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I have a really high body fat percentage and I don't know what to do.


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I'm about 5'9 and 145 pounds, so I think I'm at a normal weight. The thing is, I calculated my body fat percentage and it's 32%. I'm 18 years old and I'm worried because I'm starting to think I'm unhealthy. I've been trying to exercise but I mostly do cardio like running, walking, and bike riding. I can't go to the gym right now and all I have at home is a treadmill. What can I do to make my body fat percentage go down? I'm trying to do this for health reasons and to fit into my clothes better. I think my upper thighs and around my navel could improve.

Also, what should I aim for in terms of body fat percentage?

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move more and eat less.

aim for healthy.

So do you think I should be eating less than 1700 calories? Because that is what I am aiming for everyday, and I've been trying to eat healthy. What type of exercises do you think I should do?

You are a normal weight.  I'm 24, 5'4" and 145 and at the high end of the normal range.  I don't know what my body fat % is but I'm sure if you added some strength training in with the cardio it'll help.

You could do an exercise DVD with cardio.  I've been doing Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred every day for over a month now (with no extra cardio) and have definitely been seeing results in tone, shape, and less body fat.  Aside from the DVD, all you need is handweights (I use 3 lb hand weights) and a mat if you want.  I did two weeks of level one, two of level two, and have done two of level three... I'll probably do it for at least another week though since I missed a couple of days.

lift heavy weights. If those are unavailable, do calisthenics/body-weight resistance exercises.

Step #1 - Get your body fat percentage measured professionally. Don't get to excited either way until you do. Alot of 'home' methods are not accurate.

Step #2 - Set a goal for body fat percentage and body weight. Again, maybe consult with a professional if you've got no idea. Also, maybe set a main goal, then several stage goals leading up to your main goal. That always works better for me. Going from zero to a 'main' goal can seem like so far sometimes. If you have something(s) in the middle to shoot for, it helps.

Step #3 - Ensure that your diet / calorie intake is appropriate for you goal. This is as important as any exercise you'll be doing.

Step #4 - Design a program of running, walking, bike riding, and treadmill use that burns extra calories. Do some research on the internet or talk to a pro. There are programs out there from beginner to advanced. Also, you could invest in a set of dumbells that you can use at home. One pair of dumbells will allow you do to more weight-lifting exercises than you think, and you can probably get a set for a reasonable price.

Step #5 - Track your progress and evaluate your program's effectiveness. You may need to adjust your diet and workout program over time to optimize it.

Step #6 - Be patient and stick with it. You're not going to go from 32% to 24% overnight. It's going to take some work.

As far as what a good body fat percentage is for a female? I don't know for sure, but I think if you're in the mid to low 20s, that's pretty good. If you're in the high-teens that's considered athletic. Again, just search for it on the internet, plenty of sites come up where you can get exact figures...

 

Well thanks. You're right chickenjoe, it won't happen overnight but I am impatient! Still, I'll be happy even if I get down to 29% body fat.

Well thanks. You're right chickenjoe, it won't happen overnight but I am impatient! Still, I'll be happy even if I get down to 29% body fat.

Just to answer you on reducing your calories that is a firm no. You are still in your teens, tall, and active and already at a healthy weight. Even you are done growing upwards your body still has a lot of other growth to do so you need those calories. The best thing is exercise and healthy food not less calories. Also online fat calculators etc are fairly inaccurate if you are that concerned get a professional measurement. Take care.

Eat at maintenance (since your weight is healthy) and work on changing your body composition.  At this point, dieting isn't gonna help you, unless you want to end up unhealthy, weak and looking like a bag of bones.

What WILL help, though, is building up your muscles.  If you eat maintenance calories, stay at 145 pounds, but build your muscles stronger, your body fat % will go down.

And remember, you need SOME body fat - you're female, you're young, and your body needs those reserves to be healthy.  There's nothing wrong with wanted to lose a few %, just make sure you don't go too far!

Original Post by magnoliablossom31:

So do you think I should be eating less than 1700 calories? Because that is what I am aiming for everyday, and I've been trying to eat healthy. What type of exercises do you think I should do?

Just to answer this question directly...use the tools on your site to figure out what you burn everyday and eat approximately maintenance since you are not trying to lose weight.  If you are working out, thats MORE than 1700 calories a day.

I agree with the recommendation to lift heavy, but if you don't have a gym right now, look at the fitness "stickied" threads for improvised weights at home or do challenging bodyweight exercises (in addition to cardio of your choice).  Running, walking, biking...whatever you enjoy, but challenge yourself.

