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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 01-31-2009, 12:18 PM   #1
Benjamin Goodale
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why does low body fat impede performance?

I am curious if anybody knows the science behind why having bf% below 8-10% decreases performance. I am ultimately more concerned with performance than appearance, and am still a long way away from needing to be concerned with this (currently approx 15% bf), but I would like to be quite lean eventually if possible. does anyone have a clear explanation of why low body fat impedes performance...studies, theories, books, articles, etc.?
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Old 01-31-2009, 12:40 PM   #2
Scott Sherwood
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Re: why does low body fat impede performance?

My guess would be that having a little body fat helps your body to maintain balanced levels of blood sugar. I used to have very little body fat and if i didnt eat for over 3 hours my energy level would plummet. Other than that I have no scientific backing for this, but it makes sense to me.
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Old 01-31-2009, 01:00 PM   #3
George Mounce
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Re: why does low body fat impede performance?

You have only to go look at all the complications of anorexia to find your answer.
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Old 01-31-2009, 02:08 PM   #4
Jared Ashley
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Re: why does low body fat impede performance?

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Originally Posted by Benjamin Goodale View Post
I am curious if anybody knows the science behind why having bf% below 8-10% decreases performance. I am ultimately more concerned with performance than appearance, and am still a long way away from needing to be concerned with this (currently approx 15% bf), but I would like to be quite lean eventually if possible. does anyone have a clear explanation of why low body fat impedes performance...studies, theories, books, articles, etc.?
I also have no specific scentific data for you, but can say from experience that it does have an effect. I sit around 6-8% normally, and I definately can't go very long without food or water. I got the flu once and lost about 5 lbs... felt like crap afterward for a couple weeks until I gained it back. I'm guessing (like george) it has to do with storage of numerous chemicals that the body needs to do all kinds of things.
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Old 01-31-2009, 02:12 PM   #5
Brian Bedell
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Re: why does low body fat impede performance?

I don't know the science-y part, but your body uses fat for fuel, and if you have less of it to draw from, you run out of gas.
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Old 01-31-2009, 03:57 PM   #6
Brian G. Smith
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Re: why does low body fat impede performance?

It also makes it harder to retain water to remain sufficienctly hydrated. If you pay attention to the NFL, you'll often see the wide receivers and the running backs cramping up the most during training camp and early season games. They're the leanest of football players and can't stay well-hydrated over the course of a 3-4 hour game/practice without close monitoring.
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Old 01-31-2009, 04:10 PM   #7
Christin Street
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Re: why does low body fat impede performance?

Might be controversial but at the CF Nutrition Cert a few weeks ago, Robb Wolf said that some of the top CF athletes compete at 6-8%, male and 8-10% female. I doubt he meant to insinuate that this is the goal, but the point being some athletes can maintain a low BF without seeing a slide in performance.
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Old 01-31-2009, 04:15 PM   #8
George Mounce
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Re: why does low body fat impede performance?

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Might be controversial but at the CF Nutrition Cert a few weeks ago, Robb Wolf said that some of the top CF athletes compete at 6-8%, male and 8-10% female. I doubt he meant to insinuate that this is the goal, but the point being some athletes can maintain a low BF without seeing a slide in performance.
Tis true, I believe general guidelines for men are to not go below 3% and women to not go below 14%. That isn't a set thing for each individual though. I do know Mary Lou Retton didn't have a menstrual cycle until the age of 21 though...body fat counts for a lot of things for women.
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Old 01-31-2009, 04:19 PM   #9
Christin Street
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Re: why does low body fat impede performance?

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Originally Posted by George Mounce View Post
Tis true, I believe general guidelines for men are to not go below 3% and women to not go below 14%. That isn't a set thing for each individual though. I do know Mary Lou Retton didn't have a menstrual cycle until the age of 21 though...body fat counts for a lot of things for women.
I dunno George. Mine hovers around 11-13 and I have no problem with the cycle (lucky for me huh?). I do perform better (at a strength level) when it's a little higher.
Bodyfat is a very individual thing IMHO.
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Last edited by Christin Street : 01-31-2009 at 04:27 PM.
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Old 01-31-2009, 04:28 PM   #10
Jeff S Johnson
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Re: why does low body fat impede performance?

It gets said a lot that peak athletic performance comes at various places above the 8-10% mark, but I'm not sure that's been proven or even makes sense.

I doubt anyone would argue that Olympic sprinters, NFL football players, NBA players, etc, etc. are absolutely elite and would do whatever it took to compete at their highest possible level. But the vast majority (NFL linemen excepted) are at or below the 8% mark. Swimmers even have an obvious reason to carry some extra bodyfat (buoyancy), but I'd guesstimate Michael Phelps at about 5% bf.
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