In the eyes of the wider public, the term ‘fat’ is often considered to be a universally bad thing. It’s associated either with an action – such as ‘getting fat’ – or with a physical bodily change – fat gathering around your stomach, thighs or legs. However, the scientific and nutritional approach to fat is very different. Fat is actually something that is necessary, and body fat in particular plays an important role in everything from ensuring that humans are able to keep enough energy for their body to function to ensuring that the vital organs are operating as they should.
While nobody is denying that too much fat can have adverse health consequences, it’s also the case that not enough fat can cause problems. This article will explore some of the best ways to preserve your body’s fat levels at just the right amount, and how it’s possible to achieve the right level for your overall health.
Do the maths
It might not seem like the most logical first step, but the most important thing to do when you embark on a journey to achieving the right body fat percentage is to get the calculator out! There is a fairly precise formula that you can use to work out exactly what body fat percentage you ought to be aiming for, and it’s helpful to have on hand.
Body fat indices work on the basis of percentage ranges, and can be affected by everything from your gender to your size. First off, you need to find out your weight. You can then use this information to work out your body mass index, or BMI: by dividing your weight (make sure that you use the traditional measurements of pounds) by your height in inches squared, you can multiply the whole thing by 703 to get your BMI. There are then further formulae to follow: you need to add together your BMI multiplied by 1.20 and your age multiplied by 0.23, and then take off 5.4 if you’re a woman and 16.2 if you’re a man. You then have your body fat percentage.
This is where it starts to get complex. If you’re a woman aged between 20 and 40 years old, your body fat figure should really be between 21% and 33%. This goes up slightly, by 1% or 2% each time, as you get older. Healthy ranges for men of the same age are between 8% and 19%, and again creep up by a percentage point or two as you get older. It’s worth exploring these ranges in full so that you can take an informed decision about where you are and what you need to do.
What about diet?
Perhaps the main way to change your body fat percentage is to reduce the amount of fatty foods you eat if you’re overweight, and increase them if you’re underweight. By implementing a weight loss plan in this way, you can start to both sustainably and quickly find a way to get into the healthy range – and stay there.
There are, however, certain foods that are better for gaining extra fat than others: unfortunately, it’s not a case of simply eating any fatty foods you wish! Some tasty foods, such as whole grain bread and dairy, are often recommended. Fatty items that are low in calories but high in sugar, such as soda, should be avoided.
An exercise plan
If you’re finding that you’re a little bit over the threshold when it comes to body fat, then it may be worth coming up with an exercise plan. While exercise is certainly not the be-all and end-all (and is not necessarily a good substitute for changing your diet), it’s worth building it into an overall strategy for body fat reduction. Fat loss can be assisted through cardiovascular exercise, which helps your heart to work faster, but all sorts of prominent exercise types, such as running and swimming, can also help you.
Body fat, then, is certainly not something to be avoided at all costs – despite what the mass media and received wisdom might tell you. In fact, getting the right level of body fat is important for all kinds of health purposes. From getting the maths right to ensuring that you eat and exercise well, there are plenty of ways that you can be sure to get the perfect balance and maintain your health for a long time to come.