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The U.S. Navy Fitness and Body Fat Standards

In the book, Weight Management: State of the Science and Opportunities for Military Programs, the primary purpose for fitness and body composition benchmarks is to choose soldiers best suited for the physical demands of the service.[6]

This is based on the assumption that proper body weight and composition is a prerequisite for good health and physical readiness. Fitness ensures higher survival rates for troops, enabling soldiers to better perform under physical and mental stress.

Today, because over one-third of adults in the U.S are obese,[7] the government imposes strict fitness standards to maintain a strong military force. Around 8% of U.S. military is overweight or has more than the required body fat percentage, states Stewart Smith, former Navy SEAL and certified strength and conditioning specialist.[8]

For members, failure to meet fitness standards mean losing the following privileges:

  • Re-enlistment
  • Promotion
  • Taking leadership positions
  • Attending professional military schools

For applicants, screening is done to check if they are within the recommended weight and height (body mass index) standards. If an applicant does not fall within the advised range, the ‘tape test’ is given to estimate their body fat percentage. This helps determine if the applicant is eligible for service.

See the Navy Maximum Weight and Height Chart [9]:

Gender Male Female
Height (in.) Weight (lbs.) Weight (lbs.)
5’8 131 131
5’9 136 136
6’0 141 141
6’1 145 145
6’2 150 149
6’3 155 152
6’4 160 156
6’5 165 160
6’6 170 163
6’7 175 167
6’8 181 170
6’9 186 174
7’0 191 177
7’1 196 181
7’2 201 185
7’3 206 189
7’4 211 194
7’5 216 200
7’6 221 205
7’7 226 211
7’8 231 216

As of 2019, the U.S. military weight and height guidelines require service members to maintain body fat levels below 28% for men, and 36% for women.[10] For U.S. Navy applicants, the body fat percentage limit for ages 22 to 29 is 23% for men, and 34% for women.

Body fat percentage limit for U.S. Navy service members:

Age Range % Body Fat, Men % Body Fat, Women
18 – 21 22% 33%
22 – 29 23% 34%
30 – 39 24% 35%
Over 40 26% 36%
Meal 1200 Cal Plan 1500 Cal Plan 2000 Cal Plan

All-bran cereal (125)
Milk (50)
Banana (90)

Granola (120)
Greek yogurt (120)
Blueberries (40)

Buttered toast (150)
Egg (80)
Banana (90)
Almonds (170)


Cucumber (30)
Avocado dip (50)

Orange (70)

Greek yogurt (120)
Blueberries (40)

Total 345 Calories 350 Calories 650 Calories

Grilled cheese with tomato (300)
Salad (50)

Chicken and vegetable soup (300)
Bread (100)

Grilled chicken (225)
Grilled vegetables (125)
Pasta (185)


Walnuts (100)

Apple (75)
Peanut butter (75)

Hummus (50)
Baby carrots (35)
Crackers (65)

Total 450 Calories 550 Calories 685 Calories

Grilled Chicken (200)
Brussel sprouts (100)
Quinoa (105)

Steak (375)
Mashed potatoes (150)
Asparagus (75)

Grilled salmon (225)
Brown rice (175)
Green beans (100)
Walnuts (165)

Total 405 Calories 600 Calories 665 Calories

Estimate Your Body Fat Percent

There are many ways to estimate body fat. This calculator asks for your weight, gender and the size around 4 different body areas to estimate your body fat percent based on a formula developed by the United States Navy.

— Guide Authored by Corin B. Arenas, published on September 16, 2019

Some people are thin but have an unhealthy amount of fat in their bodies. On the other hand, others look large but have greater muscle mass which makes them fit.

Both examples show how fat percentage levels affect health.

While it’s a good idea to check the weighing scale now and then, it’s equally important to keep tabs on the amount of fat in your body. Even if you lose weight, high body fat can increase your chances of getting heart disease, hypertension, and other chronic ailments.[1]

To get your body fat percentage, try the calculator at the top of this page.

Read on to get started and learn more.

There are several ways to know if you have healthy fat levels. Some methods are readily available, while others are harder to find. Below are several effective methods you can try.

Beyond losing pounds, focus your efforts on effective fat loss techniques.

When it comes to making diet changes, keep in mind it’s more than just cutting calories. You should choose more nutritious meals over processed foods. For exercise, it’s important to keep yourself active and to add more resistance training into your routine.

