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The Official Newsletter of
updated: January 19, 2019

The Myth that Women 
Need More Body Fat

by Ron Brown, Ph.D., author of The Body Fat Guide 

"Ron Brown is a certified fitness trainer who doesn't have an inch of flab on his body. He'll tell you what you can do to become fit and trim too." 
Washington DC



ONE DAY in the gym, a female figure competitor who was days away from her natural competition and who was in peak condition was overheard saying that her body fat percentage was 11%. My friend asked me what my body fat percentage was by comparison. When I told him I was around 7-8% he wondered how it was possible that my body fat percentage was lower than the female competitorís who didnít appear to have an ounce of fat on her. After thinking about this for a while, I eventually realized that although my absolute body fat level was somewhat similar to the female figure competitor'sóperhaps we each carried somewhere between 12 and 13 pounds of body fatómy body fat percentage relative to my overall bodyweight was much lower than hers because I carried around 40-50 pounds more muscle! Furthermore, it occurred to me that the conventional wisdom that females should carry more body fat than males is biased due to a misinterpretation of absolute and relative body fat levels. It's like comparing apples and oranges; absolute and relative body levels are not equivalent. Itís a myth that women need more body fat!

My book, The Body Fat Guide, shows that a 175-pound male at 15% body fat who gains 12 pounds of muscle or lean body mass will have lowered his body fat percentage to approximately 14%, even though he lost no body fat! He is only leaner relative to his overall increased bodyweight from added muscle, not because he reduced his absolute body fat level. This explains why males tend to have lower body fat percentages than females; because they carry more muscle, not because they carry less body fat. In fact, I have observed that the leanest athletes with the lowest absolute body fat levels at physique competitions are often the females who probably feel more comfortable dieting and preparing their own meals than the male competitors.


The usual reasons given to justify why women are supposed to carry more body fat are attributed to childbirth, female hormones, and cultural standards of beauty. But the female figure competitor who was 11% body fat was a healthy and beautiful mom, so none of these reasons appear to apply in her case. Of course, there is a healthy way and an unhealthy way to arrive at the peak of condition, and unhealthy methods like drug use, imbalanced diets, and eating disorders are confounding factors in the association of low body fat levels with disease conditions. Unhealthy methods are also the main reason why it is impossible to sustain attained conditioning over long periods. However, if attained naturally through a sensible, safe, and effective diet and exercise program, there does not appear to be any sound physiological reason why a woman shouldnít be as lean, conditioned, fit, strong, and as healthy and productive as a man for her size and feminine shape, and remain that way. Iím sure the growing number of females participating in natural physique competitions would agree!

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