Notes on Body Fat

Advisory: Weight loss by dieting alone without exercise will increase your Body Fat percentage as your weight comes down. Unless stimulated by exercise the High Water Tissues break down quicker than Low Water Tissues! Muscle is a High Water Tissue composed of 70% water, 7% lipids (fat) ,and 22% protein. Fat is made up of 22% water, 72% lipids (fat), and 6% protein.

There are always questions about height, weight and fat. There is no ONE absolute answer, but for people of a normal activity range, there are charts that can offer clues to what is healthy. One that loads quickly and seems to be consistent with current main stream thought is:

No standard chart can determine actual body fat, but it can show what weight is consistent with a larger segment of our population. It is a starting point. 

One of the best ways, safest, and longest lasting ways to achieve a proper body weight is to determine a reasonable weight for your frame and height. Figure the number of calories it takes to maintain that body weight and then eat a balanced diet that contains that number of calories each day. Do regular, healthy exercise three to six times a week to elevate your metabolism and help get you to the proper level.

There is no magic, no real short cuts. Starvation diets slow your metabolism and make it easier for you to gain weigh, even though there is a short term loss. They also deprive you of valuable nutrients and make you feel horrible. Proper diet and exercise will work wonders for how you feel and how you view yourself.

Having said that, how do you determine your "ideal" body weight and/or body fat composition.  The link to the above chart can help establish a reasonable range for body weight or you can use the following estimates.

Women: 100 pounds of body weight for the first 5 feet of height, 5 pounds for each additional inch.

Men: 106 pounds of body weight for the first 5 feet of height, 6 pounds for each additional inch.
Add 10% for a large frame size, and subtract 10% for a small frame size.

Determining frame size:
To determine the body frame size, measure the wrist with a tape measure and use the following chart to determine whether the person is small, medium, or large boned.


height under 5’2"

small = wrist size less than 5.5"
medium = wrist size 5.5" to 5.75"
large = wrist size over 5.75"

height 5’2" to 5’ 5"

small = wrist size less than 6"
medium = wrist size 6" to 6.25"
large = wrist size over 6.25"

height over 5’ 5"

small = wrist size less than 6.25"
medium = wrist size 6.25" to 6.5"
large = wrist size over 6.5"


height over 5’ 5"

small = wrist size 5.5" to 6.5"
medium = wrist size 6.5" to 7.5"
large = wrist size over 7.5"

NOW, that is an estimate of what should be if you have a "normal" lean to fat ratio.  It is a starting point. 

Next, as a starting point, determine how many calories it takes to support the target body weight.  Some time ago, I found an interesting article on the web.  I'm reproducing it below.

An Easy Way To Determine A Person's Daily Calorie Needs
By Stephenie Karony

Q) Is there an easy way to determine a person's daily calorie needs?

A) Because of the numerous variations in body types, muscularity, genetics and life style, the perfect method, or formula doesn't exist. Even so, I've put together a guide, with the help of The Food and Nutrition Board, which shows the approximate number of calories an individual needs to maintain their current body weight.

VERY SEDENTARY: This describes people whose movement is restricted, such as individuals confined to a house. They should eat 13 calories per pound of body weight. Example: if our individual weighs 130 pounds, 130 x 13=1690 calories per day.

SEDENTARY: This describes most Americans, such as those with office jobs who do very light work. They should eat 14 calories per pound of body weight. 130 x 14=1820 calories per day.

MODERATE ACTIVITY: This describes those who exercise two, maybe three times per week. They should eat 15 calories per pound of body weight. 130 x 15=1950 calories per day.

VERY ACTIVE: People who exercise most days of the week should eat 16 calories per pound of body weight. 130 x 16=2080 calories per day.

DAILY VIGOROUS ACTIVITY: This category is for those who participate daily in a high energy sport. They should eat 17+ calories per pound of body weight. 130 x 17=2210+ calories per day.

These are approximate numbers applicable to maintaining current body weight, not for losing weight. If your goal is to lose weight you'll need to eat fewer daily calories and exercise more. Be careful not to cut too many calories from your daily intake, or your metabolism will slow down to compensate for the drastic reduction.

One last thought - always try to get the majority of your daily calories from foods that contain the most nutrients.
Now, you have something to work with.  You have identified a target weight and estimated how many calories you need in an average day to achieve that weight.  From the top of this page, you must realize that some exercise is necessary.  Surprisingly enough, it's being discovered that a lot less exercise is necessary to maintain health that is accounted for by the actual number of calories consumed in the exercise routine. 

One of the most effective exercises you can do for general health is walking.  Not an idle stroll, but not killing yourself, either.  Just a nice brisk walk.  Shoot for 30 minutes a day for at least three days a week.  If you find thirty minutes is too much, do what's comfortable and work up to that level.  Up to sixty minutes a day can be beneficial, but don't over do it.  Too much exercise is harmful, just as is too little. 

About diet: You know the drill.  Eat a variety of foods for proper nutrition.  Try to spread your meals throughout the day.  Make sure you get enough protein.  In this society, we seem to be loading on carbohydrates all day long.  I'm not anti-carb, but again, too much is too much.  Strive for a balance.  AND avoid saturated fats and trans fats.  They are BAD GUYS.  Go for the unsaturated, mono and poly saturated fats.  Get the omega-3's.  This stuff is necessary for life.  All fat is not bad.  Again, too much of anything is bad.  BALANCE.  Oh, and take a good multiple vitamin.  It probably won't hurt and it can help.

See (opens in a new window) for more information on fats in the diet. 

Table 1. Recommended Grams of Protein Per Pound of Body Weight Per Day*
RDA for sedentary adult        0.4
Adult recreational exerciser    0.5-0.75
Adult competitive athlete        0.6-0.9
Adult building muscle mass     0.7-0.9
Dieting athlete                        0.7-1.0
Growing teenage athlete         0.9-1.0

*To find your daily protein requirement, multiply the appropriate numbers in this table by your weight in pounds.

Saturated fat is found in many sources of red meat, a very good source of protein.  To exercise, get enough protein and avoid saturated fats is going to take some effort and probably necessitate that you change your diet habits.  This is not a bad thing.  It is just necessary.

Now, I don't care if you are trying to gain weight or trying to lose weight.  The above is a good starting point.  Yea, it could be make far more complicated, but this is quite adequate to get started and will be effective for several months. 

Good luck.. and stay healthy!