ask our dietitian your question todayso many questions about healthy eating (2)

question-answer-color-v-2I am a bit frustrated with my body fat situation. I have been exercising since 1998, and I am a 5’9”, 158 lb., 70 year-old male. My body fat is around 19 – 20 percent, but I want it to be a 9 percent!
I do the calculation every morning before going to LA Fitness. Work out about 50 minutes, starting at 5 a.m. Most people say I’m in great shape – for any age – including my doctor, although I do take a drug to lower my cholesterol. HDL is above 70. LDL is high, also, however. No diabetes, nor high blood pressure.

Am I eating wrong?

Is this goal impossible for me? – Larry T. 


Well, Larry, I am not sure how you’re eating but this I do know:

For you to attain such a lofty goal you will need to be extreme with your diet and workout regimen.

There are senior body builders, so although being very lean is possible for some, that doesn’t automatically mean your body can reach that level.

It seems your physique goal may be a little extreme at any age. According to Human Kinetics*—a publisher of authoritative texts on fitness, nutrition and sport—the upper ranges of male athletes’ body fat percentages extend from 8 to 20%. Only for men under 30 years does average body fat percentage reach 9% on the low end to 15% upper end.

Please know that a hand-held body composition analyzer is a useful tool to track changes or assess one’s body fat for health screening purposes, but may be inaccurate since it is based on hydration status and is a segmental device (relies on upper extremities to predict overall fat). Also to note, validity of results for people over 60 years of age is lacking.

To really get a pin-point assessment of your body fat percentage, you’ll need a research quality technique or device (e.g. hydrostatic weighing, skinfold calipers). These may be difficult to find, except in college performance laboratories! But a DEXA (dual X-ray absorptiometry) machine is available in many hospital outpatient settings, like medical centers or clinics, as it is used for bone mineral density tests.

So back to you… you’re fit, working out regularly and on minimal medication. Why not be satisfied with how you look and feel instead of focused on a number from a screen? Though it may be possible, your own physique may be at its peak with your current diet and workout routine.

*from Sports Nutrition, 2nd Edition by A. Jeukendrup PhD and M. Gleeson, PhD. See full charts HERE.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

Check out some of our other articles right here at LIVING HEALTHY for more tips on reducing body fat percentage.

Do you have a question about your diet or nutrition? Ask our dietitian by submitting your question to or simply ask it in the COMMENTS section below.

To learn how to follow the “Ask Our Dietitian” Q&A CLICK HERE!

Debbie James is a registered dietitian. Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or recommendations of Fitness International, LLC.



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