What is too high body fat percentage?
Subcutaneous fat is fat that you can pinch. It’s found just under your skin. Some subcutaneous fat is good for your body and helps protect it. But too much body fat overall can lead to serious health issues including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and more. The best way to lose excess subcutaneous fat is with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
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What is subcutaneous fat?
Subcutaneous fat is a type of fat that’s stored just beneath your skin. Your skin is made up of three layers – the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is the deepest layer of your skin. It serves many functions. Subcutaneous fat:
- Pads your muscles and bones to protect you from bumps and falls.
- Helps your blood vessels and nerves get from your skin to your muscles.
- Controls your body temperature, making sure you don’t get too warm or too cold.
- Attaches your middle layer of skin (dermis) to your muscles and bones with special connective tissue.
What’s the difference between subcutaneous fat and visceral fat?
Visceral fat is fat that lies deep within your abdominal organs and can’t be seen from the outside. It surrounds your stomach, liver, intestines and other important organs. Subcutaneous fat is different. Subcutaneous fat is the fat just under your skin. It’s the kind that you can grab and pinch between your fingers. Subcutaneous fat collects mainly around your hips, butt, thighs and belly.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes subcutaneous fat?
Genetics determine the amount of subcutaneous fat you start with – everyone has some. Environmental factors play an important role in how much subcutaneous fat you develop over time.
A non-healthy diet with high amounts of fatty foods and an inactive lifestyle are the main environmental factors that can contribute to an increase in subcutaneous fat. You may also have more subcutaneous fat if you have low muscle mass and don’t do any aerobic activity. If you have diabetes or are insulin resistant, you may have higher levels of subcutaneous fat as well.
What are the health risks of too much subcutaneous fat?
Some subcutaneous fat is good for your body. It protects your body, serves as an energy reserve and has many other functions. However, too much subcutaneous fat can be unhealthy. If you have too much subcutaneous fat, it’s often a sign that you have too much visceral fat. Too much visceral fat can lead to serious health issues such as:
- Certain cancers: Extra fat raises your risk of developing some cancers.
- Fatty liver diseases: Fatty liver diseases are conditions in which fat builds up in your liver.
- Gallbladder diseases: Gallbladder diseases include gallstones that can lead to inflammation of your gallbladder (cholecystitis).
- Heart disease: Heart disease means you have a problem with your heart.
- High blood pressure (hypertension): High blood pressure happens when blood flows through your blood vessels with greater force than normal.
- Kidney disease: Kidney disease occurs when your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood as they should.
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes pain, swelling and reduced motion in your joints.
- Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a disorder in which you don’t breathe regularly while sleeping.
- Stroke: A stroke can occur when the blood supply to your brain suddenly cuts off due to a blockage or bursting of a blood vessel in your brain or neck.
- Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood sugar is too high.
Diagnosis and Tests
What is a normal subcutaneous fat percentage?
For most people, subcutaneous fat makes up about 90% of their body fat. The remaining 10% makes up visceral fat. There are several ways you can measure your body fat at home:
- Body mass index (BMI): BMI measures your body fat based on your height and weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 may indicate you have overweight. A BMI of 30 or more may indicate obesity.
- Waist circumference: Place a tape measure around your waist just above your hip bones (usually near your belly button). For women, 35 inches or more means you’re at risk for health problems. For men, the number is 40 inches or more.
- Waist-height ratio: Divide your waist circumference by your height. A healthy ratio is no greater than 0.5. This ratio communicates the simple message that you should keep your waist size to less than half of your height.
Management and Treatment
How do you get rid of subcutaneous fat?
The best way to lose subcutaneous fat is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You can lower your subcutaneous fat level by focusing on a fat-burning diet and exercise plan. In addition, getting enough sleep and keeping stress at bay are important for losing subcutaneous fat.
- Diet: Concentrate on eating fewer calories than you burn. Your diet should include lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables. Protein helps you feel full longer. Reduce the number of carbohydrates, sugars, salt and red meat in your diet.
- Exercise: Your body stores energy in subcutaneous fat. You need to burn that energy, which means burning calories. Exercises you can do to burn calories include aerobic activity, strength training, cardio and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT workouts cycle between bursts of intense effort and quick recovery.
- Get a good night’s sleep: Too little sleep increases your hunger and makes you want to reach for high-carb, high-calorie foods. Develop a nighttime routine that includes no screens and no heavy meals right before bed.
