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TOPIC: Body fat percentage for women

 
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March 30, 2012 7:06 PM
Hi.

I was reading through some websites on how female body builders have extremely low body fat (around 12 - 15%). I am wondering if that's even healthy. Won't they be infertile if the body fat go down so much? As a woman, how low your body fat can go before you start to be VERY careful in case your monthly period stops (assuming you want to have kids)? What if your body fat is hovering around 23% and you already cease menstruating? Is that a bad sign (again assuming you want to be able to get pregnant)? I even read somewhere that when you stop menstruating (producing some hormones), you are more vulnerable to bones weakening. Is that true?

I'm just confused about ideal body fat percentage for women. It seems so much harder than guys to strike a balance between healthy body fat percentage vs healthy body in general.
March 30, 2012 7:13 PM
I don't have an answer for this but I have often wondered this myself I look at my fitness instructor and she's so insanely fit she has to have low body fat but there's no way you could say she is unhealthy. It makes you wonder.
  15597269
March 30, 2012 8:15 PM
QUOTE:

Hi.

I was reading through some websites on how female body builders have extremely low body fat (around 12 - 15%). I am wondering if that's even healthy. Won't they be infertile if the body fat go down so much? As a woman, how low your body fat can go before you start to be VERY careful in case your monthly period stops (assuming you want to have kids)? What if your body fat is hovering around 23% and you already cease menstruating? Is that a bad sign (again assuming you want to be able to get pregnant)? I even read somewhere that when you stop menstruating (producing some hormones), you are more vulnerable to bones weakening. Is that true?

I'm just confused about ideal body fat percentage for women. It seems so much harder than guys to strike a balance between healthy body fat percentage vs healthy body in general.


I think that it depends on the person, but very low body fat percentage is not ideal if you're looking to get pregnant (though, if you got down to very low body fat percentage your period might stop for while, but that doesn't usually mean you're permanently infertile - once you get a little body fat up again your period will return). My body fat is around 24% (within normal range) and I haven't had any problems with my period.

Normal body fat percentages for women are as follows:
Ages 20 - 39: 21.0% to 32.9%
Ages 40 - 59: 23.0% to 33.9%
Ages 60 - 79: 24.0% to 35.9%

Ideal body fat percentage is up to you, for me I'm good with anything in the low normal range.
  6529151
March 30, 2012 10:23 PM
I don't know about any other figures, but I can tell you that a young woman with 15% body fat who eats a somewhat lower amount of calories (but healthy foods) can definitely still have regular menstruation.

From what I gather, menstruation often gets irregular from very rapid weight loss, regardless of the starting/ending size, and not so much with the BF% itself. It can usually be tied into your iron levels and intake. Of course, a woman with 10% body fat could definitely stop having her period based on her BF% alone, but a woman who went from a size 14 to a size 8 in a very short time frame can just as easily become irregular.

I hope this helps a bit, I'm sorry if it's a little muddled!
March 31, 2012 4:46 AM
So irregular menstruation has more to do with rapid loss of fat rather than a grand total big loss of fat? As for iron level, how much iron does a female need and what are some good sources of iron to be considered?

What about having strenuous workout? Does that impact the menstruation cycle too? Say if I do HIIT 6 times a week or HIIT 3 times a week, will there be a significant difference assuming I eat back all my workout calories? Would the sole "stress" caused by working out (especially weight training) be harmful for a female's menstruation cycle?
March 31, 2012 5:59 AM
I'm approx 18.5-19% and still get regular periods...I still have fat on my butt and thighs and still have my womenly curves. 5'4" 110 pounds

I'm considered in the "athletic" range.

I think when women get into the 12-15% it is only for competitions, no way you can keep that up full time.
March 31, 2012 6:04 AM
I think it depends on the person. Ive always had a VERY low body fat (8-15% with my high and low weights) and have never missed a period.

Maybe it has to do with nutrition also? If you are getting the correct amount if nutrients then the body with continue to work correctly.
When I was struggling with eating last year and my weight was quite low (95ish lbs at 5'7) I still never missed a period and my doctors claimed I was "healthy" and everything was working correctly (:
March 31, 2012 6:06 AM
I don't think BF% ALONE dictates a woman's menstrual cycle. I'm not saying it doesn't play a role, but there are so many other things that come into play. I am around 18% BF and don't have any problems. If someone is having issues, then they should be asking their gynecologist.
March 31, 2012 6:13 AM
I had my body fat % checked last using calipers. At 5'8" and 159 lbs (at the time), I had 18.3% body fat. My periods are very regular, and I must say the PMS, cramping, bloating, and negative symptoms have really decreased since I increased the amount I work out and started eating a more natural, unprocessed diet. I still don't like my stomach, even at 18%, so I'd prefer to see myself drop down closer to 16%. I certainly don't feel unhealthy, and I never feel like I'm starving myself.

