Did you know that when researchers matched body fat percentages against finishing times in an Ironman triathlon, they found that the men and women with the leanest bodies i.e. the lowest body fat percentage, were also the fastest. Performance improves as body fat is lost because of gains in efficiency.
There are 3 main reasons;
If you are a leaner runner or cyclist, you have less gravity to overcome and if you are a leaner swimmer you will be more hydrodynamic.
As body fat percentage decreases, your aerobic capacity will increase as the muscles are in less competition with the fat for oxygen.
Fat acts as an insulator in our body so leaner athletes are able to go faster without overheating.
A lower body weight will also be advantageous.
Many of the endurance athletes I coach think that because they are “skinny and light”, they will be lean too. Unfortunately that is not always the case and they might be better a little heavier but with more muscle. Because they have only ever focussed on body weight, they are not aware of this.
If you are serious about wanting to achieve optimal performance, recovery and achieve the physique and results you desire then your Body Fat Percentage is THE number you need to measure going forward.
Is there an ideal Body Fat Percentage?
There is a certain amount of body fat that is essential for men and women in order to regulate body temperature, control hormones etc. The minimum advised body fat for women is 10-12% and 2-4% for men. Ideally, however I would advise is that for female athletes it should be in the 15-23% range and male athletes, 8-17%. This is also age dependant as body fat percentage does increase as we get older so a 45 year old triathlete won’t have the same body fat percentage target as a 25 year old!
So now that you have this new knowledge, start to focus on losing body fat not weight loss. Loss in body weight is usually a combination of fluid and muscle loss. If you are an endurance athlete, this can seriously reduce your performance and slow down your recovery.
How do I measure my Body Fat Percentage?
In the past you would have had to use expensive technology to measure your Body Fat percentage. Thankfully there are now affordable Body fat scales available which look like regular bathroom scales and enable you to conveniently measure you weight, body fat %, visceral fat %, muscle % and BMR. Remember that the bathroom scale versions are not going to give you a 100% accurate reading….only a very expensive Dual Electron Xray Absorptiometry (DEXA) machine would do that. It will however give you a relative measure which you can compare yourself against on a regular basis.
I have this one which is very affordable and even comes with an App so you can track your progress on your phone.
What can I do?
Start measuring as soon as possible so you know where you are and compare yourself with guidelines for your age.
If you are serious about making a difference to your race personal best next season, then you need to decrease your body fat percentage and weight. I can work with you to set targets for your age and achieve body fat loss at the optimum time during your training cycle. Get it wrong and you risk compromising both your training and your competing. For more information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org