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Bodyfat %(17 posts)

Bodyfat %must_pedal_harder
May 13, 2001 7:24 PM
Well, took the plunge and got one of those fancy body fat/scale devices. To my surprise I'm at 10% body fat (Male, 130 lbs, 5'6"). I would have thought much less, perhaps 7 or 8 but I suppose the machine doesn't lie.

Should I be concerned with this number? I consider myself pretty competitive - but right now I don't have anything on the line (other then my personal pride).


BTW - Does anyone have a body fat chart for athletes that has ages down; I can't seem to find one with ages.
re: Bodyfat %peloton
May 13, 2001 11:18 PM
I assuming that when you say body fat/scale devices that you mean something along the lines of a Tanita brand scale that uses an electrical current to analyize bodyfat percentage. Devices that use an electrical current to measure body fat are great because they are easy to use to anyone. They do however have some margin of error. They can be plus or minus three percent of your actual bodyfat percentage. So, your bodyfat may be slightly more or less than 10%. The reading that you get may also be effected by your hydration level, and other factors. A good way to get as steady a reading as possible for comparison is to use the scale in similar circumstances. IE- in the morning when you wake up after you make sure to go to bed hydrated.

I would be concerned with this number as a reference. It can help you to monitor how your training is going and where you are at. 10% body fat is very respectable and far below average here in the USA. What you shouldn't do is to make it your only goal to get to a certain percentage. Everyone has a natural body composition where they are most healthy. This may be right where you are now. Too little body fat may lessen your performace even. Percentages under 5% are considered dangerous to one's health. You need fat to protect your internal organs and other life functions. Your kidneys have fat pads around them for protection, and your nerves are surrounded by fat for faster transmission of impulses. Someone like Lance, with a body fat of 4% would be put on a crash course to gain weight in a hospital situation. Elite athletes like he ride a fine line between peak performance and illness. His extreme health would be dangerous to someone without his training experience and coaching.

You would be hard pressed to find a training chart for bodyfat in relation to age with athletes. It doesn't make much of a difference how old you are in relation to body composition for training purposes. People naturally have a higher percentage of body fat at a higher age. So, if yours is lower at a higher age you can at least take solace in the fact that you are ahead of the average even more so.
use it to note trendsDuane Gran
May 14, 2001 6:05 AM
I have a tanita scale and it estimates my body fat about 2% below a caliper measurement, which is considered more accurate. I have found it to be helpful to monitor trends, but it is probably most useful for someone who needs to lose weight. I'm pretty lean and don't expect to get below 6% (where I'm at now) but it may tell me if I'm porking up. ;)
Heck, man, I'm finally down to 20% ...Humma Hah
May 15, 2001 8:48 AM
...with ambitions of reaching 15% by December! 10% is slightly below the "ideal" bodyfat for a middle-aged adult male, as promulgated by the US government. 10% is a little lean, not bad for an amateur athlete. Below 5% is getting dangerous. You're in a nice, lean, healthy range, with some room to get even leaner, but I'd not be obsessed over it.

The Tanita can be off by 5%. It tracks changes pretty well, once you learn to get consistent readings, but the absolute reading can be thrown off by many things. Because it measures leg-to-leg, the scale only sees your bodyfat below your belly button. It is overly sensitive to fat in the legs, and thinks any weight gain in the upper body is fat, so upper body workouts can throw off the reading.

The best strategy is to get a hydrostatic bodyfat reading about once a year, compare that to the Tanita readings, and use the Tanita to track changes during the year. In my case, the hydrostatic reading is about 1% higher than the Tanita TBF-612, set to non-athlete male.
Heck, man, I'm at 4%Willy D.
May 15, 2001 4:53 PM
There's nothing unhealthful about being below 5%, especially for an athlete. Below 3.5%, I would say is a problem.
Heck, man, I'm at 4%peloton
May 15, 2001 7:07 PM
4% is riding the edge. You don't have much of a buffer in a lot of areas. For the majority of people, this would not be healthy at all. There is a fine line between performance and sickness when you get your body fat to a percentage below 5%. While it may work for you, it would hardly be something that I would reccomend people to aim for as an ideal body composition. For yourself, I would assume that you must have a competition background and proper coaching that keeps you able to remain healthy. Most people don't have the prior experience to keep themselves healthy in that range of body fat. Even the pros fight with their health at those percentages. Look at how easily the average pro rider gets sick. How many Mapei riders are ill at the moment? It's a calculated risk.
Be very, very careful ...Humma Hah
May 15, 2001 7:31 PM
Are you an endurance cyclist? 4% is not much to fall back on if you're into things like double centuries and longer. I've seen some estimates that Armstrong starts the TDF at about 7% -- he loses a lot of it during the race.

Among the things fat does for you is lubricating joints and cushioning internal organs like kidneys. You could find yourself more prone to injury by dropping below 5%.

