Female equivalent of male 10% body fat

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 05, 2013 at 12:18 PM

I was finally able to get a body fat percentage yesterday which made me wonder what I should be striving for aesthetically. I regularly hear men trying to get below 10%, which is clearly not healthy for me. I think I remember hearing that if women get their body fat into the high teens then it could result in reproductive issues. So what body fat percentage should a fit woman strive for (the female equivalent of 10% body fat and a 6pack)?

I am 5'8, my weight stays between 125-130lbs, 21% body fat at the moment.



on March 08, 2013
at 01:22 AM

Go Kaleo did an interesting experiment a while back, trying to go below 15%. Worth reading her observations and conclusions http://gokaleo.com/2012/03/27/im-calling-for-a-new-paradigm/

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on March 07, 2013
at 11:34 PM

One does not casually approach 15% as a female. It would take a severe deficit either with food restriction or massive activity.



on March 05, 2013
at 08:29 PM

ehhh definitely don't starve myself...

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on March 05, 2013
at 06:30 PM

You're already there. Hunter gatherer women walk around at a little over 20%. Stop starving yourself.

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on March 05, 2013
at 02:21 PM

what body fat percentage should a fit woman strive for -- This is a tough question that really depends on your goals. For men it appears that we can get pretty low and it has little effect on our health (i.e. 8% - 15% has about the same total mortality risk) so it really is a question of aesthetics. Women are different.

Here are a couple of links from built lean that I think will answer your questions:




on March 07, 2013
at 11:24 PM

I'd say for a women to literally look like a guy at sub 10% body fat, with the exactly same level of definition, she'd need to be the mid teens, but that is not the equivalent body fat for the gender, since women are expected to be somewhat softer and less defined. So the actual comparative amount for women is probably closer to 20%.


on March 05, 2013
at 06:28 PM

I think it's very subjective - much more so than for men. Some women are fine and healthy at 17%, other ladies need a solid mid-20s for optimal health

I'd say the female equivalent of 10% bf would be 18-21%. I definitely disagree that anything over 16% is safe w.r.t. reproductivity issues - quite a lot of women will lose their periods at <20% bf.

Also, it depends on your genetic fat distribution. A lady with genetically large breasts and/or bottom could be the same "thinness" as one without these but will have bf % 1-3 points higher.


on March 05, 2013
at 02:07 PM

I'd say you're good. Don't want to go much lower. Although I will warn that the method of measurement, as mentioned above will affect the reading. The calipers are generally not accurate.. at all. They are useful to measure progress, but nothing more. If I use a fat caliper it will tell me that I have like 10% body fat... when in reality I have 25% as measured by a DEXA scan.

I personally think there is about a 10 point spread for ideal body fat for women depending on goals. %17-27%.



on March 05, 2013
at 12:31 PM

It's hard to get objective measures of BF% because the number is often dependent on your method of measurement. That said, I'd say the equivalent of 10% for women(i.e. lean, healthy, natural-looking definiton) would probably be around 20%. Anything over 16% is more than safe with regards to reproductivity issues.

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