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Body fat %


i was wondering what you think the optimal body fat % is for sporting perforance? i will be mainly doing olympic and sprint.



  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    I dont think there is ever any optimum, it all varies person to person.

    The lowest absolute value is 4% I believe, but you would only really find this in bodybuilders!

    I think the lower the % the better. Any extra buoyancy you get from a bit of extra fat is going to be far outweighed in the cycle and run, where it will act as extra weight and extra wind resistance.

    Personally if I were you I wouldnt be worrying to much about your %, it will decrease with time as your body adapts to the training. If you are looking for a value I would say aim to get below 10%, mines about 7%ish at the moment.

    you may need slightly more for ironman, but then if you consider the amount of energy each gram of fat contains - about 37 kj, 9 kcal, you are unlikely to burn it all off even in an ironman race!

  • treefrogtreefrog Posts: 1,242
    0% is ideal. We had the rowing adage as our mantra "fat does not move boats". Body fat just sits there doing nothing and slowing you down. Question : Would you go faster on your bike /in the run carrying ... say 2kg in lead Ans : No, well 2kg is 2kg whether it is in fat or lead or anything. The lighter you are the better. As for the old chestnuts of 1. You need fat for insulation - well wear more clothes and take them off as required, 2. You need it for bouyancy - wear wetsuit, 3. You need fat as a fuel store - my biochemistry tells me that you cannot break fat stores down fast enough to supply energy during a race; they are used as a second preference to carbohydrate and muscle glycogen and only slowly at that. These pro fat arguments are generally proffered by fat asses who want to justify their extra weight instead of admitting the truth. The skinnier the better!
  • toadtoad Posts: 104
    I have got to say treefrog you are a great advocat for the non fat revolution which i think definitely has its place given the current obesity epidemic we are facing at the moment. However fat is an essential fuel in endurance sport .... we dont need too much of it as tommitri says it is very energy dense, however all endurance athletes will utilise fat as a fuel .Infact adaption to endurance sport allows for a greater utilisation of fat to preserve vital muscle glycogen stores. It is likely that in a race where you are giving it your all , you will almost competely deplete your muscle glycogen / carbohydrate stores within 90 minutes ( this is why feeding is imortant during prolonged endurance sport) . Ironmen athletes definitely will be utilising fat stores for energy by the time they are half way through there bike. Fat is also a good sorce of vitamin a d e and k.

    however eating fat does not enhance our ability to use it in endurance sport training hard does. So in conclusion some fat is good, so a small percentage is good to have ..... too much is bad as its excess baggage and also carries other health risks.
  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    Its a physiological fact that the last fat is the hardest to loose. Thats because your body wants to conserve them just incase it has to go into a period of starvation. There are actually some fat stores in the body that are actually resistant to the normal physiological mechanisms in fat release, such a adrenaline. These include the midriff in the man, thats why it is dam hard to get a six pack.

    These are my golden rules for fat loss. In rough importance (decreasing). The basic rule in energy out > energy in, but its alot more complicated than that.

    1. Weight training is essential - this not only increases your metabolism, but lean muscle uses more calories while you are sitting on your ass. This will also achieve what people like to call "getting hormonal" this is required to rid the last bit of fat, by increasing testosterone/adrenaline levels etc.

    2 Lots of small meals rather than 3 big ones, this keeps your metabolism high, and big meals tend to cause fat deposition as your body thinks its gearing up for starvation.

    3. Less starchy carbs (potatoes, bread, pasta) swap the bread and pasta for brown options and get rid of the potatoes!

    4. more protein - you will need this for you muscles, plus protein is thermogenic, which means it takes quite a bit more energy to break down protein than it does for carbs - although it is not what some have suggested as being negative calories.

    5. Include days when you eat alot more carbs than usual, about 1 day or 2 a week should do it. This will reset your body back to that energy intake level, as if you are always on carb/calorie restriction your body will get used to it and reset its metabolism as a result!

    6. 5 supplements work synergistically to increase metabolism, adrenaline levels, fat breakdown. So get them into your diet!

    They are -catechins (green tea), caffiene, capsacins (Chili peppers), tyrosine (red meats) and theres another one but I cant remember! oh yes, garlic!!