- Reduce your stress: Stress activates a hormone called cortisol. Too much cortisol can undermine your ability to lose weight because it tells your body to hold onto the excess fat.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
It’s important to see your healthcare provider regularly. They can track your body fat percentage, including your subcutaneous fat. If you measure your body fat at home and your measurements are higher than recommended, make an appointment to see your provider. They can talk to you about your health risks and recommend a diet and exercise plan that’ll work for you.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Subcutaneous fat is fat that’s found under your skin. Too much subcutaneous fat can be a sign that you have too much visceral fat. Visceral fat lies deep within your abdominal cavity and surrounds your organs. Too much fat can have harmful effects on your health. By maintaining a healthy diet and keeping up with regular exercise, you can burn calories and shed the subcutaneous fat your body is storing. If you suspect you may have too much subcutaneous fat, talk to your healthcare provider. They can talk to you about your health risks and recommend a diet and exercise plan that’ll work for you.
How to Calculate Your Ideal Body Fat Percentage
Many of us ask the question, «what body fat percentage am I?», but do any of us really know what body fat percentage is or how to calculate it? Body fat percentage is the percentage of your weight that is made up of fat. It consists of both storage body fat and essential body fat. There are several ways in calculating body fat percentage, including bioelectrical impedance analysis, skin-fold methods and other anthropometric methods, or methods involving the circumference of various body parts. Here’s a method to calculate your body fat using only your scale and a calculator.
Step 1: Know the recommended/average body fat percentage ranges
First, you must consider variables such as body type, heredity, age, activity and gender. For instance, the range for a healthy body fat percentage in women tends to be higher than that of men, as women need more body fat. A certain amount of fat is important for bodily functions. It regulates your body temperature, cushions organs and tissues, and is the main form of your body’s energy storage. So it’s important to have neither too much nor too little body fat. If you’d like to try and reduce your body fat percentage, consider a new Yoga or Pilates class. Mayo Clinic staff, as well as other health professionals, list the following age-adjusted body fat percentile recommendations:
- 20-40 yrs old: Underfat: under 21 percent, Healthy: 21-33 percent, Overweight: 33-39 percent, Obese: Over 39 percent
- 41-60 yrs old: Underfat: under 23 percent, Healthy: 23-35 percent, Overweight : 35-40 percent Obese: over 40 percent
- 61-79 yrs old: Underfat: under 24 percent, Healthy: 24-36 percent, Overweight: 36-42 percent, Obese: over 42 percent
- 20-40 yrs old: Underfat: under 8 percent, Healthy: 8-19 percent, Overweight: 19-25 percent, Obese: over 25 percent
- 41-60 yrs old: Underfat: under 11 percent, Healthy: 11-22 percent, Overweight: 22-27 percent, Obese: over 27 percent
- 61-79 yrs old: Underfat: under 13 percent, Healthy: 13-25 percent, Overweight: 25-30 percent, Obese: over 30 percent
Step 2: Weigh yourself
Obtain as accurate a body weight as possible. Different scales often give different numbers, and depending on the time of day you weigh yourself, your numbers may vary. Try weighing yourself on the same scale at approximately the same time of day over a few days to get an average of your body weight.
Step 3: Calculate your body mass index (BMI)
You can easily calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared, and then multiplying by a conversion factor of 703. Using the example of a 150-pound person who is five feet five inches (or 65 inches), the calculation would look like this: [150 ÷ (65)²] x 703 = 24.96
Step 4: Calculating body fat percentage
According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 1991, if you are an adult, your percentage of body fat can be estimated as accurately as with skin-fold measurements and bioelectrical tests using the following gender-based formulas in conjunction with your BMI. This calculation has been shown to slightly overestimate body fat percentage in people who are very overweight. Take your BMI result from Step 3 and plug it into the appropriate formula below to calculate your body fat percentage.
- (1.20 x BMI) + (0.23 x Age) — 5.4 = Body Fat Percentage
- (1.20 x BMI) + (0.23 x Age) — 16.2 = Body Fat Percentage
Step 5: Compare your body fat percentage to the percentiles listed in Step 1
After learning how to calculate average body fat percentage, take a moment to compare the result you got in Step 4 to the body fat percentiles in Step 1. Comparing your results with these numbers should give you a good indication of how close or how far you may be from your ideal body fat percentage.
If your BMI or body fat percentage is higher than what you want it to be, a slight change in your lifestyle or workout routine can make a big difference, and having the right equipment enhances the effects to help you achieve the body you want.
