fit couple with visible abs and a low body fat percentage

What Body Fat Percentage do you Need for Abs?

Krista

Written by health and fitness expert Krista. Last updated:

For men, if you’re sitting at a body fat percentage between six to 17 percent, you should have visible abs. For women, this body fat percentage sits a little higher at 14 to 24 percent. Surprisingly, it’s not all about doing crunches to get the washboard and visible abs you desire.

In this article, we’ll dive into all the details regarding body fat percentage to see abs. What should you know, how can you achieve a low enough body fat percentage for abs to show, and what should you be cautious about? Let’s take a look.

What is Body Fat Percentage?

Body fat percentage is your total body fat (in kilograms or pounds) divided by your total body mass (in kilograms or pounds). Body fat isn’t something you want to get rid of entirely. Body fat, along with muscle mass, organ mass, bone mass, and more, makes up your entire body mass. Body fat is necessary for energy storage. Some of it is an essential fat, meaning you won’t ever get to zero percent body fat.

a man doing sit-ups on the floor of his living room

However, you can manipulate the percentages of muscle mass and body fat that contribute to your total body mass. In other words, you can play around with your body composition. Through high-intensity training, weight training, other fat burning workout variations, and a clean and healthy diet, you can build muscle and lean body mass while promoting fat loss. You may even want to invest in ab machines for home use or an ab muscle stimulator. With a combination of the right routine and diet, you can lower your body fat percentage and increase your muscle mass percentage.

Below are four factors that matter the most regarding body fat percentages or body fat levels.

1. Genetics

You can manipulate your body in various ways, but your body shape and your abs’s layout essentially comes down to your genes. Surprisingly, your DNA sometimes halts the fat burning process, especially in certain spots in the body. Some individuals may have smaller ab muscles and potentially higher belly fat. Further, some may be able to achieve an eight-pack ab set, while others may only be capable of ever achieving a four-pack or only visibility of the upper two abs. This all comes down to what you’re predisposed to according to your genes.

2. Body Fat Distribution

Body fat distribution refers to where your body holds onto fat. While you can achieve a lot through the fat burning process, you will still be prone to hold fat in certain areas. Sometimes, this depends on what you’re doing in the gym. You can’t exactly lose fat in one specific spot, but you can tone up your entire body through weight training. Further, various devices claim to help tone the abs or core. Ab toning belt reviews indicate that they might help. However it comes down to a combination of your diet, training, and other health routines.

woman doing abdominal exercises

Other times, body fat distribution comes back to your genetics. You may have leaned out, but you may still be holding onto fat in your midsection. Ultimately, this may indicate that you may require a lower body fat percentage, such as seven to eight percent or another single-digit body fat number. At this percentage, your abs will be visible. However, be careful and cautious here. Low body fat percentages can become risky and dangerous to your health.

3. Training

Abs won’t appear all of a sudden. You have to put in the work. You’ll want to mix an upper ab workout with lower ab exercises and more. Ultimately, you want to target your abs in various ways with the best ab exercises, such as the plank or bicycle crunches. Further, your abs are engaged in compound movements like the squat and deadlift, so they are a good idea to throw in your workout.

Consistency is also important when it comes to training. You will likely have to do the same effective routine for many weeks before seeing results.

4. Diet

To have a fat percentage to have visible abs, the amount of body fat you have won’t only be determined by your training. What you eat matters just as much. Like some people say, abs are made in the kitchen.

To lose fat and build muscle, you need to take a close look at your macronutrients and calories. A calorie deficit will help you lose excess weight. Meanwhile, your macronutrients, carbs, fat, and protein daily percentages will contribute to your ability to build lean body mass. To be possible, you may benefit from talking to a nutritionist or dietician and discussing your current health status and goals.

The time it takes for abs to show may further vary. Yet, if you’re already in decent shape, you might be able to get there with 12 weeks of a consistent training and diet regime. If you’re looking to achieve greater fat loss, you may need to also focus on a calorie deficit of some sort, as well as gaining more muscle throughout your entire body.

How to Measure Your Body Fat Percentage

a man measuring his body fat

So, what is your body fat percentage exactly? Surprisingly, online body fat percentage calculator for abs exist. They help determine what body fat range you need to achieve to have visible abs. Yet, you still need to know your initial body fat levels to figure this out.

To determine your body fat, you can use skinfold measurements. In this way, a skinfold caliper is used to measure your body fat by squeezing the fat. Yet, this may not be the best or most accurate way to do so. Ideally, a DEXA scan or BodPod test, which are available at a few clinics and gyms at high prices, are the best ways to measure body fat. If the price is too high, aim to go off of your skinfold caliper reading.

The Dangers Behind Low Body Fat

While the body fat percentage to see abs in male exercisers is as low as six percent, some ill health effects are associated with this low body fat percentage. The body fat percentage for females to show abs is recommended at no lower than 10. Any lower and you may be compromising specific body fat that is essential for proper body function and life. Generally, any single digit body fat percentage can pose a potentially higher health risk. In other words, if you’re aiming for a very low body fat percentage, you need to ensure that you are still able to maintain basal metabolic function. Lose the fat, but don’t lose your health in the process.

Your health should always come first and should never be jeopardized for the sake of aesthetics. Other than that, get out there and start achieving your goals. Narrow in on your training and diet. Determine exactly what you want to go after, whether that is visible abs or just having higher energy levels, then go after it. It’s entirely possible. Remember, consistency and determination are key!

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