What is the Lowest Body Fat Percentage EVER?

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Last updated on March 1st, 2024 at 04:16 pm

Two people have been reported to have almost 0% body fat, namely Andreas Munzer and Lizze Velasquez. Munzer was a bodybuilder who typically competed at 3-4% body fat. However, at the time of his untimely death, at the age of 31, it was claimed that he was the closest that any human had been to 0% body fat.

The Two People With the Lowest Body Fat Ever Recorded

My curiosity got the better of me and I had to know about the lowest body fat percentages ever recorded, but I wasn’t ready for what I was about to be greeted with.

The lowest body fat percentage range (according to official charts, measurements, etc.) is known as “Essential Fat” and shouldn’t be below 2% for any human being.

Basically, this is the minimum amount of fat that an individual requires to survive, and anything lower would typically lead to organ failure.

So, when you come across stories of people who have dipped below the “essential fat” figure it can certainly pull on your heartstrings.

Andreas Munzer

Firstly, there’s the late Austrian bodybuilder, Andreas Munzer, who was known for his extremely low levels of body fat.

Andreas was someone who admired and aspired to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he eventually met his hero at the 1996 Arnold Classic.

Andreas claimed a number of top 10 spots in some of the most famous bodybuilding competitions, including Mr. Olympia and the Arnold Classic, even coming 1st in the Heavyweight category of the World Games in 1989.

Andreas Munzer - The Man Said to Have the Lowest Body Fat Percentage Ever

Andreas was admitted to hospital in March 1996 after complaining of stomach pains for many months previously.

The Doctors decided to operate to stop bleeding from his stomach, but shortly afterwards both his liver and kidneys failed.

Two days later Andreas died at the age of 31.

His autopsy revealed over 20 different drugs in his system, his liver contained numerous tennis ball-sized tumours and his heart weighed 636 grams, almost twice that of an average man.

His body contained almost no fat beneath the skin and it is claimed that this is the closest that anyone has ever been to 0% body fat.

Lizzie Velasquez

Lizzie was born with a rare congenital disease known as Marfanoid-progeroid-lipodystrophy syndrome.

This condition means that her body breaks down the protein intended to build fat cells.

Simply put, Lizzie is unable to put on weight, irrespective of what she eats, and she has never weighed more than 29kg (64lbs) her entire life.

In fact, Lizzie typically eats anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 calories a day, which must be consumed in small meals and snacks, but she’ll never put on weight.

Lizzie Velasquez Sitting Between 2 Women

Just reading Lizzie’s story of how she was bullied at school brought tears to my eyes, but nothing could prepare me for what she had to endure in her teenage years.

A video posted on YouTube in 2006, when Lizzie was just 17 years old, dubbed her the “World’s Ugliest Woman”.

Can you even begin to imagine how that feels?

Her misery didn’t end there, as many of the comments to the video included some of the most disgusting things you could ever say to another person.

I feel loathed to say it, but one commenter basically told Lizzie to “Do the world a favour and put a gun to your head.”

Lizzie is a far stronger person that I could ever hope to be and the video and the comments inspired her to become a motivational speaker. She has spoken out against bullying and remains an eternal optimist.

Lizzie you truly inspire me to be a better person.

Here’s Lizzie giving a TED talk @ TEDxAustinWomen Talk in 2014.

Although the video has nothing to do with body fat percentages, I feel her talk, “How Do YOU Define Yourself” is something everyone should see.

The Body Fat Percentage Chart

The Body Fat Percentage Chart

What is Body Fat Percentage?

Body fat percentage is basically the amount of fat in your body in comparison to everything else, such as your organs, muscles, tendons, bones, water, etc.

As you can see from the chart above (and the examples below) men and women have different amounts of body fat percentage, for no other reason than we’re different from each other.

In fact, just looking at the body examples below you can see that a super-ripped male bodybuilder with a body fat percentage in the 3-4% range is the equivalent to that of a female with 11-12% body fat.

This would also mean that most professional sportsmen would be in superb shape with a 10% body fat percentage, whereas a sportswoman would look equally fantastic and athletic with 17-18% body fat.

However, before anyone starts complaining one way or the other, just compare the opposite end of the scale, i.e. the comparison between both sexes at say 35% body fat.

With that said, it is important to note that your body fat percentage is simply about the amount of body fat you have, and won’t take into consideration things like muscle mass.

Therefore, you could have two people with exactly the same body fat percentage and yet they look physically very different from one another.

