Wondering how to reduce body fat percentage? The “spoiler alert” is that it often takes more than one wellness habit to change body composition in a healthy, sustainable way.
Keeping within a healthy body fat percentage range can also help lower the risk of developing (or worsening) certain conditions. Keep reading for tips on how to lower your body fat percentage, including actions you can take today!
What Is Body Fat Percentage?
Body fat percentage is a type of body composition measurement. It measures the amount of adipose (fat) tissue in the body. Contrary to popular belief, a certain amount of fat mass is necessary for normal body function. However, excess body weight, particularly due to excess body fat, can increase an individual’s risk for weight-related diseases.
While measures like body mass index (BMI) are commonly used to assess weight, body fat percentage gives a more accurate indication of body composition. Body fat percentage ranges typically take the following factors into account, even when two people have the same BMI:
• Gender differences, such that females often have a higher amount of body fat than males
A variety of methods exist to assess and calculate body fat percentage. While no method is considered error-free, each can provide valuable information regarding an individual’s body composition. Methods like skinfold calipers and waist circumference are more accessible, while more intensive scans and weighing methods are often used in research settings.
How to Lower Body Fat Percentage
Once an individual has discovered their body fat percentage, what steps can they take to change it? Fortunately, many ways to lower body fat while maintaining a healthy lifestyle exist.
Start with Smart Swaps
Making smart yet simple swaps is one easy place to begin reducing body fat. Switching out foods you already eat with healthier versions of that same food can create significant changes over time.
Don’t know where to begin? Try these simple and healthy food swaps to encourage fat loss:
• Choose whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates
• Replace sources of saturated fats with healthy fat
• Trade sugar-sweetened beverages for unsweetened drinks
Make Protein-Rich Meals
To preserve muscle mass (non-fat mass) while losing body fat, focus on high-protein meals. Protein is important for weight loss for many reasons, and is a crucial nutrient for creating a more balanced body composition.
Studies suggest a high-protein diet encourages more fat loss and less lean mass loss. Basically, a well-balanced, protein-rich diet can help the body build and sustain lean muscle tissue while getting rid of excess fat.
No Surprise, Try Exercise
It’s no secret that exercise does the body good. Beyond raising heart rate, physical activity helps to burn fat, especially in the abdominal area. Exercise causes the body to convert stored fat into fuel.
Aerobic exercise—such as walking and cycling—is great for beginners and burns more calories while working out. At moderate intensities, it’s considered safe for most people. While it increases breathing and heart rate, it doesn’t normally cause the body to overheat or become overworked.
If you want to gain lean muscle mass, incorporate strength training—also known as resistance training. This type of training strengthens muscles and prompts important changes in metabolism. Getting stronger can also greatly impact your quality of life, giving you abilities and confidence beyond the number on the scale.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT), including Tabata, can also effectively decrease fat mass. This is because higher-intensity exercise is associated with higher fat loss, and is a great option if crunched for time.
Struggling to find a form of fitness that works for you? Especially if you’re dealing with specific health concerns or physical limitations, working with a personal trainer or physical therapist can make exercising more enjoyable and less painful.
Prioritize Stress Management
Body fat percentage and stress may not seem linked initially, but the science behind stress and weight gain reveals an interesting association. In a state of stress, the body experiences a “fight-or-flight” response and goes into survival mode. This reaction causes a shift in the body’s priorities.
Along with more noticeable changes, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, the body experiences more subtle changes. For example, the body releases chemical messengers called hormones that can interfere with appetite.
In a state of stress, the body prioritizes storing fat over burning fat. Getting stress under control is a powerful way to work on lowering body fat percentage. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to help manage stress, including:
• Breathing exercises like deep breathing
• Progressive muscle relaxation
Study Sleep Hygiene
Interestingly, sleep is more closely tied to fat loss than most people think. Understandably, the body accomplishes a lot while you are sleeping, including important tasks like digestion.
The research is relatively clear concerning sleep and weight gain, reporting that people who aren’t getting enough sleep are more prone to snacking. However, it’s not just about consuming more calories. Not getting enough sleep can sabotage weight loss efforts at a cellular level by interfering with the production of hormones that help build muscle mass.
Basically, healthy sleep is necessary for lowering body fat percentage. It’s recommended that adults 18 years and older get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Studying your sleep hygiene—like nap habits, caffeine consumption, and electronic use—can help you make meaningful changes to improve your sleep.
Work With an Expert
If you’ve tried the above-listed steps and still aren’t seeing weight loss or a lower body fat percentage, it may be time to consult an expert. Dietitians and doctors can assist you in identifying barriers that lie beneath the surface, such as factors like age or genetics that may make fat loss more difficult.
Overall, these healthcare professionals can offer practical tools and expert guidance to help you achieve your goals.
Should You Lower Your Body Fat Percentage?
At this point, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of body fat you want to lose. However, remembering why maintaining a healthy body fat percentage is important can help keep you motivated throughout the process.
A higher amount of body fat and belly fat is associated with risk for weight-related conditions, such as the following:
• Breathing problems like sleep apnea
• Certain cancers, including breast, colon, and kidney
• Chronic inflammation and/or pain
• Gallbladder disease
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Type 2 diabetes
Beyond losing weight, losing body fat can help improve mental health. Research suggests that those with weight-related diseases are more likely to experience mental illness—like anxiety or depression—and have a lower quality of life. In other words, staying within a healthy body fat percentage range is good for the mind and the body.
A Final Word Regarding How to Reduce Body Fat
Losing unwanted body fat is quite a challenge. However, lowering body fat percentage can have profound impacts, including helping to fortify the body against preventable health conditions.
Creating small yet significant shifts in healthy habits, like eating more protein or getting enough sleep, can go a long way toward body fat loss.
How we reviewed this article
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