Body Fat Pictures and Percentages

On my old blog, I did a video post on the topic of body fat percentage. It is still incredibly popular to this day. A problem some people had with it was:

a) It is a video, not a blog post
b) too long in length

What I want to do with this post is provide you with a comprehensive picture gallery of various body fat percentages in men and women. In short, I am providing you the video in a post form, with a few changes and updates.

What is the measurement of body fat percentage?

Put simply, the measure of body fat percentage is assessing what percentage of your body is made up of fat. The opposing percentages are organs, water, muscle tissues, etc.

What are the methods of measuring body fat percentage?

There are quite a few methods of measuring body fat; the most common methods are the following:

1. Skinfold Measurement (Skin Pinch
2. Bioelectrical impedance analysis (Handheld/Scale Deviced)
3. Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (Dexa Scan)
4. Height and circumference methods (Measurement Collections)
5. Hydrostatic Testing (Underwater Density Test)

Pic 1

Of all these tests, it is a general consensus the DEXA scan (pic 1) provides the most accurate results you can achieve beyond doing an autopsy. Knowing the exact body fat percentage while living is extremely difficult.
There are many cons to the different types of measurement. Water is usually the leading deceiver of body fat readings in all methods.

When we look at the error factors of these methods, we see pictures can be used as much as anything else.

Do we need to know our body fat percentage?

Technically, there is no need to know our body fat percentage. While our body fat percentage can provide insights into our health status, simply knowing doesn’t do much to change things. Knowing merely provides amusement, motivation, or a harsh dose of reality.

What is the minimum body fat percentage for human beings and how do we decrease it?

There is currently no definitive answer for what is essential body fat. Looking at research though we assume a range of 5% for men and 12% for women is landing in the essential range. For hormonal and reproductive reasons women need to store a higher level of body fat than men. It is thought that 15% is the lowest range a women should maintain. There is some argument about this, but technically the data isn’t there to conclude if it is body fat or lifestyle/training habits that cause problem. In my personal opinion, I think women should tread lightly trying to maintain body fat levels below 15%.

To decrease body fat, you need to take part in a deficit based program. If you would like more information on this, you can use the Fat Loss Troubleshoot.

What do different body fat percentages look like?

As I discussed, the level of accuracy on body fat levels is difficult even with machine use. Still, there is something to be said for photography hints towards varying body fat levels at lower levels of body fat. Is it possible to use pictures to estimate body fat percentages? I think it is as relevant as other basic methods. How can we utilize pictures to determine a rough estimate for body fat pictures? See below.

Male Body Fat Percentages by Picture

There are various tell-tale signs of body fat levels for men and women. If we look at the lean body mass of a muscled skeleton and compare it to a human counterpart, it shows up quickly how close to low body fat level they are. If you consider the skeleton model to be 0% body fat, then you simply use the male model in this picture and determine how close they are in relation.

Looking at the diagram above for the male, we see clearly defined chest striations (1), serratus anterior (2), upper abdominal (3), and quadriceps (4). For men, generally speaking, these are going to be the last areas for fat to be lost. People generally claim much lower body fat percentage than they should. Look at some of these percentages below and compare them to the muscled skeleton. You will understand why they are at higher body fat levels than you once might have thought.

Lowest body fat and possible comparison to skeletal muscle.
You can start to see loss of definition as levels increase.
After 30%, there is truly no need to attempt visual estimations.

Female Body Fat Percentages by Picture

Females follow a lot of the same rules as males do with a few slight alterations. Lower body fat levels can really be registered by taking notice of their face (1) chest separation, (2) glutes (not shown), iliacus/quad, (3) and breasts (4).

These pictures give you a more accurate look at varying body fat levels and percentages in females.

Lowest body fat and possible comparison to skeletal muscle.
You can start to see loss of definition as levels increase.
After 30%, there is truly no need to attempt visual estimations.

Does everyone look alike at the same body fat percentage?

No, not at all. Body fat percentage isn’t an indicator of your amount of lean body mass.  The amount of muscle your body has is going to make a significant difference in your overall look. What is the right look? This is up to personal preference and program design. This post isn’t about judgment, but more so a definition of the difference between the two.

Take these two males in the picture below. Both are roughly at 10% body fat.  As you can see, there is a noticeable difference in their looks and muscle composition. Again, this isn’t about judging, but simply stating a noticeable physical difference. The man on the left has a legitimate 15 more pounds of muscle than the guy on the right.

The same is true for these females below. The first is a fitness competitor and the later is a fashion model. You may or may not like one or the others appearance, but that isn’t the point of the comparison. The point is both are roughly 15% body with varying levels of water depletion. As you can see, there is quite a stark difference between the two.

There are also other variables and factors to take into consideration when looking at body composition. One of the main factors is carbohydrate and water manipulation. I discuss in detail how to manipulate both in the Water Manual. Water manipulation or advanced super-compensation techniques can have dramatic differences on your appearance. The 15% woman on the left is likely utilizing those techniques. It is often done by bodybuilders and figure competitors.

Closing point

As you can see body fat percentages range and methods for measurement vary. You can also see training will greatly affect what you look like at various body fat percentages. Any questions? If you want to know what I think your body fat percentage is, you can join in on the forum discussion in the private forums.

Update: This post has been so popular I decided to create a report going into even more detail than this post does. If you would like to get more in depth on this topic, you can download this new report now!

 Download the Body Fat Report Now.

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Before starting any new diet and exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise and/or diet changes with them before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. I do not claim to cure any cause, condition or disease. I do not provide medical aid or nutrition for the purpose of health or disease and claim to be a doctor or dietitian. This is merely an opinion blog. Read full disclaimer here -