Here are several other ways you can reduce your body fat percentage:

  1. Eat less sugar – Cutting sugar is one of the fastest ways you can reduce fat in your diet. Avoid ingredients such as barley malt, maltodextrin, dextrin, caramel, other syrups, fruit juice concentrate, and fruit juice crystals.
  2. Consume more fiber – High-fiber foods can help prevent fat accumulation. A study shows it can help remove up to 3.7% of belly fat within 5 years.[21] Examples of fiber-rich foods include pears, raspberries, broccoli, artichoke, oats, and chia seeds.
  3. Add more protein to your diet – Protein-rich foods help maintain muscle mass and metabolism while you’re losing weight. Eating more protein is also associated with lower risk of accumulating belly fat.[22]
  4. Increase your aerobic exercises – Doing more aerobic or cardiovascular workouts decreases belly fat and overall body fat.[23] Try to aim for 150 – 300 minutes of aerobic exercises a week.
  5. Focus on strength training – Aside from preserving your muscle, lifting weights is effective in reducing visceral fat (fat around the belly). According to a study, 12 weeks of strength training paired with cardiovascular workouts is more effective at decreasing body fat than just cardiovascular exercises.[24]

Achieving the right number on the weighing scale involves different factors. It includes your height, muscle-fat ratio, body fat distribution, gender, and other physiological conditions.

There are several ways you can determine your ideal weight. The most common methods are:

  • Body Mass Index (Weight and Height) 
  • Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR)
  • Body Fat Percentage

While using these methods can provide you with a good estimate, it’s important to note that one result may not necessarily mean you’re unhealthy or fit. Each individual is different, so it’s best to know how to use each method to address issues that are particular your body type.

Calorie counting with the intent of losing weight, on its simplest levels, can be broken down into a few general steps:

  1. Determine your BMR using one of the provided equations. If you know your body fat percentage, the Katch-McArdle Formula might be a more accurate representation of your BMR. Remember that the values attained from these equations are approximations and subtracting exactly 500 calories from your BMR will not necessarily result in exactly 1 pound lost per week – it could be less, or it could be more!
  2. Determine your weight loss goals. Recall that 1 pound (~0.45 kg) equates to approximately 3500 calories, and reducing daily caloric intake relative to estimated BMR by 500 calories per day will theoretically result in a loss of 1 pound a week. It is generally not advisable to lose more than 2 pounds per week as it can have negative health effects, i.e. try to target a maximum daily calorie reduction of approximately 1000 calories per day. Consulting your doctor and/or a registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) is recommended in cases where you plan to lose more than 2 pounds per week.
  3. Choose a method to track your calories and progress towards your goals. If you have a smart phone, there are many easy-to-use applications that facilitate tracking calories, exercise, and progress, among other things. Many, if not all of these, have estimates for the calories in many brand name foods or dishes at restaurants, and if not, can estimate calories based on the amount of the individual components of the foods. It can be difficult to get a good grasp on food proportions and the calories they contain – which is why counting calories (as well as any other approach) is not for everyone – but if you meticulously measure and track the number of calories in some of your typical meals, it quickly becomes easier to accurately estimate calorie content without having to actually measure or weigh your food each time. There are also websites that can help to do the same, but if you prefer, manually maintaining an excel spreadsheet or even a pen and paper journal are certainly viable alternatives.
  4. Track your progress over time and make changes to better achieve your goals if necessary. Remember that weight loss alone is not the sole determinant of health and fitness, and you should take other factors such as fat vs. muscle loss/gain into account as well. Also, it is recommended that measurements be taken over longer periods of time such as a week (rather than daily) as significant variations in weight can occur simply based on water intake or time of day. It is also ideal to take measurements under consistent conditions, such as weighing yourself as soon as you wake up and before breakfast, rather than at different times throughout the day.
  5. Keep at it!

The above steps are an attempt at the most basic form of calorie counting. Calorie counting is not an exact science, and can be as complex as you want to make it. The above does not consider proportions of macronutrients consumed.

While there is no exactly known, ideal proportion of macronutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates) some balance is certainly advisable, and different foods have been found to have different effects on health, feelings of hunger, and number of calories burned.

There are many approaches to weight loss and there is no set ideal method that works for all people, which is why so many different diets and exercise regimens exist. While some methods are more effective for each individual person, not all weight loss methods are equivalent, and studies suggest that some approaches are healthier than others.

That being said, one of the most commonly effective weight loss methods is counting calories. In its most basic form, calories consumed minus calories expended will result in weight gain if the result is positive, or weight loss if the result is negative.

