What Should a Man's Body Fat Percentage Be?

Athletic man working his chest
A muscular man is weight lifting in the gym. (Image: xalanx/iStock/Getty Images)

Your body fat percentage indicates how much of your body weight is fat. Body fat percentage helps you determine your overall fitness level, regardless of your size or body type. For men, the ideal percentage of body fat depends on their activity level and age.

Fat Types

There are two main types of fat in the body, SportsFitnessAdvisor.com explains, and each plays a specific role in your body. Because "essential" body fat is the fat needed for the body to function properly, if your body fat falls below the essential body fat percentage levels, your health may be compromised. "Storage" body fat, on the other hand, sits just under the skin. A certain amount of this fat is also needed for insulation and protection of organs.

General Guidelines

For men, essential body fat comprises between 2 and 5 percent of body mass. Essential body fat is the minimum amount of fat the body needs to properly function. Ideally athletes will have between 6 and 13 percent body fat, the American Council on Exercise explains. Between 14 and 17 percent of body fat is considered ideal for fitness for non-athletes, with the average body fat percentage for men being between 18 and 24 percent.

Age

One factor to consider when determining ideal body fat percentages is age. Basically, as you get older, extra fat provides energy reserves that can help you withstand disease. Consequently, the minimum body fat percentages are 8 percent for men ages 40 and under, 11 percent for men between the age of 41 and 60 and 13 percent for men 61 and over, WeightLossForAll.com explains.

Calculations

You can calculate body fat percentages in several ways. One common method involves measuring the circumference of many different parts of the body, including the waist, hips and neck, as well as overall height. Other methods of determining body fat percentages include measuring the ability of light to pass through different portions of the body and measuring the size of several different skin folds. Body fat percentage can also be measured by comparing a person's weight to their volume, which can be calculated by submerging the individual in water.

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