  • But how do you measure it accurately?
  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    There are a few ways.

    at the clinic we use calipers which measure the diameter of a skin fold on 4 points on the right side of the body. I was taught to use,area over bicep, tricep, upper back, just above the hip and then the calf. These measurements are then put into the Yuhasz equation. This method is fairly accurate, but results vary between ages and gender, and especially people who train and those that don't.

    The easiest way now is with bioelectrical impedance machine, like the scales or hand held one. Its based on lean muscle being a better conductor of electricity than fat. These are also fairly accurate, but its best used as a monitor than absolute values.

    There are other methods which are more accurate such as the water immersion test, but it is harder to find places to get these done.
  • treefrogtreefrog Posts: 1,242
    I'm still an advocate of 0% fat, but I do know a guy who studied some starvation (to death) victims and their cadavers hadas much as 5% body fat. This was quite a sensitive study on an at the time pretty big case and I don't think the results were published. I got to hear about it off the record at university and also via lightweight rowing. So the point being how low can you go, its' probably genetically pre-determined. I dare say tat Ramussen was below 5% during the tour 07 (regardless of drugs rumours) and he was able to undertake the physical demands of the tour; due to a very precise nutrition plan, but others who do not have the metabloism/cellular apparatus to deal with this would break down and die. I still go with 0%
  • Err...is it different for women? I just can't imagine that? I'm a size 8 now and about 25% body fat? Am I a lard bucket?!!
  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    I like your style treefrog, I know quite alot of rowers and you guys seemed to be more obsessed with fat % than were are. Problem is it is physiologically it is impossible to go below 4% due to the fat in the body that is not contained in adipose tissue, such as the omentum of the intestines and surrounding the organs, this fat isnt used for energy so is impossible to get rid of!
  • treefrogtreefrog Posts: 1,242
    Nobody has mentioned body type yet: Endomorph, Mesomorph & Ectomorph. A 70Kg Mesomorph may not be overwieight but a 70Kg Endomorph of similar height might be overweight. So Bean being size 8 may mean that you are a lard bucket if you are of stocky build but not if you are of willowy build.

    Once again skinny is good

  • toadtoad Posts: 104
    Bean machine you are definitely not a lard bucket, a healthy fat percentage for young adult women is between 25-27% , ideal elite triathlete % would be between 10-15% for females and 5-12% for males.

    Fat is a major fuel source for the body , we cannot be without it, we are all using it as a fuel right now as we sit in front of our computers and share our ideas.

  • Righto. In that case I will stick to being a triathlete with curves, and forget about turning pro
  • toadtoad Posts: 104
    Bean machine if you are using a bioimpedence unit to measure your fat percentage be careful as they are subject to a large amount of error, also the bodymass make up of someone partaking in endurance sport can be different to a sedentary person. Endurance training actually can increase fat storage in muscle , this is phenomenom is not fully understood, however it is thought that by doing this fat is more easily available for use as an energy source in working muscle , normally we rely on it coming from adipose tissue via the blood stream to muscle which obviously takes more time..... some bioimpedence units have a function for athletes to allow for muscle fat storage, and as you are about to do a half iron man I definitely would be using that function in order to acheive a more acurate reading.

    Good luck
  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    So I can go back to putting golden syrup in my porridge, 'cos the 17% on my bought at Lloyds body fat monitor thingy isn't tuned into my finely honed athletic body...great!
  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    Also the scales type monitors are not that accurate for men, as much less of their fat is stored in the lower body.

    I do mine once whilst standing on it, and once whilst balanced on my hands on it, and take an average!
  • Talking about how low can you go. If any of you read "Survival of the Fittest" by Mike Stroud (a very good book by the way), it talks about his and Sir Ran's trip across the Antarctic.

    In their journey they were eating approx 5k calories a day but burning up to 11k!!! When they returned they found they were on technically 0% body fat (weighed themselves in water). The only reason they thought they were still alive is that they still had calories coming in to keep basic organ functions going, but they had just burn't off all their fat reserves - something that until that time people thought was impossible as it would kill you.

    I had always heard for a heavyweight rower (as I was) that about 8-12% was ideal, sure that is different for a lightweight though. Again the principle generally was at my club - if you can pinch it it shouldn't be there. If you work on that theory you don't really need hi-tech scales!!!

