Author: Linda Ericson
Fat is a part of the human body’s structure, including muscles, water, bone and organs. All components are crucial to our health and especially the amount of fat is directly related to physical well-being and performance.
Body fat is a collective name for various types of fatty tissue, including the stubborn subcutaneous fat that is located on the hips and thighs, the visceral fat found deep into the abdominal organs and intramuscular fat. For physiological reasons, women generally have a higher percentage of fat than men due to hormones, breast, ovulation and so on. Recommended for women in particular is a fat percentage of at least 13-17% in order for the menstruation to work normally. A lower value than that can in the worst case scenario lead to infertility.
Fat is vital to our survival as it protects internal organs and gives the body energy. Unfortunately, though, an abundance of stored fat is common, which, unlike essential fat, is not necessary for us to function optimally.
Essential fat is, as the name suggests, essential to our health. In small amounts it is stored in the bone marrow, organs, muscles and central nervous system. Again, womens numbers are here a bit higher as you also have to include gender-specific fat stored in the breasts, hips and thighs.
When it comes to men, the proportion of essential fat is around 3-4% of their total body weight while you find womens to be at around 12%.
Stored fat is a different story. What is referred to here is the kind of fat that accumulates in specific areas under the skin, into the muscles and also includes the fat that protects the internal organs. The amount of subcutaneous fat may over time be constant while the visceral and intramuscular fat may well increase as we age.
Men and women are more or less equal if we look at proportions of stored fat. Even this type is, to a certain extent, necessary, but most of our stored fat is superfluous and mainly a consequence of unhealthy weight gain.
Neither too little nor too much fat is desirable. Where the fat is located is also of great importance.
When our fat percentage exceeds the recommended levels, we risk developing cardiac problems, hypertension, gallstones, sleep apnea, diabetes and some types of cancer, among other things. At the same time the levels may be too low. This applies to both men and women. For example, if a man has a lower value than 3-4% of essential fat, various illnesses and chronic fatigue may be two direct consequences.
There are several guidelines that you can take a look at if you are interested in the recommended percentage of body fat. On Wikipedia (LINK) you will find the following ranges:
12-14% starvation limit
14-20% very skinny
30% – obesity
2-4% starvation limit
4-8% very skinny
24% – obesity
In my personal opinion, it is not entirely risk-free to establish that a specific percentage is healthy or harmful. In particular as active individuals with an extra load of stored fat may be more healthy than thin, inactive persons, in several aspects. These numbers, however, helps us understand the basics through generalizing.
Hometown: Gothenburg, Sweden
Primary focus: Overall fitness, bodybuilding, injury prevention and rehabilitation
General info: Linda Ericson is a passionate personal trainer with deep awareness of the advantages and rewards of physical therapy. With several years worth of experience she is devoting every day to help individuals strive to achieve their personal goals, at all fitness levels.
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