What is the Ideal Body Fat Percentage for a Man?

Healthy body fat percentage for a man

A review of literature indicates that “ideally” the body fat percentage for men should be between 12% and 20%. Furthermore, it is well known that excessive body fat or obesity and weight gain, are associated with increased mortality and morbidity such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, some forms of cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. Thus, the question that should find an answer, is “How can a man determine and reach his best weight or amount of body fat for health?”.


Young Man Measuring Fat Belly With Skinfold measurementThe first step is to determine the body fat percentage. The body mass index (BMI) is commonly used as a surrogate marker for adiposity. However, the BMI indicates weight-for-height without considering differences in body composition and the contribution of body fat to overall body weight. Because of the varying contributions of bone mass, muscle mass, and fluid to body weight, using BMI to classify individuals according to fatness, may result in misclassification. Even so, many methods have been developed for assessing body composition, including radiography, electrical conductance and impedance, hydrostatic weighing etc. Among these methods, which can also be very expensive and invasive, a common technique to assess body composition is the determination through the thickness of the skinfolds. This method is largely used in fitness contests, first of all because the simplicity of its use, but also because it does not require complex instruments.


Male body mass index determination Once the real body fat percentage has been determined, the second step is to calculate the desirable body mass (DBM) with the equation: DBM = free fat mass / (1- fat percentage suggested). From this equation you can define how many kilograms of fat mass you have to lose, to reach your final goal.
This process may seem easy to complete, yet when a person loses weight the challenge is to lose only fat mass and not free-fat mass (FFM). In fact, diet or exercise interventions, must be capable of maintaining FFM or at least attenuating its decline owing to the weight loss. However, in literature a concomitant decline in lean tissue is frequently observed. This is due to the fact that FFM represents a key determinant of the magnitude of resting metabolic rate (RMR) and therefore a decrease in lean tissue could hinder the progress of weight loss.
Moreover, some studies indicate that a combination of caloric restriction and different types of physical training is more suitable than dietary modification alone to induce favorable changes in body composition accompanying weight loss.
In conclusion, to achieve the best percentage of body fat for health a male subject has to change his habits and to follow a personalized diet regimen and physical training, which could determine a quantitative but also qualitative modification in weight.


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• Stiegler P, Cunliffe A. The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Med. 2006;36(3):239-62. Review. PubMed PMID: 16526835.
• Abernathy RP, Black DR. Healthy body weights: an alternative perspective. Am J Clin Nutr. 1996 Mar;63(3 Suppl):448S-451S. Review. PubMed PMID: 8615340.

• Sports medicne
• American journal of clinical nutrition