  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    So if I stand on scales & hold my lloyds handy thing..& take an average after golden syrup porridge & shaving my legs....
  • I think you could go for extra syrup now as well...
  • if anyone is interested i own a corporate health club and have a machine called the InBody 720, which next to hydrostatic weighing (the most accurate way) is the most accurate way of assessing body fat, it also tells you your hydration levels both intercellular and total, your skeletal muscle mass. gives a segmental analysis of lean mass and lots more...overall its a fantastic piece of equipment... i hail from up north, in cheshire and if anyone would like this done then pm me and we'll sort something out!!!

    i come from a physio/sports science/strength and conditioning background and agree that bioelectrical impedence has its faults but this is far better than that and its gotta be safer than standing on your hands tommytri and britspin!!!

    by the way, generally 0% bodyfat = death, Ranulph Finnes is, as always, the exception rather than the rule ... male bodybuilders can get down to 3-4% pre comp its true, but the methods they use and the fact that they do it makes them extremely unhealthy and indeed ill!!! Kelly Holmes in her hayday, and boy did she look good, was about 10%!!

    and Britspin, porridge and syrup/honey... FOOD OF THE GODS!!! infact if there was a god of triathlon i wonder what they'd be called... any ideas anyone!!!
  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    I might have to take you up on that offer! Id love to have a super accurate reading of my body fat, i think mine is about 7-8% I gauge that on measurements I have done with the calipers, and my bioelectrical impedance units say im about 4.5% so i think they are a bit low!

    I did once ask a mate of mine in radiology to get me a MRI so i could have it measured, but at £1000 a scan you can guess the look that i got! hah!

    I understand your worries about me balancing on my hands, but ive been walking on my hands since I was about 10! its a great builder of upper body strength!
  • toadtoad Posts: 104
    On the topic of sir R Finnes antartic expedition, guess what diet they were on........ high fat ! as this minimised the amount of food they had to carry due to it being packed with calories ..... just goes to show endurance junkies are lean mean fat burning machines.

    With regard to Endurance gods

    He god of the 1st discipline ---- Ian Thorpe

    he god of the 2nd discipline ---- lance Armstrong

    He god of the 3rd discipline ---- Kenenisa Bekele

    she god of the 3rd discipline ---- Paula radcliffe

    she god of the 2nd discipline ---Victoria Pendleton

    she god of the 1st ---- ?
  • pacmanpacman Posts: 109
    Standing on your hands?>!! Surely if I did that all my body fat run to my face?? adipose, muscle or other?
  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    I definitely agree with your choice as gods toad, especially the first one.

    In my endeavor to learn to swim I have watched many many videos of top swimmers, so thorpe, phelps, popov etc.

    In comparison to the other two when I watch thorpe I am completely mesmerized, his rhythm is incredible, i could watch it all day.

  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    Can I just say the only time I ever stand on my hands is if they are trapped under my feet. Also its not the fat running into my head that worries me..its the 'you could have someones eye out with that' element...
  • legalbeaglelegalbeagle Posts: 208
    This is one area that I have to say leaves me totally confused. I weigh 62kgs and have about 31% body fat which if yo look at the scale on the instructions, puts me in the obese category! I am a size 10! How do I explain that?

    I don't eat butter/marg etc etc, use only olive oil and eat a really healthy diet - tons of veg, brown rice, brown bread etc etc.

    I think I like that phrase "skinny fat" - will just carry on doing what I am doing and call myself exactly that!
  • SamutriSamutri Posts: 143
    Without being too indelicate, ladies can have very high fat levels according to these machines because of their, ahem, 'lady bumps'.

    I understand that the larger the breasts, the higher the reading. Any correlation in your experience folks?

    Pretty sure there's the basis of a research topic here somewhere....
  • legalbeaglelegalbeagle Posts: 208
    I'm not saying a word!!
  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Conehead wrote:

    it's starts off as a discussion on bodyfat and goes comepletely off on one! You've got to love forums!

    At least nobody has mentioned shaving, yet.
  • I get black eyes when I run if that helps?
  • Talkin of shavin.... after reading the hilarious and very informative thread i am going to have it done... with a difference.. having it done for charity, where the girls at the salon are going to wax me up and people will pay a quid to tear a strip off...sounds like fun and the distressing thing is that people are already queueing up to do it.... the line has definitely been drawn at back sack and crack though!!!!

    Leaglebeagle, those instructions sound a bit harsh... age dependant, 31% is only just above a "normal" range for a female and certainly not obese!!! and in the words of the fabulous Beautiful South, isn't 10 perfect!!!
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