People often ask me what my body fat percentage was when I became Mr. Universe. The answer is 3 percent, but that was probably for no more than a couple of days, after which it went back to somewhere between 5 and 7 percent. Assuming you’re not a professional bodybuilder, that percentage would be unrealistic for you. We all need some fat just to maintain cellular structure, regulate body temperature, cushion and insulate our organs, and store the energy we need simply to stay alive.

The following tables indicate the average range of body fat for men and women in various categories.

Note that women naturally have a higher percentage of body fat than men— about 6 to 7 percent more. By nature, a woman’s body is made to protect her potential fetus. As a result, women have more enzymes than men for storing fat and fewer enzymes for burning fat. Furthermore, the estrogen in a woman’s system activates fat-storing enzymes and causes them to multiply. Another difference between men and women is that most women store fat below the waist—in their buttocks, hips, and thighs—whereas most men store it primarily in their abdomen, lower back, and chest. Many studies have shown that the woman’s pattern of fat storage is generally healthier than the man’s, and that excess abdominal fat indicates an increased risk for developing heart disease.

If You Want to Learn Your Percentage of Body Fat

Although determining your percentage of body fat isn’t necessary for following this plan, it can be both interesting and useful before you begin.

You can do this by using calipers designed for the purpose. If you wish, you can buy the calipers (the Accu-measure brand costs about $15.00), follow the instructions, and take the measurements yourself. Or—my preference—you can go to a gym and have it done professionally. The American College of Sports Medicine has stated that skinfold measurements, when performed by a trained tester and when using appropriate calipers (i.e. Lange Calipers), are very accurate measures of body fat.

Measuring your body fat before you start the plan and then at intervals as you progress can be very validating and motivating, as you’ll see the percentage decline.

My reason for telling you all this about body fat is to help you understand why it’s so important not only to cut calories but also eat a proper balance of nutrients that will help you stay sharp, focused and build or tone muscle while you lose weight.

Excerpt of the upcoming book Recharge: The Executive Guide to innerFitness®, © 2017, by Nordine Zouareg