How To Calculate Body Fat Percentage: Your Roadmap To 10% Body Fat

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  • Calculate Body Fat Percentage
  • What Is Body Fat Percentage?
  • Body Composition
  • Essential Fat
  • Subcutaneous Fat
  • Calculate Body Fat Percentage With BMI?
  • Chart To Calculate Body Fat Percentage
  • Calculate Ideal Body Fat Percentage
  • How To Calculate Body Fat Percentage
  • Calculate Body Fat Percentage With Calipers
  • Bioeletrical Impedance Analysis
  • Underwater Weighing
  • Body Fat Percentage Calculator
  • Goal Body Fat Percentage
  • Current Lean Body Mass
  • How Much Time Will It Take?
  • How Much Weight Should I Lose?

Calculate Body Fat Percentage

Do you ever see those men and women with extremely lean, muscular and ripped physiques? Usually models and body-builders, right? Or maybe you’re thinking to yourself that only early twenty- somethings can get away with eating whatever they want have that body. That’s not always true. The math doesn’t lie. Learn how to calculate body fat percentage. We’ll show you how to calculate ideal body fat percentage, and how to calculate body fat percentage loss so you can get to the number you want.

We’ll show you a simple formula, plugging in your own measurements to calculate body fat percentage now, how long it will take to reach your goal and how much weight you need to lose in order to achieve that goal.

The only catch is that once the plan is in place you will be responsible for putting in the work to get there.

The motto here is “simple, but not easy”.

First, we’ll talk about how to calculate your current body fat percentage, choose a goal body fat percentage, what weight you’d need to get down to at that body fat percentage and how long it will take.

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What Is Body Fat Percentage?

When talking about body fat it’s important to know, and understand, the difference between weight and body fat. These terms tend to be thrown around interchangeably, but there are really two different things when it comes to the composition of your body.Body weight, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad.Body weight could be mostly made up of lean muscle in some cases. Two men with the same body weight of 200 lbs could look drastically different depending on what is making up that 200 lb body weight. Fat or lean muscle.

This is why we focus on body fat, and what percentage of your body weight is made up of fat. Getting rid of the fat and not the lean muscle you already have is the key to the awesome “ripped” look that you want.

Body Composition

Our body composition is made up of bones, muscles, fat, water and organs. This sum total is what makes up your total body weight.

Putting aside the water, bones, muscles and organs and just looking at the fat here. However, is all fat considered “bad”. Actually, no it’s not.

In fact, your body needs a certain percentage of essential fat just to keep you alive!

Essential Fat

This essential fat does serve a purpose. The essential fat or visceral fat, surrounds your internal organs, particularly those in your abdominal region, i.e. the pancreas, liver and intestines. It acts to cushion the organs and even help regulate body temperature.

Buuuut, of course with anything, you can’t have too much of a good thing. You can have too much visceral fat, and that in of itself can cause health problems.

Also, there really is not an easy way to know how much visceral fat or essential fat you actually have, because it is stored deep in your body. An MRI is the most effective way to measure this.

Subcutaneous Fat

We mostly will concentrate on what is called “subcutaneous fat”. This is the fat that you can see. This is the beer gut, or the “wings” of fat underneath your arms, for example. Subcutaneous fat is stored just under the skin.

We won’t worry so much about the visceral fat as we determine overall body fat percentage and how to reduce overall body fat percentage. Losing body fat in and of itself will take case of the excess for us.

Just be aware that you can’t, and shouldn’t ever be at 0% body fat.

Men and women are of course different too in their essential fat needs.

Men should not be lower than 2 to 5 percent body fat and women should be no lower than 10 to 13 percent.

It’s important to keep this in mind. Not only to keep expectations realistic, but to also stay safe and healthy.

From here on out, we will focus on the subcutaneous fat, learning how to calculate it and what can be done to reduce it.

Calculate Body Fat Percentage With BMI?
You have probably heard of BMI, or Body Mass Index. Actually, you’ve most likely had yours taken before too. Here is a quick breakdown:The body mass index divides a person’s weight by the square of their height. This number is measured against a category range that will tell you whether you are underweight, normal or obese.Check out this quick BMI calculator to see where you fall. This tool will also give you a break down of total daily energy expenditure and macronutrient levels for your goals

BMI is good for a quick overview, for the average person to know where they fall on this scale for their age, weight and height. However, BMI has its flaws. A high BMI could put a person into the “obese” category, when really, they aren’t obese at all.


Because BMI does not account for muscle mass in the body. BMI treats muscle as if it is body fat when determining where you fall on the scale.

For example, Lebron James when measured on the BMI scale is considered “overweight”. Tom Brady? Also, overweight.

Muscle will weigh 15-20 percent more than the same amount of fat. This is where BMI is skewed, and therefore, not an accurate way to measure body fat percentage as compared to lean muscle composition.

While we’re on the subject of BMI, muscle mass and body fat, take a look at the Fit Track Dara Smart Scale. The smart scale will measure, track and trend your body vitals using 17 different health measurements like muscle mass, fat mass and bone mass. We here at Guardian-Elite Fitness use this and highly recommend.

Chart To Calculate Body Fat Percentage

There are many different ways to actually measure your current body fat percentage. We will get to that in a moment, but first, it’s important to actually see what ranges of body fat percentage look like.

You can use these visual estimates to determine where you currently are at. This will give you a good starting point to know right away where you’re at for your body fat percentage.

This resource will show you both men and women.

Calculate Ideal Body Fat Percentage

We’ve talked about the differences between men and women when it comes to body fat percentages. Women will need more body fat to be healthy, and men can expect lower body fat percentages and still be healthy.

There are five different category descriptions for different ranges of body fat percentages, according to the American Council on Exercise:

Description                  Women                  Men

Essential Fat               10-13%                  2-5%
Athletes                       14-20%                 6-13%
Fitness                         21-24%                14-17%
Acceptable                   25-31%                18-24%
Obesity                        >32%                    >25%

How To Calculate Body Fat Percentage

There are several ways to calculate body fat percentage. Some are more accurate than others, and as you can guess, the most accurate methods are pretty expensive and hard to come by.But, there are different things you can try yourself. I want to show you how to calculate your own body fat percentage. First though, here are some of the methods used to calculate body fat percentage.
Calculate Body Fat Percentage With Calipers

Skinfold calipers are used to measure that subcutaneous fat that we talked about earlier. The calipers themselves look like two hooks that squeeze your fat in different locations. Those measurements are then used to determine what your body fat percentage is.

There are different points for both men and women where the measurements are to be taken. If you are interested in this method, here is a detailed post with instructions from muscleandstrength.com

Also, interested in a good set of calipers? Here is what we recommend:


Bioeletrical Impedance Analysis

This device is used to determine your body composition and from that measurement, ascertain what your body fat percentage is.

This small machine is meant to be handheld, with both hands. There are two electrodes in the grips. The BIA sends a small electrical current through your body, and measures the impedance as it travels through your body. The electrical current will be impeded differently as it passes through different tissue, water, muscle, bones, etc. The body fat estimate is taken from this electrical current.

You can get a BIA yourself to try. Here is what we recommend:

Underwater Weighing

As you can probably guess, underwater weighing is done by weighing the body while it’s suspended in a tank of water. This is used to determine body composition. They first take your dry weight, before completely submerging your body into the tank of water.

The advantage of this method is that it is fairly accurate way to measure the density of the body. However, everyday people don’t have access to the equipment required to make this type of measurement.

Body Fat Percentage Calculator

There are couple different ways to go about determining what our body fat percentage is.  Nothing will be 100% accurate, but some estimates are more rough than others.

For a quick and easy estimate of your own percentage, take a look at some representations of body fat percentages and estimate where you are at:

If you want a more accurate calculation, plug your information into this calculator and see where you stack up.It’s important to have a starting point for body fat percentage so we can calculate how much weight to lose, to achieve a goal body fat percentage. We can also determine how long it will take.
Goal Body Fat Percentage

Now that we know what our starting point for body fat percentage, we can define what the goal is.