Also, there's the matter of how it is measured. If you're using calipers, your actual BF is probably higher -- you will retain some of that needed internal fat after all traces of the spare tire are gone. Most common methods are not accurate to better than 1% (the only truly accurate method of determining bodyfat is an autopsy, which I may not get around to having done for a while).
Be very, very careful ..., but be smart firstHugh Balls
May 16, 2001 5:30 PM
Fat does not lubricate joints. It might be quaint to come up with an oil metaphor, but it is false. There is also a big difference between free floating fatty acids from your big dinner the night before a big race and the spare tire around your stomach. The first is necessary, the second is not. You can safely lower your total fat intake and stay lean and mean IF you only eat quality oils that your body can use, such as Flax, Olive, little fish, etc. All fats are not equal, and anything saturated (-trans) is titally detrimental for everyone. VIva la 4%!
viva la 4%, but be smart firstpeloton
May 16, 2001 9:43 PM
Straight up- Body fat percentages under 5% are widely considered unhealthy by the medical community and are only cautiously used by those in sport science. For someone like Lance, the low percentage is a calculated risk. Lance also has the backing of his experience and a variety of well educated people making sure that he doesn't get into trouble. Lance also doesn't try to maintain such a slim profile all year long. It wouldn't be good for him, and he knows it too. Ultra low body fat isn't something that an ametuer athlete should aspire to because the risks outweigh the benefits. Sports at the professional level are generally NOT good for one's body. If you aren't being paid to do so, why abuse your body and risk your health? Look at the numbers of professional athletes, cyclists in this case, that have health problems related to their years in sport. Chris Boardman retired due to a bone wasting condition he has had for three years. Look at how often you hear about a professional cyclist having digestive problems, the flu, bronchitis, and other ailments. This is because the immune system is compromised by a lack of natural reserves in the form of fat, and the stresses of the long hours of training.

Simply said, it is not safe to reccomend to anyone that they should aspire to a body fat percentage of under 5%. It isn't worth it for the purposes of the common man. (Sometimes it is hard to admit that one isn't a pro. It's okay, the pros wouldn't be so great if the rest of us weren't so ordinary, right?) If someone here is under 5%, I would advise them to continue with caution and find the best coaching that they can find.
I'll certainly agree all fats are not equal ...Humma Hah
May 17, 2001 8:17 AM
... partially hydrogenated vegatable oils, and the trans-fats which are a byproduct of that process, are quite unhealthy. I believe animal fat from animals which have been deliberately fattened, especially by the use of hormones, is also extremely unhealthy.

I know from personal experience that fish oil raises high density lipoprotein (HDL, sometimes called by the incorrect name "good cholesterol). The monounsaturated oils are also healthy -- olive oil is often cited, but peanut oil is even higher in monounsaturates, and is rich in natural vitamin E. Smart Balance margarine substitute is also pretty good -- no transfats and it is formulated to improve the cholesterol situation.

I'd still put 4% as AWFULLY lean -- a situation with no margin for losing more, not absolutely harmful but so close to the edge that anyone deliberately going there must be acutely aware of their nutrition and not so obsessed with weight that they continue to push further (male anorexia is not unheard of, I knew a wrestler in high school who had this problem, starving himself to a lower weight category until he looked like a survivor of a Nazi death camp). And I will still maintain that starting any ultra-endurance event that lean is asking for trouble.
I'll certainly agree all fats are not equal ...Willy D.
May 17, 2001 1:30 PM
A few things:
1. I have always been very lean.
2. I'm not trying to lose weight.
3. Actually, I have a harder time keeping it on when racing.
4. I eat a lot of "bad" fat.
5. What makes you all think I'm not pro?
RE: #5....Are you? NMLazy
May 17, 2001 3:47 PM
'Cuz you'd be the only pro here?Humma Hah
May 17, 2001 3:58 PM
I dunno that we ever said you weren't, just that people that lean oughta either BE pros and be getting really good nutritional coaching, or else ACT like pros and get the really good coaching anyway.

I may have been that lean in my early college days, full grown and 119 pounds -- I love my mom, but she was a poor cook, and I put on some weight once I started liking the chow in college. But today, 47 and at 178 pounds and 20% BF, I could whup the me I was then, and soundly, and I'm riding the same bike (I'm carrying a LOT more muscle, and its better trained). Which is not to say that about this time next year, with the same muscle fitness or a little better, and half the fat, I couldn't whup the me I am today, and soundly.
Re-read the posts abovepeloton
May 17, 2001 5:25 PM
The point that I (and I believe HH) are trying to convey is that having a body fat percentage of under 5% carries inherent risks. It is not something that the average person should aspire to do to themselves. If you are a pro rider, than I am sure that you have worked hard, and are willing to take the risk for your sport. If you aren't a pro, I hope that you are careful and have a good knowledge base to take care of yourself. I sure you know from what you say about losing weight while racing that you know how it can have ill effects.

My point is only this. A body fat percentage under 5% carries risks and is unhealthy for the MAJORITY of people out there. It would not be something that MOST people should aspire to. Anyone under that percentage should take care of themselves, and be aware of the things that they need to do to be healthy.

But, what do I know? No professional sports or exercise science background here....or not? :) Take care
no lardFATman
May 21, 2001 10:13 PM
got tested when racing crew in college, 7 years ago, fittest i've ever been, with a light (?) sensor pressed against my arm
2.1% once, 2.7% another time. (supposed to have a 5% margin of error, so it's all fiction)
-this on a diet of equal caloric intake by pasta, ice cream, and beer

i'm 6'2", about 180lbs now, still a sick bastard who likes to go uphill ;)
back then, i weighed about 170lbs, and would suck down 10 to make the 160lbs weight limit.

i think the numbers are all relative, genetic predisposition dictates just about everything. don't worry about it, ride.

LA was 4% nmdustin73
May 22, 2001 6:52 PM
why has no one talked about metabolism?climberted
May 24, 2001 11:16 PM
why has no one talked about metabolism? I ride and race and am quite young (20) and only have 3.4-4.0% But I eat constantly, like all the time. I get hungry in training crits. I usually eat 3,500-4,000 calories a day. I to would like to know if this who body fat thing has that big of an effect on my riding or for that matter on anyones ridding? I have never really worried about it. To look at my question, I obviously have a very high metabo (eat all the time can wear short in winter always hot etc) so should I eat more before during and after trainnig and racing? or what?.........