For a female anything between 13-18% is considered very lean but anything from 20-25% is considered good. I would say that your first goal should be to get down to 25% and then go from there. I agree that getting your body fat professionally taken is the way to go. You can get a DEXA scan or a hydrostatic test (water). If neither of those options are available to you, get someone to take your body fat% with calipers. Not quite as accurate, but much more accurate than bio-electrical impedance (body fat scales, hand held devices, etc).

1) Nutrition and eating habits are what's most important. You not only need to make sure you are taking in the right amount of calories, but you also need to make sure you are eating the right types of foods. Protein, whole grains, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits/vegetables.I want to stress again about calorie intake. You do have to be on a calorie deficit to lose fat. However, you want to make sure that you accurately figure out what your true maintenance is (amount of calories it takes to maintain your weight). A lot of people don't eat enough and have to start eating more just to get to the right calorie deficit. Your maintenance is based on how many times per week you work out and how active you are. If you workout regularly (3-5x per week), you are going to need to take in more calories than someone who doesn't workout at all. A good deficit to keep is 500 calories under maintenance.

2) If you truly want to change the way that your body looks, strength training is VITAL. Don't just do cardio. Lift weights 3x per week. Free weights will yield the best results. Full body workouts using exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, presses, various pulling exercies like rows, lat pulldowns, weight assisted pull-ups, etc will yield far batter results than doing isolation exercises and machines. Using a weight that is challenging (something you can only do 8-10 times at the most) is important as well.

3) Mix up the type of cardio that you do. Once you have been doing cardio for at least a few months, start working interval training into your cardio program. This involves alternating between going harder for shorter periods of time with longer slower recovery periods. You only want to do interval training a few times per week though since it is more taxing on the body. A good mix is two interval training days and two or three regular cardio days.

4) Rest and recovery are just as important as exercise. Make sure you take at least 1-2 days off per week.

Thanks everyone for the really helpful replies. Just one more question-If I work out 3-4 times a week with running and bike riding and I do squats and lunges and other strength training exercises that I can do at home how long do you think it would take for me to get down to 28 or 29% body fat?

That body fat number doesn't sound right. How did you measure it?

Original Post by magnoliablossom31:

Thanks everyone for the really helpful replies. Just one more question-If I work out 3-4 times a week with running and bike riding and I do squats and lunges and other strength training exercises that I can do at home how long do you think it would take for me to get down to 28 or 29% body fat?

IF you are 30% body fat and 145 lbs, you have 43.5lbs of fat.  Each 1.5lbs is approx 1% fat.  It is within the realm of possibility to do that every week.  More likely every 2 weeks.

I used this website:

http://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/body-fa t-percentage-calculator

My waist is about 17 in but then around my navel is 35 inches because I have big love handles. I'd really like to exercise them away but they're really stubborn...

there is NO WAY you have a 32% bodyfat at 145 lbs....  that would put you at carrying 46.4 lbs of bodyfat, leaving you with a measly 99 lbs of lean body mass (muscle, organs, bones), and at 5'9 that would put you at extremely underweight and really frail and weak... how did you measure your bodyfat cause the method you use sure doesnt seem accurate.

As for reducing your bodyfat, knowing what your diet looks like would be a huge help, because if indeed you only had 99 lbs of lean body mass then  you have to seriously start lifting weights, ease on the cardio, 3 times a week tops, and eat at AT LEAST maintenance, you need to completely change your body composition, burn fat AND feed the muscle.

 

Original Post by magnoliablossom31:

I used this website:

http://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/body-fa t-percentage-calculator

My waist is about 17 in but then around my navel is 35 inches because I have big love handles. I'd really like to exercise them away but they're really stubborn...

 These calculators are the least accurate of all, so I wouldn't get so excited about this.  I agree that it's pretty unlikely that your body fat is that high.  And your weight to height seems pretty average.  If you want to get into better shape I agree with everyone else's recommendations - lift weights. 

Yeah I'm going to try to buy some weights soon...Whenever I think to do exercise I've just always done cardio, i always thought it would help me gain muscle and be really fit. It has shaped my lower thighs and legs a lot and I like the amount of muscle they have. I don't want my lower legs to get thinner, I just want my upper thighs to get toned but it seems as if all the exercise I do goes to my lower legs. Is this because I've only been doing cardio? Will strength training fix this? 

Thanks for all the replies, all the advice has been really helpful.

If you do a full body strength training routine like New Rules of Lifting for Women, the answer to your question is yes.

Neither lifting weights nor cardio will make your legs thinner. To get thinner legs, you'll have to modify your diet.

 

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