Take, for example, a 150-kilogram linebacker in professional American football. Although physically they may look fat and slow, these huge athletes can explode off the line at speeds that will amaze you. They may not have the endurance to maintain this speed, but they have trained for that initial burst of speed and are faster in this area than many people who are many kilos lighter than them.
What this simply means is that although the scale will tell you how much you weigh, it is by no means an indicator of how well you will perform in sports. It also does not reveal your body fat levels, and this is very important because we all need to have a certain amount of body fat. Fat is an essential part of our body and it provides us with energy for athletic events that require endurance, it insulates us against the cold and protects our vital organs.
When you have too much body fat, it may affect your health. Excess fat is a major contributor to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related ailments. There is a simple test that can be performed to determine whether the amount of body fat you have puts you at risk for heart disease and other illnesses. This test is known as the body mass index or BMI. This test is based on the weight and height of the individual and those with a BMI higher than 27 are considered to be at higher risk of developing health problems than those whose BMI is under 27.
For those who are sedentary and are not active in sports or fitness activities on a daily or weekly basis, the minimum recommended amount of body fat for women in this category is 11-14%. For a man it is 3-5%. For a woman, 12-22% percent is considered healthy, and for men five to thirteen percent. For those who are looking to maintain overall fitness, 16-25% percent is considered appropriate for women while 12-18% percent is considered healthy for men. If you are a woman and your body fat percentage is 20-30%, you are at risk for health problems and men, if you are at 19-24%, you are considered to be at risk for health problems. Women with over 32% body fat and men over 25% are considered obese.
For women who have low BMIs, which means 18 or lower, they may find themselves at the risk of developing irregular menstrual cycles. In addition they also place themselves at greater risk of developing osteoporosis. This disease is characterised by a reduction in the overall bone mineral content, and by measuring body composition female athletes can begin to find a healthy weight range that would put them at less risk for osteoporosis and irregular menstrual cycles. By doing this, they also increase their ability to perform optimally in sports and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
When we stand on the scale to determine our weight, we are not taking into consideration how much fat is on our body, our age, our sex or which sport we participate in. Athletes who do resistance training will have an increased amount of lean body mass and less fat compared to those who are not athletic, so in this regard the BMI is a very helpful measurement for people who are involved in sports. Even if you exercise, eat well and stay in shape, this tells you nothing about your body fat composition.
There are three main methods of measuring your body fat composition. These methods will give you an idea of your overall body mass including how much is fat and what is lean muscle tissue. These techniques include hydrostatic weighing, bio-electrical impedance analysis and the skin fold caliper technique. The skin fold technique is available at most gyms and health clubs. The other two techniques are more expensive and can be harder to find. Ask your personal trainer or gym manager if you’d like to find out where you can get these tests done.
The good news is that through proper diet and training you can change your body composition. It does require consistency and the right approach, and you should know that it is not permanent. If you fall into old eating habits and slack off in your exercise and training, your body will easily return to the condition that it was in before. Other factors that should be considered include age, height, gender and what particular sport they are participating in. Remember that fat is essential ingredient needed for overall body functionality, but too much can lead to health problems in other areas.