275. These numbers alone can scare someone away from calling me healthy. My waist is 38 (Yeah, no belly, either), but my LBM now is 17.5. I feel and move SO much better. Teaching spin for 10 years was the best decision, health wise, I have ever accomplished since it helped a lot to getting that insane amount of muscle and cardio I desperately needed.

    When people say weight has NOTHING to do with your body, listen to them. I never want to be above 20% EVER again!

    I have read some of the articles and really appreciate the no-nonsense approach to nutrition and wellness. Don't forget the water. Highly underrated!

    Be well.

    • Bill Sanford says:

      Oh yeah, I forgot, I just turned 55 last month.

      • Kristin says:

        Wow, Bill - it sounds like you've made some amazing changes in your life and experienced pretty incredible benefits! It's great that you've found a lot of motivation and fulfillment in teaching spin classes. Teaching fitness is a great way to give to yourself while helping others. You definitely have an inspiring story, so thanks for sharing. And I'm glad you're enjoying the articles and information on our site. I agree - water is underrated, and we should all remember the water.

        Keep up the great work!

        -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  • Richie Buchtel says:

    I’ve been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this website. Thanks, I will try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your website?

    • Kristin Rooke, CPT says:

      Thanks, Richie! We post new articles every Monday and Wednesday right now. Definitely check back, and let us know what you think of our content.
      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  • Brett says:

    So I'm 19 yr old male, weigh 150lbs and just recently found out my body fat percentage is 7.6%. I only started going back to the gym approx 2 weeks ago after taking Something like a 3 month long break and having no real consistent workout plan but rather simply working out on and off for a few months every so often for the past maybe 2-3 years. I take it that this is a pretty good percentage?

    • Kristin says:

      That's a really great body fat percentage, Brett. It also sounds like staying lean is pretty effortless for you, which is awesome. You're in the perfect position now to either maintain you current body composition, or to build muscle. Just determine what your fitness goal is, and then create a workout program to reach that goal.
      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

    • Brett says:

      Oh and I'm 5'9" or 5'10"

  • Kisia Omari Almassi says:

    very informative reading. I have learnt quite alot from the questions and answers.

    • Kristin says:

      Awesome! Glad you enjoyed it.
      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  • Ron says:

    I just turned 71, and my body fat is 15.4 % (at 175 lbs and 6'2"). Work out 3~4 times per week for 2~3 hours. I've averaged over a 12 month period a 15.3% body fat.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Congrats on staying lean & fit!

  • ankit kumar says:

    hello, sir great article I want to know what would you advise skinny fatty guys mean who looks skinny but they have fat on the stomach.

  • Austin says:

    Hi my name is Austin,
    I am a 18 year old college basketball player. I am 6'5" and currently weigh about 205.
    I have recently gotten into eating healthy combined with daily workouts for basketball and weights. Over only a couple month span, I have lost 15 pounds and 4.5 percent body fat. So I would say it is pretty easy for me to keep losing fat. When should I stop? What would be the best way to gain muscle without gaining too much fat? What should I do?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Hey Austin, it really depends. Around 10% body fat is good. It's possible losing more fat may help your athletic performance, but it may detract from basketball in some ways because weight has significance in basketball (rebounding, boxing out etc.). Here's an article about body fat an athletic performance you can check out => How Body Fat Affects Athletic Performance. As an athlete, unless you have some type of deficiency (like you need to add on a bunch of weight), it's best to focus on your skills and use the gym to get stronger and stay healthy, not worry as much about body composition. That's my opinion!

    • Austin says:

      I am currently at 9.5 percent body fat as well

  • Katelyn says:

    Hi, I would like some advice on my body! I have always been super active through high school, I held weight lifting records in my high school and even out lifted most of the boys. I was 5'10" 200 lbs and had about 25% body fat on me then. I wish I could post pictures. Doctors and coaches always told me I was just very strong and had a ton of muscle and not to worry about the scale number. As I graduated high school I got married and moved and started college, I did not take any of my athletic scholarships as I had heard that college sports are a lot different than high school and basically becomes your life. So I started rodeoing a lot and I still worked out and was eating healthier than I did in high school. Yet, I still gained about 50 pounds in a 1.5 years. So I am now 250 lbs with a body fat % of 37. I have been trying my hardest to find ways to lose weight, I still workout, I still eat super healthy, no processed foods, soda, un natural sugars, saturated fat. And I feel like I am just at a dead spot and do not know what to do. Even if I lose 50 lbs and get back to where I was in high school I still need to be at about 160-150 to do my job efficiently and be good at it. And to me that means losing muscle and I do not know how to do that!

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Hey Katelyn, while it's great you are eating healthy, unfortunately, it does not necessarily mean you are eating fewer calories than you burn to lose weight. I usually recommend creating more structure by following some type of eating plan, or creating a nutrition template. Our Transformation Program gives specific meals and snacks that have specific calorie levels so that you know for sure you are eating fewer calories. Keeping things simple by reducing variety of meals can also help make controlling calories easier. The whole name of the game is to eat fewer calories while staying full. Good luck and thanks for commenting!

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