Body composition is a better measure of your body's health than weight alone. You may be a normal weight for your height but carrying too many of those pounds in the form of fat, and having too much fat puts you at risk for chronic disease. A healthy 30-year-old man should have anywhere from 5 to 22 percent fat, depending on his goals, body type and lifestyle. The leaner you are, the more fit and muscular you'll appear, but the stricter you'll have to be with your diet and exercise routine. A man of any age needs to have a minimum amount of fat -- called essential fat -- to maintain good health.
What Is Body Fat?
Your body consists of lean tissue and fat mass. Lean tissue includes muscle mass, as well as other essential non-fatty tissue such as bones, connective tissue and internal organs.
A man's fat is divided into essential and storage fat. Essential fat supports the function and structure of your internal organs, bone marrow and central nervous system. Storage fat is what pads the belly and lies just under your skin. Storage fat helps you with temperature regulation and vitamin absorption, and it cushions your bones and internal organs. An abundance of storage fat, however, puts you at risk for metabolic conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Men have about 2 to 5 percent essential fat, which is considerably lower than women, who have between 10 to 13 percent essential fat due to the needs of childbearing.
Healthy Body Fat For a 30-Year-Old Male
An athletic 30-year-old man may have between 6 and 15 percent fat. Athletes tend to fall into this lower range because carrying less extra fat helps them with performance, and a leaner body fat level makes him look more muscular and defined, too. If you don't have performance goals, such as appearing in a bodybuilding competition, achieving a body fat below 8 percent affords no additional health benefits.
A 30-year-old man with body fat between 15 and 22 percent can still be healthy. These levels are unlikely to be of concern to your doctor, unless you're carrying a lot of weight around your abdomen or have a family history of chronic disease.
High Body Fat in Men
While some 30-year-old men may carry 20 to 22 percent fat without any health implications, this amount may cause you to have low energy and make you more vulnerable to health conditions. Mayo Clinic researchers presented evidence at the 2008 American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session in Chicago showing that men with more than 20 percent body fat were at increased risk for metabolic syndrome and other conditions associated with obesity, even if they were of normal weight. Greater than 25 percent fat in a man is considered living with obesity.
How to Maintain Healthy Body Fat Levels
If you need to lose body fat to reach a healthy range, decrease your calorie intake and increase physical activity. If you lose weight without exercise, 25 percent of every pound lost comes from muscle tissue. Along with moderate-intensity cardio and a few weekly sessions of high-intensity interval training -- alternating short bouts of very hard work with short bouts of rest -- weight training is essential to changing your body composition.
When you reduce calories, make the calories you do eat come primarily from lean protein, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruit. Eating as much as 0.55 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily can help support efforts to build muscle. Limit your intake of alcohol, processed foods and sugary treats.
- University of New Mexico: Understanding Body Composition
- American Council on Exercise: What are the Guidelines for Percentage of Body Fat Loss?
- Penn Rec: Body Composition Information and FAQs Sheet
- Today's Dietitian: When Thin is Fat
- Precision Nutrition: The Cost of Getting Lean
- University of California, Los Angeles, LifeEd: Protein