What Functions Does Body Fat Perform?

Adipose tissue, more simply known as body fat, is an essential part of the human body, it’s primary purpose being to maintain proper functioning. Even if it is not visible, everyone has some amount of fat in their body. The stereotype that fat only makes your figure look unattractive is complete nonsense, and if you want to achieve the perfect weight goals for your body, you should accept the truth that fat is essential for you. Of course it’s often the case that something is good in moderation, but if the amount of fat in your body is much higher than the norm it may cause one or more health problems. If you want to find out how much fat is normal for your body, then this body fat percentage calculator is exactly what you need!

body fat

But first let’s consider why fat is so important for your body, and what functions it performs:

Functions of body fat:

  • It stores energy. For example, 10-15 kilograms of fat can provide energy for 2-3 months. However, if there is too much energy deposited in the form of fat is associated with obesity.
  • Promotes the prevention of infections by helping the immune system.
  • Due to its thermal insulation effect, it can assist with regulating the body temperature, protecting it from extreme heat or cold.
  • Adipose tissue stores fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, thus preventing vitamin deficiency.
  • Keeps the persistent organic pollutants away from your organs, and serves as a protection layer.
  • Lowers the risk of bone fractures and reduces the mechanical pressure on the legs, toes, and heels in particular.
  • Body fat plays a prominent role in the production of sex hormones, contributing to one’s fertility. In particular, it stimulates the production of estrogen.

Despite its many functions, it is necessary to control your body fat percentage. You can use this body fat percentage calculator to avoid obesity, which is usually accompanied by several serious health conditions. You should have a normal amount of fat, as too much or too little adipose tissue can have an inauspicious impact on your psychological and physical wellbeing. We can say then, that it is necessary to measure its thickness using a body fat percentage calculator.

Why do you need to know your body fat percentage?

The body fat percentage is one of the many ways that allow you to determine whether your weight is healthy. Many experts suggest that it is more accurate and reliable than the well-known BMI. Its main advantage over BMI is that it distinguishes between fat and muscle mass. And the BMI does not take that aspect into consideration, which may often confuse people, as even some sportsmen could be considered overweight by looking at their BMI due to their great muscle mass.

So, the body fat percentage shows how much adipose tissue you have compared to your bone and muscle mass, which together make up your body composition. There are several formulas designed to gauge the part of the adipose tissue in your body composition.

How to measure your adipose tissue?

While a lot of advanced instruments, such as hydrostatic weight measurement and other such technical devices are not affordable for the average person, the body caliper is. This tool is very popular and is quite effective at measuring your fat. It can help you precisely calculate your body fat percentage. All you need to do is to pinch your skinfold in a certain place and apply the caliper to it. It may be challenging for some people, which is why you might want to request the assistance of your family, friends, or trainer in the measurement process. This will allow you to measure your skinfold thickness faster and more accurately.

Here is detailed instruction on how to measure the thickness of your skinfold:

  1. Identify the exact location of the skinfold before applying the caliper to it. You can mark the area with an eyebrow pencil.
  2. Pull the skinfold with your thumb and index finger and hold it firmly.
  3. With your other hand, take the caliper and hold it perpendicular to the skinfold.
  4. A couple of seconds after releasing the trigger, look at the dial.
  5. Repeat these actions for each skinfold you have planned to measure. However, you should do this after waiting for at least 15-second at intervals between measures to let the fat readjust.

This method is based on the fact that half of the fat in your body is stored beneath the skin. You should perform the measurement process regularly for it to be accurate and reliable. You should also avoid measuring your skinfold thickness after a workout, as it is likely to show incorrect results because of the transfer of fluid to the skin.

The best body fat percentage calculator variations

If you want to calculate your body fat percentage, then solely measuring skinfolds won’t do. But that is not to say you won’t need this data in your further calculations. There are several formulas that you can consider for use in achieving reliable data. So, choose one or more you like the most and then go about calculating how much fat you have, and whether it is within the normal range for your body metrics.

body fat

The Jackson and Pollock Formula

This formula requires the skinfold measurements be done from three different parts of your body and the differences for men and women.

Formula for women:

  1. Pinch a skinfold on your triceps. If you are not able to do this on your own, ask someone to give you a hand here. The perfect spot for the skinfold is in the middle of your upper arm. It is better to fold your skin vertically here.
  2. The next place that you need to measure is your suprailiac skinfold. You can find it in the lower part of your abdomen at the top of your hip bone. Apply the caliper diagonally in this area.
  3. The last place for you to measure is the skinfold on your thigh, at the midpoint between your hip and knee. Pull the skin in that area, applying the vertical fold.
  4. Enter the measurements into this formula:

1.0994921 – (0.0009929 x the sum of the triceps, thigh, and suprailiac skinfolds in mm) + (0.0000023 x the square of the sum of the triceps, thigh, and suprailiac skinfolds in mm) – (0.0001392 x age) = body density.

To convert the result into a percentage, use the following formula:

[(4.95/body density) – 4.5] x 100 = body fat percentage.

