Army tightens body fat standards for some recruits

By David Vergun, ARNEWSJuly 25, 2012

Body fat percentages change for recruits
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 24, 2012) -- All male recruits age 17-20 who enlisted after May 16, must now have a body fat percentage of 24 or less before they begin basic training. For female recruits in that age category, their body fat must be at 30 percent or less.

The body fat percentage allowance for trainees of that age category had previously been two percentage points higher for both genders. But new rules spelled out in All-Army Activity, or ALARACT, directive 113/2012 have set those standards back to pre-2005 levels: 24 percent for male recruits and 30 percent for female recruits.

Standards have not changed for older age categories or for the active and reserve components.

Why the return to pre-2005 levels for just young recruits?

"The change was made because it was found that Soldiers in that category were overrepresented in being flagged for overweight six and 12 months after training," said Lt. Col. Jennifer Peters, chief, Health Promotions Policy, Army G-1. She added that no other decisions have been made regarding changes to standards within the entire Army but that "everything is being looked at."

Six months after basic training, male Soldiers 17-20 are required to have a body fat percentage of 20 percent. Prior to the new ALARACT, Soldiers were given one year to get to 20 percent. That percentage has not changed, and Peters said the new 24 percent standard for entry level males will give those Soldiers a better chance at getting to 20 percent and that females coming in at 30 percent will also benefit. Officers and warrant officers are not given any initial leeway for their age category when they begin service.

No changes were made to the 30 percent body fat requirement for female recruits, ages 17-20 for six months after training because, according to Peters, studies have shown that "females have problems coming down (in weight)." Therefore, after six months, their percentage can still be 30 percent.

Soldiers are evaluated for weight and height about once every six months, typically during their physical fitness tests. Soldiers who are well within weight and height standards are not given a body fat percentage test because "the test is somewhat time consuming and the vast majority of those individuals will meet body fat requirements anyway," she said. "But commanders can request a body fat test at any time if someone does not present a Soldierly appearance."

Peters said the weight of recruits has been going steadily up over the last decade or more, "mirroring the population we recruit."

To help male recruits drop from 24 to 20 percent body fat over the six month period when they will be tested for 20 percent, the Training and Doctrine Command-run dining facilities in recruit training have gone to great lengths to label food that will keep the fat off, she said.

That program "Go For Green" gives color ratings to all foods served: red, amber, green.

"Gravy might be labeled red, and green would be something a lot healthier for someone trying to meet the standards," Peters explained. "The program has shown signs of success and there's talk of expanding it Army-wide."

For more specific age and body fat categories, ALARACTs and information on how body fat testing is conducted, visit the Army G-1 Weight Control Program site at

Related Links:

Human Performance Resource Center

Helping Soldiers maintain a healthy weight through nutrition Inside the Army News

STAND-TO!: Soldier Athlete Initiative

Army G-1 Weight Control Program