However, this is far from a comprehensive picture, and many other factors play a role in affecting healthy, sustainable weight loss. For example, there exist conflicting studies addressing whether or not the type of calories or foods consumed, or how they are consumed, affects weight loss.

Studies have shown that foods that require a person to chew more and are more difficult to digest result in the body burning more calories, sometimes referred to as the thermic effect of food. While the increase in burned calories may be marginal, foods that are more difficult to digest such as vegetables generally tend to be healthier and provide more nutrients for fewer calories than many processed foods.

Consistent with the view that in regards to weight loss, only net calories are important and not their source, there exist cases such as the Twinkie diet, where a person that solely counted calories while eating a variety of cake snacks managed to lose 27 pounds over two months.

As effective as this can be, it is certainly not suggested. While the participant did not seem to suffer any noticeable health detriments in this particular case, there are other less measurable factors that should be considered such as long-term effects of such a diet on potential for developing cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.

However, ignoring efficiency and health, sustained, significant reduction of caloric intake or increase of physical activity should result in weight loss, and counting calories can be an effective way to achieve this sole result.

Aside from being one viable method for facilitating weight loss, calorie counting has other somewhat less quantifiable advantages including helping to increase nutritional awareness. Many people are completely unaware of, or grossly underestimate their daily caloric intake.

Counting calories can help raise an awareness of different types of foods, the number of calories they contain, and how these calories have a different effect on a person’s feelings of satiety. Once a person has a better understanding of how many calories are actually in that bag of chips that they can so easily inhale within minutes, how much of their daily caloric intake it consumes, and how little the chips do to satiate their hunger, portion control and avoidance of foods with empty calories tends to become easier.

Having actual caloric measurements can also assist in weight loss, since tangible calorie goals can be set, rather than simply trying to eat less. Also, although this is not necessarily directly related to calorie counting, studies have shown that portion control by simply eating from a smaller plate can help reduce calorie intake, since people tend to fill their plates and eat everything on their plates.

Many people do not realize that they are overeating, since they have become accustomed to restaurant-sized portions being the norm, when said portions can be up to three or more times larger than necessary for a typical meal.

Tracking calories also puts exercise in a quantifiable perspective, increasing a person’s awareness regarding how much exercise is really required to counteract a 220-calorie bag of M{amp}amp;M’s. Once a link is made between the amount of exercise that some snack equates to, many people find abstaining from that bag of chips to be the preferred option rather than performing an equivalent amount of exercise – which can lead to healthier eating habits.

In the end however, what’s important is picking a strategy that works for you. Calorie counting is only one method used to achieve weight loss amongst many, and even within this method, there are many possible approaches a person can take.

Many people seek to lose weight, and often the easiest way to do this is to consume fewer calories each day. But how many calories does the body actually need in order to be healthy? This largely depends on the amount of physical activity a person performs each day, and regardless of this, is different for all people – there are many different factors involved, not all of which are well-understood or known.

Some factors that influence the number of calories a person needs to remain healthy include age, weight, height, sex, levels of physical activity, and overall general health. For example, a physically active 25-year-old male that is 6 feet in height requires considerably higher calorie intake than a 5-foot-tall, sedentary 70-year-old woman.

Though it differs depending on age and activity level, adult males generally require 2,000-3000 calories per day to maintain weight while adult females need around 1,600-2,400 according to the U.S Department of Health.

The body does not require many calories to simply survive. However, consuming too few calories results in the body functioning poorly, since it will only use calories for functions essential to survival, and ignore those necessary for general health and well-being.

Harvard Health Publications suggests women get at least 1,200 calories and men get at least 1,500 calories a day unless supervised by doctors. As such, it is highly recommended that a person attempting to lose weight monitors their body’s caloric necessities and adjusts it as necessary to maintain its nutritional needs.

The main sources of calories in a typical person’s diet are carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, with alcohol also being a significant portion of calorie intake for many people (though ideally this should be limited since alcohol contains many empty calories).

Some studies have shown that the calories displayed on nutrition labels and the calories actually consumed and retained can vary significantly. This hints at the complex nature of calories and nutrition and is why many conflicting points of view on the «best» methodology for losing weight exist.

For example, how a person chews their food has been shown to affect weight loss to some degree; generally speaking, chewing food more increases the number of calories that the body burns during digestion.

People that chew more also tend to eat less, since the longer period of time necessary to chew their food allows more time to reach a state of satiety, which results in eating less. However, the effects of how food is chewed and digestion of different foods are not completely understood and it is possible that other factors exist, and thus this information should be taken with a grain of salt (in moderation if weight loss is the goal).