What I'm getting at is that this is what's working for me, but it may not be right for everyone. If you start to develop what you consider negative symptoms such as losing your period, it's worth looking into and adapting your lifestyle to fix it. But before reducing exercise and eating healthfully, I'd go to the doctor to see if there was something more serious going on there.
March 31, 2012 6:23 AM
QUOTE:

I'm approx 18.5-19% and still get regular periods...I still have fat on my butt and thighs and still have my womenly curves. 5'4" 110 pounds

I'm considered in the "athletic" range.

I think when women get into the 12-15% it is only for competitions, no way you can keep that up full time.


Sounds like you have an amazing body!

How do you work out your body fat %. There are so many different websites. I'm thinking I should just go to the doctors?
March 31, 2012 6:32 AM
I have a bf% of 13.8 (via DEXA scan) and I still have regular periods. I assume this is a pretty regular percentage for me- I exercise and eat like a normal person (1800-2000+ckals/day). I'm sure my bf has fluctuated a little at different levels of activity in my life (and I have never restricted food in my life, but it has always been in the low/mid teens (16% in college) and I didn't have a problem getting pregnant either. In fact, I had one large baby (9+ lbs) and one average sized baby (7+ lbs) and I nursed them both for years. I did have problems keeping weight on while breastfeeding and some milk supply issues, but I worked through those.

I don't think bf% alone determines menstrual irregularities. I think huge swings in caloric intake, macros, exercise level, etc. can play a role. We probably all have set points that our body likes to be at and that might play a role.
March 31, 2012 7:15 AM
Hi Leenites,

Just to clarify, fat is not bad, excess fat is. We need it for several reasons including normal growth and development, energy, absorbing vit, protecting of vital organs, and maintinaing cell mebranes. There is what they call "essential fat", this is the minimum fat percentage that would be ok for normal health and functioning and you are correct anything below this range becomes unhealthy.

Essintial body fat for women is between 10-15% and men is between 2-5%. Men typically have higer lean muscle mass and women typically have higher body fat % mostly due child birthing. On top of this women also have to deal with more flucuation in hormones which also effect body fat and fat storage. Some key fat storage hormones are insulin and cortisol. Hope some of this is useful for you happy
March 31, 2012 12:23 PM
I am at 10% body fat and just have lighter periods but they are still regular :)
  2182844
April 1, 2012 6:59 AM
QUOTE:

Hi Leenites,

Just to clarify, fat is not bad, excess fat is. We need it for several reasons including normal growth and development, energy, absorbing vit, protecting of vital organs, and maintinaing cell mebranes. There is what they call "essential fat", this is the minimum fat percentage that would be ok for normal health and functioning and you are correct anything below this range becomes unhealthy.

Essintial body fat for women is between 10-15% and men is between 2-5%. Men typically have higer lean muscle mass and women typically have higher body fat % mostly due child birthing. On top of this women also have to deal with more flucuation in hormones which also effect body fat and fat storage. Some key fat storage hormones are insulin and cortisol. Hope some of this is useful for you happy


May I know how insulin and cortisol affect fat storage? So if I have lower cortisol, does that mean my hormone get suppressed in a bad way that might or might not affect my menstrual cycle? I'm just looking to understand the whole process better so I can workout safely. I don't want to lose too much body fat that it affects menstrual cycle. haha.
April 25, 2013 7:55 PM
Hi leenites,
I am 5'3" and 125lbs my body fat is 11% and I do not have a period. At the moment I would be considered infertile simply because my body doesn't have enough fat and nutrience to host a child. My doctor said once my body fat comes back up it will all be normal again I wouldn't worry about it if I were you; unless your planning on spending TONS of time in the gym you have nothing to worry about. You can always bring it back up too.

Hope this helped!
April 25, 2013 7:57 PM
12% here 5'3 and i still have my period.
edit: not monthly but still, i get it sometimes
Edited by stines72 On April 25, 2013 7:58 PM
April 25, 2013 10:20 PM
QUOTE:

So irregular menstruation has more to do with rapid loss of fat rather than a grand total big loss of fat? As for iron level, how much iron does a female need and what are some good sources of iron to be considered?

What about having strenuous workout? Does that impact the menstruation cycle too? Say if I do HIIT 6 times a week or HIIT 3 times a week, will there be a significant difference assuming I eat back all my workout calories? Would the sole "stress" caused by working out (especially weight training) be harmful for a female's menstruation cycle?


random question but are you really doing HIIT 6x a week? i'm no expert but i thought i read it's better to do 1x or 2x a week (maybe 3x). maybe i'm wrong . . .
  27785735
February 4, 2014 8:46 AM
I know this post is old, but I have a response for this. When I was in basic training and AIT, I didn't have a period for 6 months. I dropped so much body fat, and was completely muscular everywhere. As soon as I reported to my first duty station, and within a year and a half, I had my first baby. So just because you drop a lot of body weight, doesn't make you infertile. If you gain fat and lose muscle, your body will begin to have periods again.

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