health InBody Blog News Nutrition

Is It Healthy to Have a Low Body Fat Percentage?

Is It Healthy to Have a Low Body Fat Percentage?

Months earlier than a bodybuilding competitors, male bodybuilders often purpose to reduce physique fats as little as Three-Four % physique fats for that shredded look, whereas their feminine counterparts go as little as Eight-9% for that lovely, lean physique.

This has led many to consider that their physique fats ranges ought to fall between the identical percentages as bodybuilders.

Is this wholesome?

The straight reply is not any. Too little physique fats may be as dangerous as having an excessive amount of of it.

It’s true. Ravenous your self for a bikini-ready summer time physique or over exercising for six-pack abs earlier than spring break could be as dangerous as being obese. The truth is, being skinny or lastly getting that flat stomach you’ve seen on Instagram doesn’t essentially imply that you simply’re taking correct care of your physique.

Contemplate this remark in a Reddit bodybuilding thread the place bodybuilding rivals have been requested the way it felt like getting ready for competitors:



Lastly, a feminine who sooner or later was at 9.5 % physique fats shares her expertise:

Lack of power. Feeling depleted. Depressing. Are you noticing a sample?

But all of those responses are anecdotal, proper?

In the event you’re in search of strong info and established analysis findings whether or not it’s wholesome or not to drop your physique fats to single digits, learn on!

On this article, you’re going to study that physique fats isn’t as harmful as you assume it’s, the perfect physique fats ranges, and extra research-backed info on why you must by no means goal for a low physique fats.

Having Low Body Fat Is Unhealthy and Unsustainable

Many have a tendency to assume that physique fats is both good or dangerous for you. However it’s extra complicated than that.

Whereas analysis helps the concept individuals with excessive physique fats ranges are extra possible to develop heart problems and metabolic syndrome, physique fats ranges which are too low usually are not essentially good for you both.  The truth is that there’s extra to physique fats than meets the attention.

Important vs. Storage Fat: What’s the Distinction?

To start out, there are two essential varieties of physique fats: important fats and storage fats.

As its identify implies, important fats performs a essential position in your general well being and mobile processes.  In Train Physiology: Vitamin, Power, and Human Efficiency, important fats is described as,“…the fat in heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, intestines, muscles, and lipid-rich tissue of the central nervous system and bone marrow.”

As metabolic gasoline, important fats makes positive that you’ve adequate power reserves and it helps preserve physique warmth when wanted. It additionally protects your inner organs and joints from damage, appearing as a tender, fluffy cushion.

As chemical messengers, they assist make sure that bodily processes like metabolism, progress, and immune features are going as easily as deliberate. Lastly, important fats performs an necessary position in a lady’s reproductive talents.

Regular bodily features will go haywire if important fats falls under the advisable minimal degree of 5% in males and under 15% in ladies. Ladies have excessive important physique fats ranges as a results of childbearing and reproductive wants.

In the meantime, nonessential or storage fats is amassed physique fats for power reserves. That is the fats that you simply discover in your physique.

What’s Body Fat Proportion?

Put merely, physique fats is the quantity of fats you might have in your physique, excluding your fat-free mass (or lean physique mass). Your fat-free mass is made up of your bones, organs, muscle tissue, and physique water.

Your physique fats proportion (also called % physique fats) displays how a lot of your weight is made up of physique fats. It is calculated by dividing the load of your physique fats mass by your complete weight. At present, there isn’t any official normal for acceptable physique fats proportion values.

The American School of Sports activities Drugs (ACSM) acknowledges a vary of 10-22 % in males and 20-32 % in ladies to scale back well being dangers related to being underfat or overfat. These ranges are centered round the concept the typical % physique fats for ladies is at 23 % whereas males’s are pegged at 15 %.

At InBody USA, we advocate a physique fats proportion vary of 10-20 % for males and 18-28 % for ladies.

How Sure Body Fat Percentages Look in Males and Ladies

Earlier than we undergo the pitfalls of dangerously low physique fats, let’s take a take a look at the next 5 physique fats proportion ranges in each women and men.

Overweight: >25% (Males); >32% (Ladies)

Women and men who fall into this physique fats proportion class are overweight and extra doubtless to have rounder physique shapes. Extra fats might be current in your complete physique — typically concentrated within the stomach space, thighs, and hips.  

People inside this vary of physique fats proportion have an elevated danger of metabolic or heart problems. Weight problems can also be linked to poor vanity in addition to low power ranges.

Overfat: 20-25% (Males); 28-32% (Ladies)

Women and men who fall on this physique fats proportion vary might not have as a lot extra physique weight as these within the overweight class however nonetheless have extra physique fats.

Whereas it’s true that some individuals within the overfat class shall be obese, it’s additionally potential to have a regular or common physique weight however have an excessive amount of physique fats. That is also called sarcopenic weight problems or skinny fats.

Like their overweight counterparts, potential points embrace low power ranges, greater danger of metabolic syndrome and heart problems,  poor vanity due to bodily look, and a shortened life expectancy.

People who find themselves skinny fats are additionally notably weak to well being issues as a result of they’ve comparable physique compositions as people who find themselves obese, however might have only a few visible indicators that may warn them of their well being dangers.

Common Health: 15-20% (Males); 23-28% (Ladies)

Males on this physique fats proportion class are sometimes described as reasonably lean and match. Whereas muscle definition will not be apparent, outlines and striations might barely seem.  A little bit of vascularity could also be current within the arms.

