Did you know that having a more curvaceous figure used to be a symbol of opulence? Just one look at Rubens' famous works paints a clear picture of the aristocracy — only those who could afford to eat delicacies could gain a few extra pounds. Over time, humanity’s relationship with body fat often changed, going from one extreme to another. But the truth is, there is no such thing as ideal body composition, at least when it comes to sports.
If you’re an athlete, you know that exercising enough and attaining desired body metrics aren’t the sole indicators of your professional accomplishment. Rather, the entire focus is on delivering a successful performance. In the following post, we’ll focus on the role good body fat percentage has in sports and how it impacts athletes’ capabilities.
How Body Fat Percentage Affects Athletic Performance
Let’s begin by briefly explaining what body fat percentage (BFP) is. Namely, this body component consists of stored and essential fat. The former refers to the fat tissue located directly under our skin (subcutaneous fat) and the one around our organs (visceral fat). Keep in mind that too much visceral fat can be an indicator of some underlying health issues.
Essential fat, on the other hand, is a term we use to describe the fatty acid that the human body needs to maintain its normal bodily functions. Now, apart from diet and hereditary factors that can impact our body composition values, essential fat values can also change depending on the type of physical activity you do.
Naturally, athletes who rely on speed and strength often have more muscle than endurance athletes do. Furthermore, their lean muscle mass helps them perform sports-specific exercises more effectively. However, a high BMI isn’t always good, as it can impact endurance and the maximum oxygen consumption rate during exercise (VO₂ max).
Conversely, endurance athletes' maximal oxygen uptake is better. These individuals don’t have to carry extra weight, thus using less energy with each movement.
To conclude, there’s really no such thing as an ideal body fat percentage in sports. Athletes who rely on power and mass in their performance will have a higher fat percentage. As a result, they can use their mass to their advantage and increase their inertia, which can come in handy if you’re a football player, for example.
On the other hand, sports that require different strength-to-mass ratios and lower body fat percentages include martial arts, gymnastics, running, skiing, etc. Therefore, athletes should focus on getting their body metrics to suit their specific sports.
Of course, most of them will benefit from having low-to-normal body fat values and higher lean mass, as some studies indicate that an increase in body fat percentage can lead to a decrease in performance. For instance, elite female athletes should have BFP values anywhere between 14% to 20%, while sportsmen’s metrics are lower and go from 6% to 13%.
Strategies for Maintaining an Optimal Body Fat Percentage
We all know how challenging it is to maintain specific BFP values, which is why athletes have certain strategies in place to make sure their body composition metrics are always in tip-top shape.
- Avoiding crash diets — Having a balanced diet with proper nutrients is important for everyone, athletes included. Cutting calories all of a sudden can harm their performance in the long run.
- Losing BFP in the off-season — Having optimal fitness and body fat levels at the same time can be challenging for sports professionals. They need to lose calories and have the strength to train simultaneously. Most athletes overcome this hurdle by losing fat when they’re not competing.
- Introducing more fiber — Generally, athletes should control their carb consumption, paying special attention to limiting their added sugar intake. Meanwhile, they can introduce more fiber-rich food, such as vegetables, into their diet, as it can help them feel fuller for longer.
- Boosting protein intake — Everyone and their dog knows that sports professionals’ intake of protein is higher. However, the way they distribute that intake is also essential. Experts suggest that spreading 80 g of protein over four meals is the most effective strategy.
- Getting fuel back after a workout — Of course, what these individuals eat after training is also relevant. Most of them consume decent amounts of protein and carbs to help them refuel after an exhausting workout session.
Of course, all of this is futile if athletes don’t have a trustworthy device that will help them get accurate body composition values. The simplest and best way to measure body fat is to use a body composition scale like INEVIFIT’s Body Fat Scale. Not only will they get accurate BFP, but they’ll also be able to keep track of other key metrics such as muscle mass, water percentage, bone mass, BMI, visceral fat, and more.
For instance, the famous NBA player Stephen Curry ensures a balanced diet packed with nutrients, fiber, and protein by including foods such as oatmeal, salmon, Greek yogurt, and Brussels sprouts in his meals. Derek Jeter, a popular baseball player, likes to focus on core exercise and eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before every match, which is a perfect energy booster.
As you can see, ideal BFP values usually vary from sport to sport. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for anyone, athletes included. It all depends on the performance they want to deliver. With a balanced diet, effective training, sufficient rest, and a little bit of luck, they’ll have the chance to show the entire world what they’re made of.
If you are a sports professional or want to begin your own fitness adventure, make sure to start on the right foot. Get a faithful companion like one of INEVIFIT’s Eros Smart Scales and embark on your journey today!
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