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First, your body fat percentage is simply the percentage of fat your body contains.  If you are 150 pounds and 10% fat, it  means that your body consists of 15 pounds fat and 135 pounds lean body mass (bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood and everything else).

Women have higher percentages of body fat than men, because female reproductive hormones require more fat. Women with healthy weights are generally between 15 and 25 percent body fat and men fall into the 10 to 20 percent range. But for the athlete, optimal body fat may be 10 to 20 percent for women and 5 to 12 percent for men.

You can have too little body fat. If a woman’s body fat falls below 12 percent of her total body weight, hormone production can be compromised, and menstruation can be interrupted, and therefore the risk of osteoporosis(thinning bones, which is directly related to hormonal status) is high. Body fat below 10 percent in women and 4 percent in men may be an indication of an eating disorder.

*General Body Fat Percentage Categories


Classification Women (% fat) Men (% fat)
Essential Fat 10-12% 2-4%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Acceptable 25-31% 18-25%
Obese 32% plus 25% plus

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