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I am looking to get leaner. I have been working on it but I would like to set the goal at my destination. I want to be at the lowest possible body fat percentage without suffering any negative effects from it. There are charts, with age and height, showing average, overweight, underweight percentages. I want a specific answer, what is the lowest healthy percentage. male 5'11 20yr

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For women 10 to 13 % body fat and men 2 to 5 % body fat but even most athletes are above that.

Athletes are usually a few percentage points above that unless they are competing in a sport that requires a low body fat percentage at which point they will reduce their percentage a day or two before.

Both men and women can have up to 10% higher body fat and still be considered 'fit' in fact, your body fat percentage must reach 31% for women and 25% for men before you are considered overweight.

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    2% body fat (Really, anything under 5%) is not healthily sustainable for long term. Even competitive bodybuilders will only stay at that percentage for at maximum a couple of days. – JohnP Dec 12 '14 at 4:40
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    Downvoted for the reason described by JohnP. Being at that BF% is unrealistic and dangerous long-term, and thus does not meet the "without suffering negative effects" criteria. Perhaps go into more detail on what BF% is typically seen in athletes to help give a safer and more realistic expectation for goal-setting – Moses Dec 16 '14 at 0:10
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    I'll do so, though I answered the question very literally and clicking through lists the more appropriate percentages. – Xander Dec 17 '14 at 1:54
  • I wouldn't attempt to get it below 7 or 8% unless you are genetically predisposed to being very lean. Two percent is impossible. Two percent of our body fat is sitting in our brain. – Michael Pullam Dec 17 '14 at 21:57
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    Well, I didn't come up with these numbers I got them from an outside source and seen them on other sites too. – Xander Dec 17 '14 at 21:59
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Depends what you mean by risk, there have been a number of studies that indicate a BMI below 18 correlates with higher mortality rates and a couple give it as high as 22.5 e.g.

Below the range 22·5–25 kg/m2, BMI was associated inversely with overall mortality, mainly because of strong inverse associations with respiratory disease and lung cancer. These inverse associations were much stronger for smokers than for non-smokers, despite cigarette consumption per smoker varying little with BMI.

Note: BMI is no better or worse a measure of fatness than many of the formula / devices that attempt to actually give a percentage, rather than an index value e.g. Depending on who you believe today's Body Fat percentage is:

enter image description here

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  • Hmmm. The question was about body fat, not weight. Perhaps you could clarify the relation? – Cerad Feb 18 '15 at 16:01
  • BMI isn't a measure of weight, it's an abstract index that was designed 170+ years ago to identify a person's "fatness", so is just as applicable. – arober11 Feb 18 '15 at 16:03
  • Not really. You can change your body fat percent by a considerable amount while maintaining a constant BMI. It's true that for many people BMI does indicate "fatness" but for others (especially athletes) it's a poor indicator. Try going up to a NFL linesman and telling him he is morbidly obese. Be prepared to run away. – Cerad Feb 18 '15 at 16:13
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    There are many known issues with the BMI formula: it doesn't scale well, error increases as your height diverges from 1.8m, it doesn't account for racial differences eg. Africans have a higher proportion of lean mass per Kg, and Asians a lower value than the Belgium's used to devise the formula. As you say it' has issues with Athletes.... But it is a recognised and ubiquitous measure of fatness, and there are several formula to convert a BMI value into a Body Fat % eg. Heritage BMI or Gallagher – arober11 Feb 18 '15 at 16:26
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    Just added a pic to illustrate the variation in guesstimated body fat percentages, that my phone threw out for me this morning (12->31%), as you can see using BMI as a measure can be no worse an estimate than some of the peer reviewed formula. Also the Heritage BMI and Gallagher conversions (BMI->Pct Fat) appear to correlate fairly well with a BIA reading from a set of scales. Anyway the question is about RISK, and there is evidence that a low body mass has potential long term effects. – arober11 Feb 18 '15 at 16:56
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10% for a man and 18% for a woman is healthy and sustainable without too much effort.

I´d not reccomend anything below that for a longer timr period!

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