Body Fat Percentage Pictures and How to Measure

Mihai Voinea
Medically reviewed by Mihai Voinea Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) — Research analysis by Alex Eriksson

If you want to optimize your health and physique, you must be aware of your body composition. This can be done as you read this article through the use of body fat percentage pictures.

Your body fat percentage can be a more effective marker of your overall health and fitness than the BMI (body mass index).


Body fat measurement provides you with the information beyond the usual consideration of weight and height. It takes into account how much fat you have and how much of your total weight is muscle.

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Body Fat Percentage Basics

Your body fat percentage is the percentage of your body’s mass that consists of fat. This means, if you are 180 pounds and you have 10 percent estimated body fat, you have 20 pounds of body fat in your body. This amount includes the fat under your skin (subcutaneous), in your muscles (visceral), and between your muscles (intramuscular).

This is often measured to optimize the aesthetic appeal of one’s body because the lower your body fat percentage, the more defined your muscles look. Moreover, the percentage of body fat can provide you with a measure of your health. It can determine your risk for certain diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer, chronic inflammation, and heart disease.

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Body Fat Percentage Pictures to Use for Estimating Body Fat

You can estimate your body fat percentage by comparing your physique to pictures of people who know their amount of body fat. This is the easiest way to get a measure of your body fat.

All you have to do is take a look at the pictures of people in varying body fat percentages. These images can provide you a rough idea of how much visceral fat you have.

However, this is not as accurate as methods that use measurement tools. Also, muscle mass and your unique physique would make a significant difference on how you look at a certain body fat percentage.

This is why visual estimation should go beyond comparing how your body looks compared to different body fat percentage pictures. You should also know the defining characteristics of a body in certain ranges of body fat percentage. Here are the characteristics you should be aware of:

  • Muscle Striations: These are the tiny grooves present in skeletal muscles. These grooves are more pronounced during muscle contraction.
  • Vascularity: When the muscle contracts and has a prominent amount of mass, it can push the veins out towards the skin. Vascularity is the degree of visibility these veins have on the physique of an individual.

Below are some of the images of what different amounts of body look like. There’s also further information as to the characteristics of your physique in different ranges of body fat percentage.

Less Than 5% Body Fat

5 bodyfat example 1
5 bodyfat example 2

With this amount of body fat, vascularity is at its highest. Muscle striation can be visible without flexing. Lower abdominals show prominent vascularity.


5-8% Body Fat

5-8 bodyfat example 1

The abdominal muscles feature a clear cut definition. There is an evident definition of the intercostal muscles and the upper abdominal muscles. The lower abdominal muscles have a softer definition that the upper portion.


8-10% Body Fat

8-10 bodyfat example 1

The abdominal muscles do not have four deep wedges in between. Vascularity is only present on the arms and shoulders. The face is defined.


10-13% Body Fat

10-13 bodyfat example 1

The abdominal muscles have a soft definition. There’s a thin separation between the abdominal and oblique muscles.


14-16% Body Fat

There may be soft definitions on the abdominals. There is little vascularity and veins are only confined on the arm muscles. You can pinch fat on the lower abs and lower back portion of the body.


16-19% Body Fat

16-19 bodyfat example 1

There is no definition of the abdominal muscles and a slight pot is visible on the lower abdominal area. With good muscle mass, the physique looks full and thick.


20-24% Body Fat

20-27 bodyfat example 1

The waist has the same width as the lower abdominals. There are prominent love handles. There is a protrusion of the belly.


25-30% Body Fat

25-30 bodyfat example 1

The belly has a considerable hang and the waist wider than the back.


More Than 30% Body Fat

30 bodyfat example 1
30 bodyfat example 2
30 bodyfat example 3

There is fat on the chest, back, and neck area.


These images are just estimations. In measuring body fat percentage, pictures are not entirely reliable. How body fat looks is affected by factors such as body fat distribution, ethnicity and genetics, body shape, muscle mass, and age.

For this reason, if you are looking to accurately get your body fat percentage, it is best to use methods used by medical practitioners and researchers.


More Accurate Ways of Measuring Body Fat Percentage

BIA Scales

A BIA or bioelectrical impedance analysis scale utilizes electrodes to run low-level electrical currents through your body. These electrical currents are resisted by your body’s tissues and how much is resisted wil indicate the estimated amount of water in your body.