The following pictures of both men and women may come as somewhat of a surprise to you, but in truth most of us estimate our body fat percentages completely incorrectly (whether over or under).

What Body Fat Percentages Look Like For Men & Women

Body Fat Percentages For Men

Body Fat Percentages For Women

The Dangers of a Low Body Fat Percentage

I’m sure most of us would love to be a little leaner and wouldn’t it be great for our abs to finally come out of hiding?

However, the story of Andreas Munzer earlier is surely enough to scare anyone off having too low a BFP.

Even bodybuilders who try to get their BFP as low as possible just before competition (3-4% range) will generally ease off afterwards and allow their body fat to rise significantly during off-season.

In fact, most professional athletes will typically perform better in their chosen sport if they have a 15% body fat for men, and 20% for women.

And mere mortals such as ourselves can look absolutely fantastic with 18% and 22% body fat for men and women respectively.

Nevertheless, there are those that chase almost impossibly low single digit figures, so it’s important to be aware of the dangers this may cause.

One of the biggest negative effects of having an extremely low body fat percentage, as we have seen with Andreas, is the potential for organ failure.

Your cardiovascular system will have difficulty in functioning normally, which may lead to bradycardia (a heart rate that is too slow).

This typically leads to dizziness, passing out, and in a worst-case scenario, cardiac arrest.

"Focusing solely on body fat percentage can be a dangerous obsession. It's more important to prioritize building muscle and overall fitness while maintaining a healthy body composition." - Michelle Seiler, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and registered dietitian

The International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance conducted and published a study in February 2013.

The study followed a group of bodybuilders who lowered their body fat in preparation for competition and found that some of their heart rates dropped by as much as 27 beats per minute.

This can often lead to cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

The liver and kidneys may find the stress placed on them too much, which can lead to organ shrinkage, and eventually organ failure.

Due to lowered calorie intake in order to lower body fat this will generally lead to a lack of energy.

Having an extremely low BFP will leave you always feeling cold, which is usually caused by thyroid dysfunctions.

This in turn makes it harder to exercise, the muscles are unable to recover adequately from exercise, terrible workouts, dehydration, and always feeling hungry.

This will mean that eventually your muscles become weaker and you’ll be more prone to illness.

Of course, this will mess with your mood, concentration levels and lead to mental fatigue.

A man can expect his testosterone levels to drop and a lower sperm count, whereas a woman may find that her pituitary gland reduces,

This will decrease the production of hormones, which can affect the ovaries, and eventually this may even lead to the menstrual cycle stopping.

Finally, as I’m sure you’re now well aware, having too low a body fat percentage can also lead to death.

I’m not trying to scare anyone here, these are simply the facts about having a BFP that is too low.

So, by all means chase the figures that will eventually get your abs to show, but do so sensibly and with extreme caution.

Key Learning Points

  • Andreas Munzer and Lizzie Velasquez have been reported as having almost 0% body fat.
  • Bodybuilder Munzer competed at 3-4% body fat but was very close to 0% at the time of his death.
  • Lizzie has the rare congenital disease Marfanoid-progeroid-lipodystrophy syndrome, which means she eats 5,000-8,000 calories per day without ever putting weight on.
  • A professional sportsman would typically have around 6-13% body fat, whereas a sportswoman will have around 14-20% body fat percentage.
  • The major danger of extremely low body fat is cardiac arrest.
  • It can also affect the liver and kidneys and cause organ failure.
  • Extremely low body fat will generally mean you have much less energy due to the decreased calorie intake.
  • Men can expect drops in testosterone, and therefore a low sperm count, as a result of a very low body fat percentage.
  • Women may find that their pituitary gland is reduced, which can affect the ovaries and cause the menstrual cycle to stop.

If you’re trying to lose body fat there’s no need to go to the extreme. In fact, check out my article about whether you can achieve fat loss by eating your maintenance weight calories.

12 thoughts on “What is the Lowest Body Fat Percentage EVER?”

  1. I want to express my gratitude for sharing this article about body fat percentage. This is something I usually don’t measure, and thanks to your comprehensive post here, I have a great foundation to start with. I think that I’m somewhere around 15%, which is quite healthy. I exercise regularly and have a normal diet (a little bit of everything).

    I was shocked by those stories you have included in your post. The story about Lizzie and Andreas is absolutely shocking. I’ve never heard of these individuals, and their experiences are simply unbelievable, especially Lizzie’s.

