Body Fat Percentages of Men and Women - Pictures & Descriptions
This is a summary of an article I found online that does a great job of depicting varying levels of body fat composition for men, and women
NOTE: A summary is offered for each picture that represents a given level of body fat in the male and female, so that you can understand what the physiological effects are, and not just what the appearance is of a given state of fitness. Please read the whole article for full details; I only copied the salient points here for brevity. -Halla74
Body Fat Percentage Basics
To best understand the descriptions in this article and how the pictures were chosen, here are some basic body fat percentage terms and concepts that are helpful to learn:
Body Fat Percentage –
is the amount of body fat (lb, or kg) divided by total body weight listed as a percentage. For example, a 180lb man with 30lb of body fat has a body fat percentage of 16% (30/180).
Body Fat Distribution –
We all have different body fat distributions, or how fat is distributed across our body. For example, some women may have very little body fat on their abs, but a lot on their thighs and triceps, while others will have the opposite. Same thing goes with men, but most men carry fat in their stomachs. I tried my best to show pictures that highlighted the stomach region for men and the hips/thighs/stomach region for women.
Body Shape -
Similar to body fat distribution is we all have different body shapes, so two different body shapes may have the same body fat percentage even if they don’t look like it. A classic example is a skinny runway model may have the same body fat percentage as a fit, athletic women.
The pictures in this post assume ages of around 25-35 years old. Most body fat measurement devices will reflect higher body fat levels as the age increases. For example, a 20 year old man and a 50 year old man may have the same subcutaneous body fat measurement (fat under the skin), but the 20 year old may be 15% and the 50 year old will be at 20%. As we age, fat around the organs (visceral) and within muscle (intramuscular) tends to increase and most formulas take this into account.
Muscle Striations –
As an individual becomes more defined, the actual muscle can be seen more clearly, which looks like thin rods, referred to as striations.
This is the appearance of veins in different areas of the body as body fat decreases.
Body Fat Pictures of Men
Body Fat Pictures of Men - Descriptions
Body Fat Percentage Men 3-4%
Bodybuilders can drop as low as 3-4% body fat when preparing for bodybuilding competitions. This body fat level is characterized by extreme vascularity, so that veins are visible over just about every muscle in the body.
Body Fat Percentage Men 6-7%
Approximately 6-7% body fat for a man is a bit less extreme than competition bodybuilders, but it’s still hovering at a level that is not sustainable for most men. Around this level, or slightly less, the face becomes gaunt, and your family starts worrying about you.
Body Fat Percentage Men 10-12%
This is a sustainable level for most men where you should be able to see your abs, but they will likely not be as defined as a man in the 6-7% body fat range. This body fat range is the classic beach body look that most men want and many women love.
Body Fat Percentage Men 15%
The 15% body fat level is usually within the “lean and fit” category in most body fat percentage charts. The outlines of muscle can be seen, but there is no clear separation between them.
Body Fat Percentage Men 20%
Separation between muscles starts to blur, almost no vascularity, or striations can be seen, typically there is a small stomach pouch of fat, the look is “soft” but not very round.
Body Fat Percentage Men 25%
There is little to no separation of muscles, no vascularity, or muscle striations, waist begins to increase quite substantially with a waist to hip ratio as high as 0.9 (waist circumference/hip circumference).
Body Fat Percentage Men 30%
There is more fat all around the body at the 30% level including waist, back, thighs, and calves. The waist looks larger relative to the hips, and the stomach will likely be protruding over the waist noticeably. There is no muscle separation.
Body Fat Percentage Men 35%
As men get heavier and heavier gaining more fat, most of the fat is funneled right in the stomach. The 35% level is characterized by more significant protrusion of stomach fat over the waist. This is the beer gut kind of look.
Body Fat Percentage Men 40%
Similar to the 35% level, even more fat accumulates in the stomach and waist region, so that waist sizes can approach 45 inches, or more. At this level, basic every day activities like walking up stairs, or bending over to pick something up becomes increasingly difficult. This body fat level is approaching morbidly obese.
Body Fat Pictures of Women
Body Fat Pictures of Women - Descriptions
Body Fat Percentage Women 10-12%
This is an extremely low body fat level typically attained by female bodybuilders. Essential fat for women is round 8-10% compared to 2% for men. Why the difference? Women have more fat in breast tissue and the area surrounding the uterus. This level of body fat is not considered safe, or healthy for women who will be unable to menstruate.
Body Fat Percentage Women 15-17%
This is still considered a very low body fat for women, which is similar to the 6-7% body fat for range men. Many bikini and fitness models will reach this body fat level and some may not be able to menstruate.
Body Fat Percentage Women 20-22%
This is body fat percentage is usually in the “fit” category of most body fat charts and is typical of many female athletes. Some definition in the abs is apparent, there is body fat on the arms and legs, but it’s not too pronounced. There is minimal, but some separation between muscles.
Body Fat Percentage Women 25%
This is on the low end of what’s average for most women and is characterized by a shape that is neither too slim, nor overweight. Curves in the hips are usually more apparent along with more fat in the buttocks and thighs.
Body Fat Percentage Women 30%
While most men have fat funnel into their stomachs, as the body fat of most women (but certainly not all) increases, this fat tends to accumulate in the hips, buttocks, and thighs. At 30% body fat, the hips, thighs, and buttocks are more pronounced and round. This is considered the high end of average for women in many body fat charts.
Body Fat Percentage Women 35%
The hips become even wider at this level of body fat and the face and neck will appear rounder and more full. Hip circumference can start approaching 40+ inches and waist circumference of 32+ inches. Some belly fat may start protruding over the waist as well.
Body Fat Percentage Women 40%
The hips and thighs grow larger so that hip circumference can reach 42+ inches, waist of 35 inches, and thighs over 25 inches.
Body Fat Percentage Women 45%
The skin may begin to lose its smooth appearance as more and more fat accumulates. Hip Circumference may reach 45 inches+ and waist circumference 35+ inches. The hips may become noticeably wider than the shoulders.
Body Fat Percentage Women 50%
The will likely look like it has dimples more fat accumulates. Hip Circumference can may reach 45+ inches and waist circumference 40+ inches and thighs above 30+ inches. The hips will likely be noticeably wider than the shoulders.
I hope this information is helpful for you if you are trying to assess where you are at right now with regard to your level of fitness.
This article has been a great planning tool for me because it is the first time I've seen pictures AND corresponding explanations of male/female body fat percentages at various levels.
The goal is to be healthy, fit, and young!
Have a great evening!