This amount of water can then be used to estimate fat free mass and body fat percentage.

There are consumer grade and clinical grade BIA scales in the market. Consumer grade scales are not always accurate. Clinical scales, however, are very expensive.

Moreover, only BIA scales are used to get body fat averages of groups in clinical studies. This shows how much researchers value the accuracy of this method.

Circumference Method

The circumference of the waist and neck are measured with a tape measure. When measuring, the tape measure should not squeeze into the body but snug enough that it is making contact all along the body part.

The measurements would then replace the values in the equation below:

Body Fat % = [86.010 x Log10 (waist – neck)] – [70.041 x Log10 (height) +36.76

For an easier way of calculating this, you can refer to online Navy Tape Measure method calculators.

The result would be the estimate of your body fat percentage. But, like any estimate, accuracy is not very high in providing information on how much body fat you have.

Skinfold Testing

This method involves the use of calipers to measure the thickness of skinfolds on multiple points of the body. For men, the areas measured are the chest, abdomen, and thigh areas.

The readings from the measurement are then entered into a formula. It is easier to use online Jackson/Pollock 3-Point Method calculators in doing the calculations.

There are other methods available under this method. But, the 3-point method provides the most accurate body fat percentage and has the least margin of error.

As for its general accuracy, it is not recommended for estimating the body fat percentage of children and pre-puberty indviduals.

DEXA Scan

Also known as Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry, it is one of the two most accurate ways to measure body fat percentage. It detects the fat and lean mass of an individual from every portion of your body. DEXA scan detects subcutaneous fat, visceral fat, and intramuscular fat. It can also tell how lean and fat mass is distributed all over your body.

Hydrostatic Weighing

Hydrostatic weighing is the other way to get the most accurate measure of body fat percentage. In this method, you are submerged into a water tank with a scale at the bottom.

A test administrator would take note how much water your body is displacing and your weight according to the underwater scale. With the displaced water equivalent to your body’s volume, the administrator would then calculate your body’s density using your weight in and out of the water. The result of this calculation could then be used to calculate for the estimate of your body fat percentage.


The Key to Proper Measurement and Tracking

The objective of measuring anything is to keep track of changes over a period of time. This is why each of your measurements should be dependable. Therefore, when measuring your body fat percentage, you have to keep things consistent and minimize variables that may affect the results.

This means you have to use the same test for your periodic measurements. In addition, when you are testing, you have to test the same way every time you take your measurements. You have to use the same machine and facility in DEXA or Hydrostatic weighing, and the same points in skinfold testing.

Moreover, you have to take your measurements on the same time of day (preferably first thing in the morning when you have not eaten yet for the day). You also have to test on days after a night of drinking or a day of cheat meals.


The Ideal Body Fat Percentage

From a health perspective, there are two factors that determine the ideal body fat percentage. These are ones gender and age.

For men, a healthy body fat percentage ranges from 8 to 20%. Twenty to twenty-five percent of body fat weight is considered to be above healthy standard. Body fat exceeding 25% of your body weight increases your chances for various health risks and is considered under the obese category.

However, as you age, the range for healthy body fat levels increases. For men aged 40 to 59, a normal body fat percentage amounts to 11 to 22% of their total body weight. For men aged 60 to 79 years, the normal body fat percentage is around 13 to 25% of their body weight.

When you’re keeping track of your body fat percentage, it is important to have a more relaxed approach in maintaining it. You cannot maintain a certain percentage at all times.

At best, you would be shuttling within a certain range of body fat as your body is continuously storing and metabolizing fat through the course of the day. This is why bodybuilders would often estimate and would just aim to stay at a certain range of body fat. It is for this reason body fat percentage pictures are arranged within a range and not at a specific amount.

Although you can stick to using body fat percentage pictures as your reference, it is advised to get measuring tools to determine your body fat percentage. These are more accurate and would be more reliable in tracking your progress. With the different approaches we have introduced, you have a variety of options that can suit your preferences.


author
Alex Eriksson (Research Analysis)

Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research-backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals.

author
Mihai Voinea (Editor)

Mihai is a medical doctor and entrepreneur with a burning obsession for performance and health. Mihai is also an IronMan, ultramarathon runner, and co-founder of Marsilian, which owns two e-learning platforms for future medical students and doctors.





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