    I can relate because at one point in my life, while I was working in a hotel, I lived an unhealthy lifestyle and I lost 15 kg in less than six months. I ate about 2 meals per day and was working about 10 hours per day on average. This has lead to extreme weight loss, and I practically had lost all my body fat. I remember feeling weak and exhausted all the time and even had serious kidney issues caused by rapid weight loss.

    The reason why I’m sharing this story is that I want to send a message to folks out there who are looking to loose body fat to keep it reasonable and don’t over obsess over a few inches extra.

    In any case, thanks for sharing this post, Partha. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Ivan,

      Always fantastic to hear from you.

      Firstly, I will say that 15% BFP will put you in the “fitness” range, so you are certainly exercising regularly and eating pretty well at a guess.

      Yes, I totally agree – Andreas and Lizzie’s stories were certainly shocking to say at the very least and I did feel a lump in my throat and tear prick my eye, as I read about what Lizzie had to endure.

      Wow, I was aware that you previously worked long hours in the hotel industry, but I didn’t realise it was taking quite such a toll on your health.

      I know your rapid weight loss didn’t happen on purpose and this definitely wasn’t what you were aiming for, but it tells a story in itself.

      I often worry when people go on crash diets or try to lose weight or body fat as quickly as possible. It’s all well-and-good losing a few pounds in double-quick time, but the effects on your health can be quite severe.

      You can attest to this Ivan simply by what you went through, and through no fault of your own.

      I really appreciate you sharing your story, that was brave, and it also serves as a valuable lesson to (as you say) “anyone obsessing over losing a few inches”, is it really worth allowing your health to suffer?

      Thanks again Ivan


  2. I enjoyed your informative article about body fat %. The pictures were an excellent aid to see just what each % looks like on men and women.

    My belief is that measuring and monitoring body fat % is one very important way to determine one’s fitness level. Someone could be 20 years old, 6 feet tall and weigh 190 pounds. That same person, when they became 60 years old could be the same height and weight, yet have much higher body fat % and lower % of muscle tissue. Their weight is the same but their health and fitness are radically different.

    Thanks for explaining the dangers of body fat % that is both too low or too high.

    I especially got a chuckle at how you dealt with the excuse, “I don’t want to get all bulked up.”

    • Hi Glenn,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I think monitoring body fat has its place, and it’s important to know, although I do think that some people tend to obsess over it.

      I’ve always been one for simply looking in a mirror and taking the “sight-test” to ascertain whether my training and nutrition are going well or not.

      With that said (and to be slightly hypocritical), I have measured my body fat a few times over the years, as curosity got the better of me.

      I also think you’ve nailed it in terms of body fat and muscle mass, which is why I generally never go near a set of weighing scales.

      Someone’s weight can be so deceiving. A person may think that they’re terribly overweight, whereas they are anything but, and vice versa I guess.


  3. Wow, Partha, you sure have done your research! Really interesting to read this and like you I almost had to cry over Lizzy’s story. Amazing how some people find strength in a negative thing like bullying. The way she did her talk and only being 25, phew, the Dutch would say ‘hoedje af’. Chapeau!

    How does BFP relate to BMI? I had never heard of BFP before (should I be ashamed of myself now? LOL). You did mention the difference, but I am not sure how to interprete that. Should I not look at BMI at all or do I misunderstand it?

    Another thing that would interest me if there is a difference when people are getting older. Will BFP change then and should I look for other values?

    Anyway, I am not too worried. My lifestyle is healthy, despite the occasional cheat day. 🙂

    • Hi Hannie,

      Lovely to hear from you as always.

      Oh yes, I totally agree with you about Lizzie. In fact, ever since reading about her I have become a “Lizzie fan”.

      I’ve trawled the internet to find out more about her motivational speaking and the talks she has given and she is certainly one very inspirational lady.

      LOL, not to worry Hannie, allow me to explain about BFP and BMI.

      In its simplest terms BMI will only take your height and weight into consideration and nothing else. So, it can produce a highly inaccurate assessment.

      Case in point, one of the greatest basketball players to grace the Earth, LeBron James, is 6ft 8in tall and weighs around 250lbs.

      According to BMI calculators he is considered obese (as the assessment is purely based on his height and weight).

      LeBron sports a six-pack and is probably one of the greatest athletes ever – and all this by someone who is apparently obese according to BMI.

      BFP ranges will change as we age. I gave the example of a man in his 20s having a lower BFP than a man in his 60s, however, the younger man is considered overweight, whereas the older man is considered average.

