I was just coming out of my gym, when I bumped into an acquaintance, who is also a kind of a know-all person ready to dispense advice at the drop of a hat. After exchanging pleasantries, he remarked on the poster behind us (of famous Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan, who is also the brand ambassador of this elite chain of fitness centers) on how difficult it is to maintain a zero percent body fat level.
“Hrithik Roshan is very particular about his eating habits, you know (he laughed). You see, he has to maintain zero percent body fat level,” he said. There were a few other people also. Some nodded in agreement. The conversation took place on July 1 at Cult Gym, Lokhandwala, Andheri West, Mumbai, India.
I was aghast at the statement but decided not to counter the fallacious figment of imagination. I also did not try to explain as it would have led to a needless argument (the gentleman is one of the most defensive characters you would see). Even if I had, I would have been able to convey information to only one person that too after painstaking effort.
Moreover, there are many other such claims that are much more serious (besides the above frivolous and casual one), which keep surfacing on and off. During one of the episodes of a podcast (by Joe Rogan), one of the most famous bodybuilders of all times and several times Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman claimed to have had 0.33% body fat. He was reminiscing of the times when he used to compete as a professional bodybuilder at the world’s biggest stage. And he had measurements to show off in defence of his claims. It is true that he was reading out the results from a fat-detection machine.
But the question is: is that even possible? I wanted to address this question and understood the level of health-related myths prevalent in the society. I wondered: If this is the level of understanding about human physiology in a elite gym, just wonder what the perceptions must be in the population at large. That is the reason I decided to write about it so that proper information reaches a wider audience.
Is it possible for Hrithik Roshan or any person to have zero percent body fat?
It is true that film actors as well as professional bodybuilders go to extremely low levels of body fat. Boy, they can have seriously low body fat! But what is the lowest that a human being can achieve by whatever means available to them. Can it be zero percent body fat?
“No,” says Dr. Shahwar Kazmi, a health practitioner in India and who specializes in community health.
“Our body has two different kinds of fat: essential as well as storage. It is the essential fat that builds up from our diets. What we do not seem to count is essential fat: this is the fat our body needs to stay alive. There is fat stored in our body at places that you may not even be aware of, for example, the areas surrounding the kidneys, liver, the brain, nerves, as well as the surrounding organs,” says the doctor.
Moreover, fat helps our body regulate hormones, absorb vitamins, and regulate body temperature too.
“It is therefore impossible to have zero per cent body fat,” says Dr. Kazmi.
Men roughly have 3 to 5% essential fat, he says. It is just not possible to have just 0% or 0.33% body fat. So, why would Coleman or anybody think their body fat level was less than 3%? Perhaps, it was a boast that went wrong. But they have the potential to worsen misconceptions among the gullible public (as the incident with which I started the article).
So, you need a specific amount of essential fat in the body, which is roughly between 3 and 4%. Without this, you would die. In fact, a human being will stop existing much before he reaches zero percent body fat. This essential fat is found in and around the vital organs and is absolutely essential for the normal biological functioning of a guy. Therefore, the minimum percentage of body fat that a man can humanely achieve is about 3%. This, though rare, can be seen typically in endurance athletes (long distance runners) and bodybuilders (on the day of the competition).
Having very little body fat can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies, along with electrolyte imbalances or a malfunctioning of the heart, kidneys and other vital organs. Men need at least 3% body fat and women 12% at least for their bodies to function properly.
So, what is the body fat percentage of Hrithik Roshan?
Hrithik Roshan (when he is filming and has to attain a certain aesthetic level) should be having body fat percentage ranging from 7 to 9 percent. At other times, when he is hogging at will, that would shoot up to more than 15%. And yes, nobody should try to kill him by saying that he has zero percent fat.
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