A common goal for anyone who steps foot in the gym is to shed body fat for good. Body fat is the fat that we can see in the mirror. The less body fat we have the more “cuts” you will be able to see. The higher your body fat levels the more fat that is covering our muscles. In order to see cuts you need to shrink the layer of fat that is directly under the skin and that covers our muscles.

How Should You Determine Your Body Fat Percentage?

One of the most accurate and cost effective ways to measure your body fat is with a caliper. There are several other ways to take your body fat. Underwater weighing, dexa scan, bioelectrical impedance machines and calipers. Calipers are designed to clip the body fat and measure the fat under the skin. There are various  pinch tests. I recommend using a four or seven point caliper test. Regardless of whatever method you use the key element is consistency. It matters much less what the body fat number says as long as every time you check your body fat it’s moving in the right direction…down! Try to be as consistent as possible when taking your measurements. Try to do them under the same conditions, for example first thing in the morning after using the restroom. This will eliminate any discrepancies with inconsistencies and fluctuations throughout the day.

What’s the Ideal Range?

muscular abs

Body fat numbers are not generally set in stone. Knowing where you currently are is just another measurement you can use to track progress.

For Men

  • Bodybuilder About to Compete: 3-4 %
  • Really Ripped Ab Look: 8-10%
  • Athletic with Basic Cuts: 12-15%
  • No Cuts: 15%+

For Women

  • Bodybuilder About to Compete: 8-12%
  • Figure Competitors: 15-17%
  • Toned and Lean: 17-20%
  • No cuts: 20%+

These numbers are not the end-all-be-all. Some men have thicker abs then others and their abs may show through the skin at higher body fat levels. Same goes for women, some women hold fat in areas that are not easily seen while others may read really low but have a lot of fat in one area.

What Happens When Body Fat is Too Low? >>

What Happens if you Have a Too Little Body fat?

Just like anything else, too much of anything is never a good idea. Too much body fat and you will have a slew of medical issues but what about the opposite. Can being too low be bad as well? Even though we may not like it body fat is important for our bodies. Fat actually secretes hormones that regulate appetite, insulin sensitivity and control our body weight. Fat is also a form of stored energy acting as a reserve for back up energy. In addition body fat does insulate our bodies acting to keep us warm and also acts as a layer of cushion for our vital organs. Fat also ensures the absorption of Vitamin A, D, E and K.

Aside from those vital important factors, when our body fat is brought down too low you can experience:

  • Hormone issues
  • Low Sex drive
  • High cortisol levels
  • Low energy
  • Slower metabolism resulting in no weight loss
  • Overtraining feeling
  • Consistent feeling of cold

What are the Most Effective Ways Lower Your Body Fat Percentage?

Now that we know the importance of body fat, let’s discuss how we can safely and quickly lower our body fat percentage. When it comes to losing body fat it all boils down to our diet. 80% of what we see in the mirror is based off our nutritional habits. You need to first determine how many calories you are currently taking in. I recommend keeping a detailed food journal for three days. For these three days write down everything you consume (be as honest as you can be). Along with that include the calories, protein, carbs and fats. You want to be able to track these major macronutrients. After you have the daily totals for three days, add the totals together and divide that number by three. That will give us the average amount of calories you are currently consuming.

Let’s say you get an average of 2000 calories a day with 200 grams protein, 50 grams of fat and 310 grams of carbs. This is what it would take for you to maintain your body for where you are now. I recommend deducting 200 calories from the total and begin your fat loss from that point. This will give you a good accurate way to determine your beginning fat loss numbers.

The next vital point is not dropping your calories too low too fast. When you drop your calories too quickly you risk putting your body in a state of reaching metabolic adaptation. Your fat loss will stall out rather quickly if you drop too much too fast. I recommend making small changes every 1-3 weeks. Something as little as dropping 10 grams of carbs can make enough difference to reduce your body fat.

If you’re looking to do this as fast as possible I hate to burst your bubble but fast results do not usually end well. The one thing you need to remember when dieting is that you want to do it to keep fat off. You do not want to diet fat off only for it to return. In order to make fat loss permanent you need to make it a lifestyle. That means following your nutritional plan 24/7 days a week and adjusting as you go. This is why I recommend all my clients utilize a flexible diet approach. Being flexible with your diet is extremely important; it allows you to have the occasional meal with friends or a slice of cake on your birthday without sabotaging your results.