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How to calculate body fat %

Understanding how to calculate your body fat percentage is a key element when it comes to losing weight. There are several ways to calculate body fat % and use this number to help keep your lifestyle in check. When you’re in the know regarding how to tell how much fat you have in relation to your body fat goals, creating a workout and nutrition plan becomes that much easier.

If you’re unsure how to calculate body fat, you’ve come to the right place. We’re about to tell you everything you need to know regarding body fat calculations.

What is body fat %?

Put simply, this figure tells you how much of your total mass is fat. If this number is quite high, it can become clear pretty quickly that you could have a weight problem. Many people seeking weight loss look to their body mass index (BMI) for help. However, your body fat % actually offers a more accurate classification of obesity, and to what extent.

The calculations are a little more complicated than that, though! Ultimately, your BMI or weight aren’t the best measures for obesity.

Why is measuring your body fat % important?

What’s a goal without a plan? Accurate measures of your body composition will help you path the way to achieving your weight loss goals. While the numbers on their own aren’t that important, they do have their purposes. Understanding how to calculate BF will allow you to keep an eye on any movement towards obesity or under-nutrition.

Body fat % and preventing obesity

Obesity has remained a hot topic for a long time now, all over the world. If your body starts to develop more fat than required, you’ll find yourself edging towards obesity. Although it’s totally natural for our body to store fat as energy, when there’s more than you need, this fat can cause a whole mountain of health issues.

Obesity itself is associated with many health conditions, including:

  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Cardiovascular disease

While this isn’t the list in its entirety, there are many more conditions that can develop if you get obese. Some of which can be very severe and cause long term problems. Once you’ve calculated your body fat %, use this figure wisely to achieve your body fat goals and skip past these potential health conditions.

Using body fat % to monitor weight loss

If you’re obese and seeking guidance for your weight loss, doctors frequently use your body fat % to keep an eye on your progress. Your specific diet plan can help you to achieve your weight loss goals, monitoring your body fat percentage along the way in order to make changes to your diet and assess the treatment provided. Clever, huh?

Using BFP for general health and monitoring under-nutrition

Now you understand how to calculate your BF, losing weight can be a tricky area to manage. Maintaining balance during your weight loss journey is incredibly important. Of course, you want to lose weight. But losing weight too quickly isn’t a good thing, as it can point towards possible dysfunction in your body.

Monitoring your body fat % can help you and your healthcare professionals keep an eye on the rate at which you’re losing weight. This will help both you and them, to determine if your weight loss is normal – or if check-ups are necessary.

Healthy body fat % for both men and women

So, is there a certain percentage of body fat in human beings you should aim for? Well, not really. There is no one size fits all body fat % to determine if someone is healthy or not. One of the reasons why body fat % were used was to acknowledge the differences between men and women.

Since commonalities are found across body types, standards between genders can be made.

Healthy body fat % for men

There has been plenty of research into determining the optimal body fat % for men. Check out the below to help you reach your body fat goals:

  • Between the ages of 20 – 29, a healthy body fat % = 10.5% to 18.6%
  • Between the ages of 30 – 39, a body fat % from 14.5% to 21.3% is healthy
  • Between the ages of 40 – 49, a healthy body fat % = 17.5% to 23.4%
  • Between the ages of 50 – 59, a healthy body fat % = 19.7% to 24.6%
  • Between the ages of 60 – 69, a body fat % from 19.7% to 25.2% is healthy

Healthy body fat % for women

The same studies also resulted in the following body fat percentages for women:

  • Between the ages of 20 – 29, a healthy body fat % = 16.5% to 22.7%
  • Between the ages of 30 – 39, a healthy body fat % = 17.4% to 24.6%
  • Between the ages of 40 – 49, a healthy body fat % = 19.8% to 27.6%
  • Between the ages of 50 – 59, a healthy body fat % = 22.5% to 30.4%
  • Between the ages of 60 – 69, a healthy body fat % = 23.2% to 31.3%

What’s the lowest possible body fat percentage?

Before you get too stuck into your body fat goals, it’s important to remember that fat is an essential part of your body. We all need a certain amount of fat in our body, and you need to keep this in mind when planning your diet. For a little more guidance, here are some of the essentials roles fat plays:

  • As well as proteins and carbohydrates, fats are a macronutrient that provides a large amount of energy.
  • Fats play a crucial role in the absorption of vitamins during digestion.
  • The fat in your body plays an important role in wound healing, blood clotting and creating inflammation during infections as your body heals.
  • Fat also helps your body’s cells, in particular, maintaining brain and eye function. As well as nutrition uptake, cell production and many more key functions.

Although losing a lot of fat may seem ideal, it’s important during weight loss to ensure your immune system, nutritional intake and healing capacity aren’t compromised by too much fat loss. To be safe, as you lose weight, ensure you don’t lose too much.

While the ultimate weight loss may seem like you’re heading towards your perfect body fat %, for men, the lowest body fat percentage possible is as follows:

  • Between the ages of 20 – 29 = 10.5%
  • Between the ages of 30 – 39 = 14.5%
  • Between the ages of 40 – 49 = 17.5%
  • Between the ages of 50 – 69 = 19.7%

The difference between body fat %

When analysing your body fat % and working out your body fat goals, it’s important to see how different this percentage can look:

How to measure body fat percentage

If you’re trying to work out the best way to calculate your body fat %, you’ll be pleased to know there are several methods you can try.