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Why It’s Important to Pay Attention to Excess Fat
Ashley King , a professional trainer, fitness and nutritional expert with Yes.Fit says, «Paying attention to weight gain is critical, because the more you gain, the more difficult it is to lose it. Don’t fall off the deep end — catching early weight gain is the best way to solve the problem at the root. Bouncing back and forth across extreme weight loss and gain is bad for cardiovascular and digestive health, which is why it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your weight.» 6254a4d1642c605c54bf1cab17d50f1e
How to Measure Your Fat
Jordan Trinagel , a licensed occupational therapist and online health coach states, «BMI isn’t the greatest measurement because it doesn’t take into account muscle mass. So it may say you are ‘obese’ but really you just have a lot of muscle. I would focus on waist to hip ratio. Making sure your waist is smaller than your hips Because if you carry more weight around your midsection it can increase chances of heart disease. Measuring body fat can be done using a body scan machine or hand held caliper device. Over 24% for men and over 31% for women is too much fat.»
Erin Mahoney , a personal trainer and fitness textbook author explains, «The most common method people use for assessing fat and if you have too much fat inside you is through the Body Mass Index, or BMI. The BMI is a calculation based completely off your height and weight. Any number over 30 is considered obese, with anything above 50 being very obese with very high disease risk. As long as you know your height and weight there are many online calculators you can use to quickly get your BMI.
However, the BMI isn’t the best way of assessing visceral fat because it doesn’t take into account the weight of lean body mass. Lean body mass (LBM) is simply muscle tissue and because it’s denser, it weighs more than fat by about 25% in some cases. Therefore, a very muscular person might appear as though they are scoring in the danger zone of BMI. Therefore, a better method to determine if you have too much fat inside you is through a body composition analysis (or body fat test). This will determine what percentage is muscle versus fat—a better indicator of overall health. «
Body Composition Testing
Mahoney says, «Body composition testing can sometimes be inconvenient where you need a fitness professional to measure it, special device (that can vary), or multiple circumference measurements. Therefore, a more convenient and great way to determine if you have too much fat in you is the waist to hip ratio method. It’s a simple calculation of the circumference measurements from two sites- your waist and hips. You’ll measure the smallest part of your waist, without pulling your stomach in. Then, you’ll measure the widest part of your hips. You divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement to get a score. A score of .8 for women and .95 for men is an indicator of too much belly fat and can put you at risk for a number of diseases.can sometimes be inconvenient where you need a fitness professional to measure it, special device (that can vary), or multiple circumference measurements. Therefore, a more convenient and great way to determine if you have too much fat in you is the waist to hip ratio method. It’s a simple calculation of the circumference measurements from two sites- your waist and hips. You’ll measure the smallest part of your waist, without pulling your stomach in. Then, you’ll measure the widest part of your hips. You divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement to get a score. A score of .8 for women and .95 for men is an indicator of too much belly fat and can put you at risk for a number of diseases.»
Weight Gain and Mental Health
According to King , «Unwanted weight gain is directly connected to your mental health. Do you notice yourself not wanting to socialize? If you’re retracting from your connections with the people around you for no apparent reason, this can be a sign that weight gain is affecting your mental health. When your weight gain affects your confidence, it can affect your ability to make healthy connections with the people around you, and it’s crucial to address this in order to maximize your happiness and sociality.»
Self-Esteem and Body Confidence
«You might not notice it, but if you’ve put on unwanted weight, you might gravitate towards more ‘modest’ clothing,» King says. «This is often a subconscious sign that you’re losing self-confidence as a result of body image uncertainty. Self-esteem is beyond important, and if excess fat is affecting your confidence in your own body, it’s time to take action and make changes to your nutrition and exercise routine to bring yourself back to full confidence.»
Upticks in Muscle and Joint Soreness
King states, «If you’re feeling additional aches and pains, your back is tighter, knees are more sore, this can be a sign of weight gain that you might not have otherwise noticed. Even a small amount of excess weight can put additional stress on your joints and muscles, and if you’re noticing additional soreness in the morning or at the end of the day, your body is telling you that it’s time to make a change in routine.»
«Feeling tired? If you think that weight gain might be affecting your energy levels, it probably is,» King explains. «Extra weight means your body must exert more energy to function properly, leaving less left over when it’s needed most. The quickest way to get your energy back is to begin, or revisit a regimented nutrition and exercise regimen — this will help cut excess weight, and give you the momentum to maintain your energy levels throughout the day.»
Changes in Eating Habits
King says, «An uptick in unhealthy eating habits, such as binge eating on comfort foods, not only causes additional weight gain, but signifies an acceptance of it. When excess fat seems difficult to address, don’t self-sabotage with something that will make it worse — take a step towards healthy eating and activity, and your mental and physical health will grow along with it.»
Go With Your Gut Feeling
According to King, «Your gut feeling is almost always right, specifically with regards to weight gain. Many people who have gained unexpected weight will notice an increase in gastrointestinal symptoms, heartburn and bloating. When in doubt, go with your gut — it will tell you precisely what you need, so long as you listen closely.» And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID .
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather