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Is body fat % really a good indicator for goodhealth/fitness?

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  • Is body fat % really a good indicator for goodhealth/fitness?

    This is just a thought experiment and it might be very well the case that I am wrong. I just wondered how much the amount of body fat in a person really tells: Imagine a guy with 27% body fat which is not optimal and a lot of belly fat which might be even dangerous for his heart-health. This guy, after being sedentary for decades, starts a strength routine and focuses on squats/deadlifts (for what ever reasons, this is not about his unbalanced routine). He puts on muscle easily in his lower body and gains, over some months or even a year, about 11 pounds of muscle. Now he is a bit heavier (11 pounds, that is) and his body fat percentage ist, as he managed to gain pure muscle (he didn`t move a lot before) lower as there is more muscle. But he still has this amount of belly fat. Is he healthier now? I am aware that this is an extreme example but I would like to know your opinion.On the other hand there is a body builder who is around 5% of body fat but decides to say good bye to his time consuming (and maybe unhealthy routine). He will lose a lot of muscle, probably the whole amount above what he "naturally" has which puts him at a higher body fat percentage...

  • #2
    Nothing is a perfect measure, if it were we would say healthy = x and all the researchers and physiologists could call it done. Body fat is one item, and a pretty good one in a highly obese culture (5% guy is an outlier), of measure. If you are 50% body fat, 30% is better, pretty much without footnote.
    “In God we trust; all others must bring data.” W. Edwards Deming
    Blogging at http://loafingcactus.com

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    • #3
      it just depends. think about roman gladiators, those guys were super strong, agile, fast, and many more adjectives that describe health yet they all carried a good amount of extra body fat in order to soften the blow so to speak of an injuries they might suffer in the arena. their body fat percentages were probably somewhat moderate yet they were certainly in good physical shape

      i think the type of fat (brown, white, subcutaneous, visceral, belly fat) is a more important sign vs the amount
      Primal Chaos
      37yo 6'5"
      6-19-2011 393lbs 60" waist
      current 338lbs 49" waist
      goal 240lbs 35" waist

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      • #4
        I've been wondering about this too. Is getting below say 10% for men/ 15% for women good for long term health? Does anyone really know?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Mike Gager View Post
          i think the type of fat (brown, white, subcutaneous, visceral, belly fat) is a more important sign vs the amount
          Good point, Mike. I remember reading that Sumo wrestlers are surprisingly healthy. The majority of their fat is subcutaneous (as opposed to visceral).

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          • #6
            Originally posted by yodiewan View Post
            I've been wondering about this too. Is getting below say 10% for men/ 15% for women good for long term health? Does anyone really know?
            I'm too lazy to find a computer and look at the bottom of the J curve from this study, but it should give you something like the number:
            Body fat and fat-free mass and all-cause mortality. [Obes Res. 2004] - PubMed result

            In general, the bottom of the J shifts upward with age. Low body fat through your 20s is associated with better health (for example, lower lifetime cancer risk and in particular breast cancer risk) even if you gain fat later. And higher fat later is associated with better longevity, which just makes sense- frail elderly aren't going to do well.
            “In God we trust; all others must bring data.” W. Edwards Deming
            Blogging at http://loafingcactus.com

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            • #7
              i think it really depends on alot of factors...you may have a high BMI but depending on height,activity level etc..youre affected in diff. ways...i think to some degree its more natural for the body to store some fat because our bodies think they need it in case of emergency(EX: not making a kill so no food to eat) but nowadays people can and should keep it quite low but theres absolutely nothing to say that you need to have a six pack to be healthy! if you feel good and your belly isnt so far out that you cant see your toes then dont stress it!

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              • #8
                RE: the data that as people get older, slightly higher body fat is correlated with longevity. Does anyone think that this might be because those with lower body fat are the smokers?

                Obviously being frail is not a good thing while growing older, especially for a woman. But I'd think it would be better to counter that by lifting weights, not by adding on body fat.

                I don't think the level of body fat I'm at now (high 20% I think) is unhealthy or putting me at higher risk for chronic disease, especially since I eat pretty healthy and exercise regularly. Compared to a lot of thinner girls my age, I have more stamina for aerobic exercise, and I'm stronger. HOWEVER, there's still too much abdominal fat, and that is cause for concern, both health-wise and attraction-wise. Because Americans are so fat, I think that skews our perception of what a body at ideal health would actually look like. For someone my age, I should NOT have a waist greater than 30 inches.

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                • #9
                  Of course this hasn't even touched on the fact that, other than the expensive and hard to get pool dunk weighing method, all the other methods of measuring BF % are rather in-exact at best. IMO, something to be used as a general indicator but not something to be stressed about.

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