“I lost ten pounds in five weeks.” Testimonials like these are commonly found in the advertising campaigns of many weight-loss companies but why don’t they quote fat loss and not just weight loss? It’s probably because “I lost two pounds of fat and eight pounds of muscle,” doesn’t sound quite so appealing.

We’re a lot more informed these days and most personal trainers focus on reducing their client’s body fat percentage rather than just a reduction in their overall weight.

Carrying excessive body fat suggests a lack of personal discipline and can often lead to a low self-esteem. It has a negative impact on our physical appearance and suggests a poor state of health, fitness and wellbeing.

The U.S. Army has established a maximum allowable body fat percentage standard that applies to everybody from a new recruit to four-star general. Failure to meet the body fat percentage standard is a sure way of avoiding a promotion. Repeated failure to meet the standard may result in a discharge from the Army. That’s a harsh result.

At least our military personnel know what to expect as a consequence of neglecting their own health. The world that the rest of us live in may not be as brutally honest in defining those consequences but the long term outcome may infinitely more severe.

The maximum allowable body fat percentages as determined by the US Army are shown below. You may not be a member of the armed forces and you may have no intention to join but these are certainly some well researched guidelines that anyone could use.

Maximum allowable body fat percentages are categorized by age and gender. For males this is the breakdown:

Age 17 – 20:  Max Body Fat is 20%
Age 21 – 27:  Max Body Fat is 22%
Age 28 – 39:  Max Body Fat is 24%
Age 40 and over:  Max Body Fat is 26%

And for females:

Age 17 – 20:  Max Body Fat is 28%
Age 21 – 27:  Max Body Fat is 30%
Age 28 – 39:  Max Body Fat is 32%
Age 40 and over:  Max Body Fat is 34%

It’s fair to say that knowing how to measure your body fat percentage is a reasonably important first step to comparing yourself with the recommended percentages above.

Fortunately, determining your body fat percentage is easy. There are many methods of taking a measurement, most bathroom scales these days will give you a reading however you’ll get the most accurate result from a specialist. Your local GP or gym have the right equipment or you could purchase a body fat caliper at a sporting goods store or online. Amazon.com offer one for less than $15 and even one with a digital readout for around $30. The instructions that come with the body fat calipers are helpful enough for you to take readings as accurate as you would get from a professional.