Often referred to as a ‘skin-fold test’, a body fat caliper is used to take measurements from four different points around the body. To use this method, follow these four steps:

  1. Take a fold of fat between your index and middle fingers, at your triceps. Use the body fat caliper to take measurements.
  2. Repeat step one for your shoulder blade, waist and bicep.
  3. Measurements can also be taken from your thigh, chest, abdomen or calf. Any four measurements will suffice.
  4. Once completed, check out this handy body fat percentage calculator to help calculate your body fat % based on your four measurements.

Tape measure

Developed by the US Navy, a tape measure is one of the easiest ways to calculate your BFP. Follow the method below (for men):

  1. Use the tape to measure the circumference of your neck and abdomen.
  2. Measure your height.
  3. Use the following formula to calculate your body fat %.

% of body fat = 86.010 log (abdomen – neck) – 70.041 log (height)

The log function is the same as found on your standard calculator.

Below is the tape measure method for women:

  1. Using the tape, measure the circumference of your neck and abdomen.
  2. Measure your height.
  3. Use the following formula to calculate your body fat %.

% of body fat = log (waist + hip – neck) – 70.041 log (height) – 78.387

Again, the log function is the same as found on your standard calculator.

Hydrostatic weight

Only carried out by professionals, a hydrostatic weighing is considered one of the most accurate methods of measuring body composition.

This method involves taking your weight outside of water and then taking your weight underwater. Both these two measurements and water density can be used to determine your body fat %.

Body fat scale

Considered one of the most popular and convenient ways to measure body fat % – a body fat scale looks pretty similar to an ordinary weighing scale. Instead, it tells you your body fat percentage. The device uses a principle called bioelectrical impedance to calculate the number for you.

As you stand on the scale, it works by running a light electric shock through your body. Once completed, it measures the amount of resistance the body gave due to fat content. The higher the resistance, the higher the fat content. This is what the body fat scale uses to calculate your body fat %.

Air displacement plethysmography

Often referred to as the BOD-POD procedure, air displacement plethysmography uses the same principals as water weight to calculate body fat %. This is another method only done by a medical professional.

CT or MRI scans

MRI and CT scans are two of the most accurate measures of body fat %. In a CT scan, X-rays are used to help get images of the entire mass in your body, which is then used to calculate your body fat.

Whereas an MRI (also using magnetic imaging) can quickly differentiate between fat mass and lean mass – resulting in an accurate body fat %.

What’s the difference between body fat % and body mass index (BMI)?

In recent years, weight management specialists and medical professionals have seen a shift away from using BMI as a measurement for obesity. But why? Well, BMI doesn’t quite account for other factors – such as mineral composition and bone density.

Research has shown that BMI was only applicable to those belonging to a certain region, such as Europe and North America. Therefore, making it inapplicable for measuring everyone’s obesity and its severity. Further studies have shown that BMI also has various deficiencies as a measurement for obesity – especially when calculated by self-reported height and weight.

Back when BMI was the only real recognised measurement for obesity, research found that shorter and taller people with the same BMI wouldn’t die at the same time. In fact, taller people would live longer in comparison to those were shorter.

To give a more accurate relation between weight and height, researchers would use the different measures of height, instead. This was done as an attempt to overcome differences in predictions. This doesn’t quite work out as planned…

So, instead, medical professionals began to use an absolute measurement of obesity – otherwise known as your body fat %. This method of measuring obesity makes it a lot clearer for those needing to lose weight and achieve their body fat goals.

How to lower your body fat %

Essentially, lowering your body fat % involves shedding a few pounds. There are several ways to reduce your body fat percentage – including pharmaceutical, surgical and lifestyle changes.

Pharmaceutical interventions

There is a variety of pill available to help you lose weight. These are commonly designed to reduce the urge to snack and to increase the rate at which your body burns excess fat. These pills also control the speed at which your body absorbs and digests fat, reducing the intake combined.

Of course, they aren’t the magic answer. This option is usually recommended use alongside a healthy diet and intense exercise to achieve your weight loss goals long term.

Surgical interventions

Surgical interventions to lower your body fat % are usually the last resort. This method is typically only used when no other alternative has proved successful in your weight loss. Although relatively safe, this option tends to be pretty costly.

Surgical options include:

  • Gastric balloons
  • Gastric bypass
  • Vertical sleeve gastrectomy
  • Adjustable gastric bands
  • Biliopancreatic diversions

These methods work by forcing you to eat less or making the passage of food through your system work faster – resulting in less fat accumulation in the body. Before you contemplate going under the knife, it’s important to pay attention to the risks involves. Be sure to consult with medical professionals before deciding.

Lifestyle changes

This should be your go-to before considering anything drastic to achieve your body fat goals. Since other options aren’t medically viable long term, training your lifestyle to become healthier will aid your weight loss.

If you’re falling over the line into obesity, making lifestyle changes will be the first recommendation by doctors before considering other methods. This included regular exercise, following healthy diet plans, overcoming eating disorders and permanently changing your relationship with food.


We hope we’ve cleared up any confusion when it comes to calculating your body fat percentage, the lowest possible body fat % and ways to reach your goals! The methods we’ve mentioned can be quickly implemented to help you kickstart your weight loss journey and later track your progress.

But if you do need a little help, why not try PhenGold? PhenGold works by suppressing your appetite and increasing your metabolism.

Paired with regular exercise and healthy eating, our 100% natural and high quality ingredients will help you burn off stubborn fat in no time.



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We research and write articles about health, fitness and dieting. Each of our articles includes sources from scientific studies where possible.

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