For ladies, this class is neither slim nor obese. With extra physique fats across the thighs and buttocks, curves will start to type within the hips.

Each women and men might have some muscular definition however it might tackle a softer look. Low season athletes sometimes fall on this class. Individuals on this class sometimes take pleasure in excessive power ranges, higher sleep, and good general well being. They could additionally look good in tight becoming garments which in flip leads to higher vanity. Well being points due to extra physique fats are much less doubtless to develop over time.

Athletic Health: 10-15% (Males); 18-23% (Ladies)

Women and men who fall on this physique fats proportion class have the basic seashore physique look. They’re lean, muscular, and clearly match. There’s little fats to pinch and muscle definition is especially apparent within the shoulders, arms, and abs. Skilled athletes might fall into this class.

Vascularity might seem within the arms however it might not as pronounced within the legs amongst males. Ladies with this physique fats proportion might have fats within the legs and arms nevertheless it’s not as apparent than these with greater physique fats percentages.

In addition to wanting actually match, people with this physique fats proportion have a tendency to take pleasure in wonderful general well being and well-being. Additionally they expertise much less cravings due to common bodily exercise and strict adherence to a food regimen that works for them.

Distinctive Health /Bodybuilder Vary: Three-10% (Males); 12-18% (Ladies)

This physique fats proportion class typically consists of bodybuilding rivals and health fashions.

Muscle definition tends to be excessive in each women and men and there’s little or no fats. Bodybuilders, for example, might goal for the acute low finish of this vary on cycles when they’re competing as a result of so as to have a aggressive look, they require subsequent to no physique fats.

That is an extremely troublesome physique composition to keep persistently over time, particularly on the decrease finish of this vary.

You’ll be able to study extra concerning the totally different physique fats proportion ranges in How to Set a Body Composition Aim That’s Proper For You.

Well being Dangers and Risks of Low Body Fat in Grownup Males and Ladies

Males who’ve lower than 6 % physique fats and ladies with lower than 16 % physique fats are thought-about too low. They’re sometimes bodybuilders in contest coaching or health fashions on the day of their photoshoot. These people have gone to nice lengths resembling happening a strict weight-reduction plan and train routine for weeks.

You may be considering that these physique fats proportion ranges are literally wholesome as a result of they’re nonetheless above the important fats values.  

However, not so quick.

In a 12-month case research carried out by the Worldwide Journal of Sports activities Physiological Efficiency, researchers tracked the physique composition and bodily state of a male aggressive bodybuilder whose physique fats proportion was round Four.5 % for competitors.

Researchers indicated that a number of damaging outcomes according to overtraining, similar to decreases in bodily efficiency and discount in immune system perform, had occurred.

A newer investigation confirmed that so as to obtain these extraordinarily low physique fats ranges, these athletes had to depend on steroids and different medicine to assist them obtain their objectives, widespread practices inside the subject of bodybuilding/determine competitors. What’s now turning into clear is that these practices, whereas helpful for serving to attain the specified look, are related to considerably higher danger of coronary heart illness and liver dysfunction.

These athletes went on to clarify that these adverse physiological modifications are unlucky, however crucial, repercussions of aggressive bodybuilding. 

Feminine bodybuilders, however, expertise a further aspect impact of getting a particularly low physique fats proportion — the short-term cease of menstruation or amenorrhea. It varieties one a part of a situation generally known as the Feminine Athlete Triad. 

Moreover, aggressive feminine bodybuilders have been proven to share the identical eating-related habits as these with bulimia. They could shun social occasions that contain eating out and should not have the time for different actions. Feminine bodybuilders may expertise different reproductive and fertility points.

Bodybuilders’ Our bodies Are Not Preferrred

Regardless of their spectacular bodily appearances, bodybuilders would not have a great physique composition.

Their sports activities demand they put their physique by means of stress to the purpose the place regular organic features grow to be impaired. Subsequently, wanting like a bodybuilder shouldn’t be a objective (until you’re a bodybuilder).

Can Low Body Fat Enhance Sports activities Efficiency?

Whereas low ranges of physique fats appear to be related to improved sports activities efficiency, physique composition alone isn’t a nice predictor of athletic success. There’s little proof for any well being profit when males drop underneath Eight % in physique fats and when ladies drop beneath 14 % physique fats.

Moreover, making an attempt to obtain a physique fats proportion that’s comparable to skilled bodybuilding objectives can lead to a slew of well being points and problems like impaired physique thermoregulation, elevated danger of damage, fatigue, lack of muscle tissue, and suboptimal physique efficiency.

The Takeaway: Going Past Body Fat Proportion

Though your physique fats proportion is a vital and helpful metric, counting on it alone won’t give you options or solutions that may enhance your general well being and health.

You’ll need extra particular values than your physique fats proportion and weight reminiscent of your skeletal muscle mass, visceral fats, and even segmental lean evaluation. This won’t solely aid you keep a wholesome physique fats proportion in respect to a wholesome weight,  however it will possibly additionally assist you determine if in case you have muscle imbalances, decreased muscle mass, or will not be consuming sufficient.

Your physique is a very complicated system of particular elements working collectively. Consider physique fats proportion as merely a single tree in a giant forest. It’s necessary to get as a lot info as attainable concerning the well being of the complete forest and never only for one particular tree.


Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that all of it boils down to consuming actual meals.

window.fbAsyncInit = perform()
appId : ”,
autoLogAppEvents : true,
xfbml : true,
model : ‘’

(perform(d, s, id)
var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
js = d.createElement(s); = id;
js.src = ‘’;
fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
(doc, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));