Formula for men:

  1. Measure the skinfold at your chest by applying the caliper to the middle spot between your armpit crease and nipple. Pinch the skinfold diagonally.
  2. The next spot is at your stomach. Pinch the skin right near your belly button. Here, you can fold the skin either vertically or horizontally, depending on what you find more convenient.
  3. The last area for you to measure is your thigh. The perfect spot for this is in the middle area between your thigh and knee. The vertical fold is the best option here.
  4. Enter the measurements into this formula:

1.10938 – (0.0008267 x the sum of the chest, abdomen, and thigh skinfolds in mm) + (0.0000016 x the square of the sum of the chest, abdomen, and thigh skinfolds in mm) – (0.0002574 x age) = body density.

To convert the result into a percentage, use the following formula:

[(4.95/body density) – 4.5] x 100 = body fat percentage.

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The YMCA Formula

You don’t need to use skinfold measurements in order to use this equation, but you do need to know your weight and your waist size.

Formula for women:

– 76.76 + 4.15 x waist size – 0.082 x weight / weight

Formula for men:

– 98.42 + 4.15 x waist size – 0.082 x weight / weight

Using BMI

Although the sole use of the BMI is not a very accurate body fat percentage calculator, you can still use it to measure the amount of your body fat. To calculate the BMI, you need to use your height and weight measurements:

weight in kg/height in m2

703 x weight in lbs/height in in2

To figure out if your weight is in the normal range, or you need to start losing or gaining some amount of weight you should use the table below. As you can see, there are 4 weight categories and the corresponding indexes. Compare the result that you obtained from the previous equation and check it with the indexes from the table.

BMI
Underweight <18.5
Normal weight 18.5–24.9
Overweight 25–29.9
Obese 30 and more

Now that you have done that, you can enter your BMI into the following formula, which would determine your body fat percentage:

For women:

(1.39 x BMI) + (0.16 x age) – (10.34 x 0) – 9

For men:

(1.39 x BMI) + (0.16 x age) – (10.34 x 1) – 9

Although this formula is quite convenient and requires less effort, it is not as accurate as the previous two. It is a great option for people with an average body fat percentage, but for those with their body adipose tissue amount deviating from the norm, the formula can either under- or overestimate the precise percentage.

What is the normal body fat percentage?

Women Men
Minimum fat 10-12% 2-4%
Athletic 14-20% 6-13%
Fit 21-24% 14-17%
Average 25-31% 18-25%
Obese 32% and more 26% and more

The table above shows the body percentage ranges for women and men, based on which you can determine whether you have normal body fat as a percentage, or should start working towards either reducing or increasing it. As you can see,  the levels of 2% and 10% fat are enough to maintain the proper functioning of the male and female body respectively. This difference is quite significant due to the biological characteristics of the bodies of both genders. The female body requires a higher amount of fat due to lower fat oxidation as compared to that with the male body. In other words, women find losing weight more difficult than men due to their bodies’ biological nature. Another aspect that adds to such a difference, is that fat plays a prominent role in the female reproductive system. Without a sufficient amount of adipose tissue, a woman cannot have menstruation and ovulation, the absence of which makes the reproduction impossible.

The ideal body fat percentage for women ranges between 14% and 31%, while for men it is 6% to 25% . If the result of your calculations is higher than these, you are considered overweight. In such case you should start working towards reducing your fat mass before your body reaches the point of obesity.

Why is excess fat unhealthy?

Obesity is not natural for the human body. It is associated with certain health problems, most of which are serious or even lethal. So, rather than seeking treatment against these maladies, you should prioritize their prevention.

Obesity may lead to the following health problems:

  • Type 2 diabetes. Obesity can disrupt normal insulin action and interfere with your blood sugar levels.
  • Digestive diseases, among which are gallbladder diseases and liver problems.
  • Cardiovascular diseases and strokes. Excess fat has the propensity to boost cholesterol levels and blood pressure, both of which are the typical preconditions for heart diseases.
  • Different types of cancer, including ovary, prostate, liver, rectum, and other organs.
  • Reproductive problems. Although fat is essential for the reproductive systems of both women and men, excess fat may result in infertility. Obesity often leads to erectile dysfunction in men and the absence of periods in women.
  • Excess fat puts greater mechanical pressure on the joints and causes inflammation.
  • Sleep apnea. Obesity is often accompanied by unstable breathing in sleep. This in turn may cause a person to stop breathing for some time, which sometimes might lead to suffocation.
  • Mental disorders. Overweight people tend to suffer from depression and low self-esteem, which may prevent them from having a normal social life.
  • Physical pains in different areas of the body.

Other downsides of obesity

Besides numerous health problems caused by obesity, it is accompanied by other inconveniences as well. Overweight people are associated with less productiveness (measured by absenteeism) than others in the workplace. In addition to this, employers tend to spend more on health care for the obese, as such might be cause for insecurities of a prospective employer. Another way to look at this is the  increased chance of discrimination in employment because employers might be reluctant to hire overweight and obese people. Besides all this, people with excess fat sometimes become victims of ridicule, being censured for their “unattractiveness” and “laziness.”