Using myself as an example, I’ve used the pictures and calculator and estimated 14% body fat percentage. That puts me in the fitness range as we outlined in the body fat percentage chart earlier.

My goal, is to get down to 10% body fat. Now that I have a goal in mind, let’s take a closer look at what that means.

Current Lean Body Mass

We have a percentage for body fat, but what about lean body mass?We can imagine this. If you were able to take away all of the fat on your body, what is left is what we would call your lean body mass.To do this, take your current weight x (1-% body fat).

In my case, I weigh 184 lbs. and estimate my body fat percentage to be 14%, then using the formula we know (1-0.14) = 86%.

184 (0.82) leaves me with 158 pounds of lean body mass.

The next piece of information we want to know, is what is your goal lean body mass? Before we do this, a quick note:

If you are eating in a calorie deficit and losing weight, you are going to lose some lean body mass (muscle) in addition to the body fat. There’s no way around this. A protein-based diet and work in the gym will mitigate this loss.

Now to determine goal lean body mass.

For our example, we will assume I’ll keep 98% of my current lean body mass over the course of the fat loss plan. Here is our calculation for our 184 lb. person, with a lean body mass of 158 lbs.

We multiply 158 x .98= goal lean body mass of 155 lbs. This is my lean body mass.

At this point, we can calculate goal weight. I’ve decided on a goal of 10% body fat, I want to divide my goal lean body mass—155/ (1-.10).

Breaking this down:

155 goal lean body mass is divided .90. This figures out to approximately 172 lbs. That would be my goal body weight in order for a 184 lb. person at 14% body fat to be at 10% body fat percentage.

Lean Body Mass=current weight x (1-current body fat %)

Goal Lean Body Mass= Lean Body Mass x .98

Goal Weight= Goal Lean Body Mass/Goal Body Fat Percentage. Example: 155/(1-.10)

How Much Time Will It Take?

Now that we know where we are currently, and what the goal is, we need to determine how long it will take to reach that goal. Remember, this is a slow and steady process. This is not a quick and easy process.Weight loss recommendations are only 0.5 to 2.0 lbs. per week. We know that a pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories.Dividing by seven days in a week, your calorie deficit will be 250 per day (at .5 pounds per week) to 1000 per day (at 2.0 pounds per week).

Lose ½ pound per week= 1750 calories/7 equals 250 calorie deficit per day

Lose 1 pound per week=3500 calories/7 equals 500 calorie deficit per day

Lose 1.5 pounds per week=5250 calories/7 equals 750 calorie deficit per day

Lose 2.0 pounds per week=7000 calories/7 equals 1000 calorie deficit per day

How Much Weight Should I Lose?

Using my current weight (184 lbs.) and subtracting from the calculated goal weight (172 lbs.). We know I need to lose 12 pounds total to reach my goal of 10% body fat.

I’ll choose a middle of the road rate of weight loss, we will say 1.0 pound per week.

Of course, that means if I lose 1.0 lb. per week, it will take you 12 weeks to reach my goal.

How to know that you are in a caloric deficit? To know that you’re eating in a caloric deficit, you need to know your total daily energy expenditure.

TDEE is the number of calories per day that your body needs in order to neither gain, nor lose weight.

In order to do this, subtract 500 from maintenance level and you have the goal daily calorie intake you must eat each day, in order to lose 1 pound per week for 12 weeks or 3 months.

Related: What Are Macronutrients, And How To Start Counting Macros For Weight Loss?

Another general rule of thumb to follow if you don’t know what your weekly rate of weight loss should be, is 0.5% to 1.0% of your current body weight.


At this point, you should know these items:

What body fat percentage is
What BMI is and how it’s different
Ways to calculate current body fat percentage and current lean body mass
How to calculate goal body fat percentage and goal lean body mass
Calculate how much time it will take to reach your goal body fat percentage
Calculate how much weight you need to lose to reach goal body fat percentage

Finally, using all this information together, not only can you determine where you are currently at, but make a plan to reach your goal.

It’s easy to say, I want to have abs and 10% body fat. However, if you actually have a customized plan to achieve that goal it can actually be an attainable goal!




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