      With that said, as long as you’re living a fairly healthy lifestyle, as you do Hannie, and you’re enjoying life, and still able to do all the things that you want – well, this is all that really matters.


      • Got it, thanks for the additional explanation, Partha.
        Yes, I am enjoying life. I just wish I knew whether I really am building on my immune system. But I can’t say ‘give me the virus’ and then when the result is disappointing let ‘them’ take it back, can I? 😀

        • Pleased to hear it Hannie.

          Funnily enough, although we may never actually know the complete truth about our immune system, living a healthy lifestyle that includes eating well and plenty of activity definitely boosts the immune system.

          So, living the life that you currently do is probably doing you the world of good, so fingers crossed, you have nothing to worry about.


  4. Fantastic read here, Partha!

    When I was in high school, there was a girl in my class who has been looking like Lizzie (well, not to her extent, but very close).

    There been often times when we spoke about her body and she was witnessing that she was eating so much (more than all her family members taken together) and never gaining any weight or fat.

    So, like there are people who suffer from obesity, this is the opposite side and both need a special approach.

    Thank you for sharing this article. I feel pity for those people who were writing negative comments to Lizzie because it shows how miserable these people are deep inside them.

    • Hi Ionut,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Yes, Lizzie’s story is definitely one that captured my heart, but more to do with how she conquered adversity and became the truly inspirational person we see before us.


  5. I was wondering why I was finding it hard to exercise…… must be my extremely low body fat percentage, ……. haha!
    But not really 🙂 Maybe i’m just lazy?

    “The study followed a group of bodybuilders who lowered their body fat in preparation for competition and found that some of their heart rates dropped by as much as 27 beats per minute.” Wow, this is a serious reduction… probably in the range of 35 to 50% of their normal heartbeat. As you say, this degree of reduction has consequences.
    As you have noted, the mental and emotional effects of having a very low BFP can also be devestating on our general wellbeing, our relationships, our work life, etc.

    Are you being serious when you say to “Cut out things like pastries, cakes, cookies, and sugary desserts.” I know you are, but…… easy to say. I have cut my coffee intake down to 2 or 3 a day now, however they are made with milk (latte) and require one sugar in each cup. I tried drinking black coffee’s for a few months last year, but just couldn’t tolerate the bitter taste, and tea, well it’s just boring!

    “the “ideal” BFP differs at various stages of our lives.” maybe I missed this is your explination, but i’m not sure why this is? Is it because our lifestyle btypically becomes less active?

    Thanks for a great article as always.

    • Hahaha, great to hear from you Andrew.

      I wouldn’t worry too much, my love of pastries, cakes, etc. probably means that I’ll never hit single body fat digits ever again. I’ve been there before, but I had to be extremely strict with myself, especially in terms of eating. Nowadays, I prefer to eat what I want, but with some semblance of control.

      I know the study of the bodybuilders shocked me too. I’ve become very aware in recent years how much the body and mind are connected, and obviously what we choose to fuel the body with, and how we treat our bodies can have a massive impact on our everyday lives.

      Funnily enough, I was the same as you with coffee, i.e. milk and one sugar. But I seem to have had a lifelong struggle with milk, I was even using the non-dairy varieties until last year, but it still didn’t sit quite right with me.

      I finally gave up all types of milk completely in August last year, and as I was drinking coffee black, I thought I may as well drop the sugar too.

      I actually saw quite a transformation in terms of body fat over the next couple of months, and it amazed me what a difference 1 or 2 spoonfuls of sugar a day must have made to me.

      Admittely, I struggled at first with the taste of black coffee, but I guess just like everything else in life, once you get into a habit, it’s easy.

      As for your question, firstly thanks for asking – there are various reasons why body fat percentage changes as we age. You could say that it’s due to activity levels, although I’ve seen far fitter 70-year olds than many 20-somethings nowadays.

      It also has a lot to do with the changes the body goes through, but especially hormone production. For us guys, we start to produce less testosterone once we get past the age of about 40 (hence why it’s harder to stay in shape than 10 or 20 years earlier). This will mean that muscle mass tends to decrease somewhat as we age (but again there are many extremely muscular “golden oldies” that go against the norm).

      As muscle decreases we tend to add more body fat to our frame.

      Additionally, factors such as muscles, kidneys, and liver tend to lose some of their cells after the age of 30. The bones lose some of their minerals and tend to become less dense (osteoporosis), plus tissue loss leads to less water in the body.

      All of these things have an impact on Body Fat Percentage.

      I hope that helps. Thanks Andrew, it’s always fantastic to hear from you.



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