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Is it possible to have a low weight but a high body fat percentage?

Jul 05 2010 16:28
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If so, how is this possible? How do I know if I have a high body fat percentage? What causes body fat: an excess of calories, or too many fat grams? What should I be watching out for, fat calories or just too many calories in general?

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yes, you can have a low weight and a high(er) bf%.  it's caused by being sedentary. the best way to know is to have for bf% measured by someone who knows how to do it. most gyms can do this as part of a fitness assessment.

You could try this online body fat% calculator that reef posted.

It is just going to be a ball park figure.

There is enough controversy about which body fat % test is most accurate to give me a head ache.  I suggest you find someone who is professionally certified to conduct the test, whether it is hydration, calipers, BIO-Imp., etc.  

I personally would like to find some place that I could have a DEXA scan test done on me.

The following is from QualityHealth:

"Divide weight in pounds by height in inches (in) squared and multiply by a conversion factor of 703.

Example: Weight = 150 lbs, Height = 5'5" (65")

Calculation: [150 ÷ (65)^2 x 703 = 24.96]"

When I do that, I get a definite false reading of [172 ÷ (72)∧2 x 703 = 23.32%]

It is very difficult for scales such as my Tanita to accurately measure body fat% for people who are athletic or have a lot of lean muscle mass. 


Yes it is possible and very common. 

Body composition refers to the fat and nonfat components of the human body.The fat component of the body is called fat mass or percent body fat.The nonfat is termed lean body mass.Total fat in the human body is classified into 2 types: Essential and storage fat. 

 Woman have a higher body fat percentage than men because it includes gender-specific fat, such as breast tissue, uterus and other health fat deposits needed.  WITHOUT FAT THE HUMAN HEALTH DETERIOATES.  To be healthy women should be between 20%-25%ile and Men 17-23%ile.  ESSENTIAL fat constitutes about 3% of the toatal weight in men and 12% in women.Anything less or more than these ranges increase risks of corinary heart disease.

UNDERWEIGHT people, too, have health problems and higher mortality rates.  So, despite the social pressure to be "thin", it does have its health consequences!  Extreme weight loss and being underweight can spawn medical problemssuch as heart damage, shrinkage of internal organs, immune system abnormalities, muscle tissue damage, and nervous system damage, to name a few. 

Unfortunately it is too common in our society to see such extremes.  Some who weigh very little and are viewed as "skinny" or underweight actually can be classified as obese because of their high body fat %.

Muscle weighs 2x more than fat.  So, it is not uncommon for an individual to WEIGH LESS but have a HIGHer percentage.  That is why the BMI calculator can be misleading since it does not differentiate the two factors of lean muscle vs body fat.  The same goes for online tools; they aren't very accurate and misleading.  It is best to have your body fat and lean muscle mass ratios tested by a nutritonist or if you go to a gym they can check it too. 

So, if you want to increase your muscle mass I suggest weight training and not too much cardio...there needs to be a balance.  Don't expect results in a shot period of time, or restrict in your diet, as carbs, fats, and calories are your source of energy. 

I use this Body Fat Calculator  which is pretty close to caliper method at my gym but I can get 4 different values from 4 different online calculators, so beware and use one for consistent relative reference.

OP, have you ever heard of 'skinny fat'? That's caused by losing weight without exercise or sometimes with too much cardio and no strength training.

OP, what is your idea of "low weight" and "high BF%"? Are you wondering if this applies to you?

You can be underweight but have no muscle and be flabby all over. ;) That's how you get high body fat. Actually it depends little on your calories, and more on how much effort you put into maintaining or building your muscle. 

Oh and also an unverweight person with high body fat is often under the same risks of heart attack, etc. as someone who is overweight.

im an example of a TOFI (thin on the outside and fat on the inside).

i used to be anorexic and my BMI was 12...i was just bone really. However now i have a binge/starve eating disorder and although my BMI is still classed as too 17, my body fat percentage has rocketed to 29%. so it goes to show BMI calculations do not consider the whole picture.

Its just the handheld infra red gadget i use at the gym so im not sure how reliable it is, plus i still havent had a period for 6 years....but i know my body is really quite fat even if i weigh little...coz the days i starve i lose a load of muscle weight but retain fat, and then some days i consume like 4000 calories of junk in one sitting, putting on even more fat. I do a lot of running and weight training except i dont eat on these days, so again i breakdown muscle which prevents me burning the fat....(yes i know how absurd and dangerous all of this is and im trying to correct it and get better)......

i just wanted to answer the OP and say yes its definitely possible for someone who doesnt weigh much to have more bodyfat than someone who has say a BMI of 24+

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