Is there any physiological benefits to having a six pack/low body fat percentage beyond the aesthetic value of looking good without your clothes on?
This is a difficult question to answer. Since body fat accumulation typically takes time, and it is not ethical to test force-feeding to increase fatness via randomized trials, there are only hypothetical advantages and disadvantages.
One major disadvantage to having low body fat (not surviving famine) is pretty much moot in many countries.
One major advantage to having low body fat seems totally backwards-- getting a six pack is an indicator of being a go-getter (not a perfect one, but a strong one). Being a go-getter in terms of resilience, i.e. surviving challenging life situations.
Physiologically, the difference between a normal six-pack (around 9%-14% bodyfat for males) and looking like a cadaver (around 6% for males, with females being an entirely different story) is huge in terms of health. Telling your body that you are not getting enough food for months and years screws up almost every important physiological system.
I recently wrote an article showing DEXA-verified levels of bodyfat.
Anecdotally, the natural bodybuilders I have known, who are just relatively mediocre in bodyfat compared to other competitors, seem quite healthy. Same for powerlifters and other athletes. A good indicator of "too low bodyfat" is unidentified muscle striations. If you have a ripped back, that's awesome. But if you have christmas-tree striations in your lower back without dieting, there may be some detriment for long term health.
Let me say that even as a young athletic male I never had a six pack, no matter how hard I worked out. Now that Im well into my thirties and have reduced my workouts while adding in the diet aspect, I have visible abdominal muscles, maintain 8-9% BF year round. Here are a few of my observations.
1) I hate to dwell on this one but lets go ahead and get it out of the way. The biggest notable difference is absolutely the qaulity of female I am able to "interact" with. Something as simple as hugging someone seems to drive them to want to investigate your stomach. I find this interesting as most women Ive known seemed to downplay muscles in a mate. Yet, my own N=1 experiment is that you'll definitely have more, higher quality, options.
2) It is in my opinion the hardest muscle to "develop." By the word "develop" I mean simply stimulating the muscle will do almost nothing, if your BF isn't right. I used to wish I was a bigger/stronger guy in the gym, now I wouldn't trade places with the biggest guy at Golds. Instead I feel like Ive decoded my own personal body code for symmetry and leanness, while there recipe is just "try and get bigger."
3) I tend to gravitate towards things in life that money will not get you, abdominals fall into this category as do some of the more extreme branches of military training, mountain climbing, ultra marathons etc. In the end people know you've put in the work to get a six pack, and you didn't pay for it.
Lastly, yesterday while riding my beach cruiser through pacific beach I saw two overweight gentlemen, going up and down the strip in a yellow convertible Lamborghini. I locked eyes with the driver for a brief second and wondered if him and I weren't trying to do the same thing? Recognition? They say babies cry for it, old men die for it.
I think there is always a physiological benefit for when you are comfortable and even happy with the way you look. So if a 6 pack makes you happy and more content with yourself then I say yes. However, if keeping that 6 pack makes you obsessive compulsive and takes away from other enjoyments, then no.
I remember hearing that fatter people actually have a greater chance of being rescued in a survival situation. Dunno whether it's simply because they can last longer or because they're less likely to try desperate measures despite not having any idea what to do (thus making the situation worse).
On the other hand, I'd think if they both had proper survival skills, the lean, muscular guy can probably actually get himself out of the situation more easily since they can execute their knowledge better.
Lol... you 'interact' more with women because of your abdominal muscles? Isn't that superficial if some so-called 'higher quality' women reduce you on your muscles? I mean it may be nice to see it but there are more important things in life.
We'll for starters im a 13 yr. Old male. I work out my abs,biceps,quads, and pectorals frequently.( due tro wrestling and krav maga) I currently have 17 pct. Bodyfat. I want to know how much longer it will take take to get a 6 pack on a normal diet and workIng out. My regular workout training is p90x and MMA extreme. Some one help me out? What's some foods that will help burn fat? Cain