Generally, foods that take more effort to chew – fruit, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, etc. – require the body to burn more calories since more calories are required to digest them. It also results in the feeling of satiety for longer periods of time.

The «quality» of calories consumed is also important. There are different classifications of foods in terms of calories. This includes high-calorie foods, low-calorie foods, and empty calories. Consistent with their naming, high-calorie foods are foods that are calorically dense, meaning that there are a high number of calories relative to serving size, while low-calorie foods have fewer calories relative to serving size.

Foods such as fat, oils, fried foods, and sugary foods are examples of high-calorie foods. Being a high-calorie food does not inherently mean that the food is unhealthy however – avocados, quinoa, nuts, and whole grains are all high-calorie foods that are considered healthful in moderation.

Low calorie foods include vegetables and certain fruits, among other things, while empty calories, such as those in added sugars and solid fats, are calories that contain few to no nutrients. Studies have shown that there is a measurable difference between consuming 500 calories of carrots compared to 500 calories of popcorn.

As previously mentioned, this in part can be attributed to differences in how the foods are consumed and processed. Carrots require far more chewing and can result in more calories burned during digestion.

Again, the mechanism for these differences is not fully defined, but simply note that for weight loss purposes, the general formula of calories in minus calories out determining weight gain or loss does hold, but that the number of calories on a nutrition label is not necessarily indicative of how many calories the body actually retains.

While there is no clear-cut or ideal amount of macronutrient proportions a person should consume to maintain a healthy diet or lose weight, eating a «healthy» diet replete with a variety of unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, and lean meats is correlated with being healthier, and is more likely to result in sustainable weight loss.

Also, remember that calories from drinks comprise an estimated 21% of a typical person’s diet. Many of these calories fall under the category of empty calories. While sodas are an obvious culprit, drinks such as juices and even milk have large amounts of sugar and should be consumed in moderation to avoid negating their nutritional benefits.

Remember: All foods, including «healthful foods,» should be consumed in moderation, and distinctions can often be misleading since even natural foods like fruits can have large amounts of sugar, and foods labeled as «health foods» such as low-calorie foods, reduced-fat foods, etc.

can potentially replace one unhealthy component with another. Many reduced-fat foods have large amounts of added sugar to compensate for taste lost through fat reduction. It is important to pay attention to, and consider the different components in a food product in order to determine whether said food should have a place within your diet.

Food Serving Size Calories kJ
Apple 1 (4 oz.) 59 247
Banana 1 (6 oz.) 151 632
Grapes 1 cup 100 419
Orange 1 (4 oz.) 53 222
Pear 1 (5 oz.) 82 343
Peach 1 (6 oz.) 67 281
Pineapple 1 cup 82 343
Strawberry 1 cup 53 222
Watermelon 1 cup 50 209
Asparagus 1 cup 27 113
Broccoli 1 cup 45 188
Carrots 1 cup 50 209
Cucumber 4 oz. 17 71
Eggplant 1 cup 35 147
Lettuce 1 cup 5 21
Tomato 1 cup 22 92
Beef, regular, cooked 2 oz. 142 595
Chicken, cooked 2 oz. 136 569
Tofu 4 oz. 86 360
Egg 1 large 78 327
Fish, Catfish, cooked 2 oz. 136 569
Pork, cooked 2 oz. 137 574
Shrimp, cooked 2 oz. 56 234
Common Meals/Snacks
Bread, white 1 slice (1 oz.) 75 314
Butter 1 tablespoon 102 427
Caesar salad 3 cups 481 2014
Cheeseburger 1 sandwich 285 1193
Hamburger 1 sandwich 250 1047
Dark Chocolate 1 oz. 155 649
Corn 1 cup 132 553
Pizza 1 slice (14″) 285 1193
Potato 6 oz. 130 544
Rice 1 cup cooked 206 862
Sandwich 1 (6″ Subway Turkey Sandwich) 200 837
Beer 1 can 154 645
Coca-Cola Classic 1 can 150 628
Diet Coke 1 can 0 0
Milk (1%) 1 cup 102 427
Milk (2%) 1 cup 122 511
Milk (Whole) 1 cup 146 611
Orange Juice 1 cup 111 465
Apple cider 1 cup 117 490
Yogurt (low-fat) 1 cup 154 645
Yogurt (non-fat) 1 cup 110 461
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