Body fat percentage is not generally used as measure of whether someone is overweight or not, however studies have shown that excess body fat is associated with an increased risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnoea.
Body fat percentage (BFP) cannot be significantly reduced by fad diets or other unsustainable weight loss techniques either. When we follow an extreme diet and lose weight rapidly, the scales can make us think we’ve lost more fat than we actually have.
A drastic drop on the scales can mean a decrease in muscle and water mass, not necessarily fat. Research has shown that without exercise, around 25% of every pound lost will come from lean muscle.
Take Sally for example:
Sally weighs 200 pounds and wants to lose some weight before her holiday in December. She decides that she’s going to go on a strict, soup only diet but does little to no exercise during this time. Sally loses 11 pounds in a month but guess what? At least 2.75 pounds of that was muscle mass, meaning carrying those coconuts in Jamaica will be a little more difficult.
The take-away here is that weight loss does not necessarily mean fat loss. The more you can improve your overall body fat percentage, the healthier you will be. The good news is, with diet, cardiovascular exercise and resistance training, you (and Sally) can decrease your body fat percentage whilst maintaining or even increasing your lean muscle mass.