Understanding Body Composition and the Types of Fat

While many of us constantly worry about staying within the recommended body mass index (BMI) range for our weight and age, not many are aware of the science behind body composition and the types of fat that make up the body.

Body Composition and Types of Fat

Body composition is defined as the proportion of fat and other fat-free masses like bones, organs and muscles. To be considered healthy, one needs to maintain more fat-free mass than fat and this can often be affected by factors like age, genetic disposition, hormones and gender.

Body fat percentage

Doctors and personal trainers may measure your body fat percentage to assess your overall health and fitness levels, especially in the face of a new illness or a weight loss program.

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the healthy range of body fat percentage for men and women are:

  • Essential fat
    • Women: 10 to 13 percent
    • Men: 2 to 5 percent
  • Athletes
    • Women: 14 to 20 percent
    • Men: 6 to 13 percent
  • Fitness
    • Women: 21 to 24 percent
    • Men: 14 to 17 percent
  • Acceptable
    • Women: 25 to 31 percent
    • Men: 18 to 24 percent
  • Obese
    • Women: more than 32 percent
    • Men: more than 25 percent

The different types of body fat include:

  • Brown fat

Considered healthy, brown fat is seen in abundance in babies and might help them keep warm. The proportion of brown fat reduces as we age and as adults, those who weigh less might have more brown fat than those who are heavier. Known as the brown adipose tissue (BAT), brown fat can be found mostly in the back of the neck and is said to mimic muscles when it comes to burning calories.

  • Beige fat

A relatively new find, beige fat is formed when the white fat gets converted to brown and is observed along the spine and near the collarbone. Studies conducted on mice have led scientists to believe that since humans also release a hormone called irisin, like the mice, we may be able to convert white fat to beige or brown by exercising.

  • Subcutaneous fat

Unlike the brown fat that can burn calories to produce energy, this variety of white fat stores energy and has a very low metabolism. It is found just under the skin and tends to accumulate mainly around the middle of the body, impacting the hips and belly.

  • Visceral fat

This form of white fat, also called deep fat, tends to envelop around the organs and can cause excess blood to flow into the liver. Visceral fat can accumulate due to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle and may not be as visible as the subcutaneous fat that becomes visible quickly.

Understanding the different types of fat might help us understand our body composition and also find ways of changing the composition to have a healthier proportion of fat versus fat-free mass.

The content of this Website is for informational purposes only, is general in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and does not constitute professional advice. The information on this Website should not be considered as complete and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions, or their treatment. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise, weight loss, or health care program and/or any of the beauty treatments.


E. (2017, October 12). The 4 Main Types of Body Fat. Retrieved from https://www.eatthis.com/types-of-body-fat/