If you tend to let yourself off the hook, perhaps raise the proverbial white flag when things get tougher than you expected, even send yourself on the occasional unconscious binge-eating trip – BetterMe app is here to help you leave all of these sabotaging habits in the past!

How to decrease your body fat percentage?

There are various weight loss strategies available online, most of which involve either dieting or exercising. If you aim at a successful and healthy weight loss, you should combine both of these methods. As you didn’t put on all that weight in one day, you can’t expect to slim down a couple of sizes in a week. Your weight loss may take longer than expected, and eventually become a part of your lifestyle. So, if the body fat percentage calculator indicated that you have a lot of excess fat, you may want to start following these recommendations:

Exercise regularly

Exercising is one of the keys to the successful weight loss process and may also significantly improve your health and wellness. Regular cardio training will not only help you melt all that excess fat fast, but also make a great contribution to the muscle growth process.

Here are the examples of cardio activities, ranked by their difficulty, from the easiest – 1, to the hardest – 5:

  1. Walking. Take a brisk 30-minute walk 4 times a week. This exercise is the best option for the beginners who find it hard to work out with weights or do HIIT.
  2. Jogging. Go jogging for at least 20 minutes 4 times weekly. It is more intense than walking and activates your leg muscles better. You can start jogging after you slim down a bit and feel capable of doing this for the required amount of time.
  3. Moderate cardio activity. You can perform low-impact cardio exercises, like dancing or Zumba. Doing these for 30 minutes 3 times a week will blast away that excess fat faster.
  4. Resistance training. For this type of workout, you will need some additional equipment, such as weights, resistance bands, stepping platforms, etc. Building muscle with the help of resistance training makes your calories burn faster.
  5. HIIT. This type of cardio activity is the most intense, challenging, and, consequently, is the most effective at helping you shed pounds. During a HIIT workout, you must alternate between the intervals of extremely hard exercise and periods of rest. The common HIIT pattern for weight loss is working out at a moderate pace for a minute and increasing the intensity over a maximum of half a minute.

Follow a healthy dietary plan

  • Consume more fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods, and are recommended for everyone regardless of their eating habits. Many of them are filled to the brim with nutrients, including essential vitamins and minerals, and contain few calories, being a perfect choice for people who are trying to slim down. If your goal is to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to cut out indulgent foods immediately. Consider how you could make them healthier by adding fruits and veggies to them. As you are getting used to your new meal plan, you can start excluding foods from your diet that are not weight-loss-friendly.
  • Decrease your intake of simple and refined carbs.If you indulge in pastry and sugary foods, you need to substitute them with lower caloric products. Consumption of great amounts of refined carbohydrates can cause an imbalance in your gut bacteria. As they are full of empty calories, their high intake makes weight gain inevitable.
  • Eat less salt. Due to the association of salt with increased food intake, the excessive consumption of salt may not only take you one step closer to obesity, but also lead to a lot of other health problems.

Get a proper night’s rest

As you can’t eat and sleep at the same time, sleep undoubtedly, positively contributes to weight loss. Furthermore, having a proper amount of sleep (around 6-8 hours a day) can slow down your visceral fat growth.

Stay hydrated

A glass of water can make you feel full and thus prevent you from overeating.

Conclusion: Why do you need a body fat percentage calculator?

Despite its many essential functions, fat can cause a lot of health problems if its amount exceeds the norm. The body fat percentage calculator helps to calculate your body fat percentage, which shows you how much adipose tissue you have in correlation with your bone and muscle mass. If you are a woman, and your body fat percentage exceeds 31%, you are obese and thus prone to a variety of serious health conditions. The same goes for men with more than 26% of body fat. Therefore, you should use a body fat percentage calculator in order to prevent obesity and maintain a healthy weight. Measuring your adipose tissue is easy and doesn’t require much time or effort. You can do it yourself with the help of a caliper, and then use those measurements in a formula, to calculate your body fat percentage.

If your body fat percentage indicates that you are overweight, you should not give up. You can solve this problem by losing weight by burning that excess fat. To do so, follow the above-listed recommendations, which involve healthy nutrition, regular workouts, sufficient sleep, and proper hydration.

FAQs

What should my body fat percentage be in order to have abs?

It should be within the athletic range. Nonetheless, you still can have abs even with excess fat. The only thing is that they may not be visible.

How much weight should I lose to get the normal body fat percentage?

It depends on your age, sex, height, weight, and other parameters. Keep in mind, that the recommended weight loss pace is not more than 2 pounds (1 kg) a week.

What body fat percentage should I have to be an athlete?

Female and male athletes have 14-20% and 6-13% of adipose tissue, respectively. However, your body fat percentage doesn’t always determine your athletic performance and ability to be an athlete.

Disclaimer

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility.

 

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