5/8/15

The athlete's body composition paradox


Have you been told that if you want to be faster, you need to lose weight?



Well let me tell you that athletic performances cannot be accurately predicted based solely on body weight and composition, assuming that if you are "less", you will gain "more".

I have seen and worked with many athletes who don't recognize their past/current successes in their healthy and strong body. Despite good, great and/or better race results through proper fueling/eating, the athlete feels he/she does not have "an athletes body" and is constantly trying to lose weight through overtraining and underfueling in an effort to train for a lower body composition.....not for better performances. 


We must also understand that to race "fast" we have to consider how you physically and mentally prepare for your races. Ultimately, the athlete who remains in the best health throughout a training cycle will out-perform a lean, yet underfueled, injured or undernourished athlete.


There are many dietary and training methods that will change your body composition as an athlete, which may positively or negatively affect your health and performance. 


So now I see a paradox that overwhelms and often sabotages the performance and health status of many athletes. 


The athlete's body composition paradox: 
-An athlete wants to achieve a specific body composition to become faster, stronger, more powerful and more efficient. Science has shown us that the human body can be faster and more efficient with an increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in fat mass. However, the strategies for a change in body weight/composition can often adversely affect health, hormones, tissue growth/repair, energy metabolism, energy reserves, pyschological and physiological functioning and negatively affect an athlete's ability to train and compete at a higher level. 

Athletes, keep in mind that even short periods of food restriction/no sport nutrition fueling can negatively affect how you train, compete and recover. Poor exercise performance and an increase in injuries and burnout will occur in the underfueling/undernourished athlete. 

Let a change in body composition be a direct, yet non-forced, result of how well you can meet your energy demands around/during workouts in order to train harder and to recover faster and how committed you are to properly nourishing your body on a day-to-day basis. 

A healthy body performs amazingly well. Stop chasing a body image and pioritize fueling your amazing body in motion. 

I never said you can't or can't aim to lose weight or change body composition to boost your performance. But if your strategies for weight loss/body composition changes are counterproductive to your initial goals of being faster, more resilient, healthier, stronger and more powerful OR when you achieve your ideal image you can not perform/meet the athletic demands of your sport with your new body, your approach is not working. 

If you are struggling to understand how to fuel for performance and for health, it's best to seek professional help with a sport RD who can guide you in the best individualized approach for your health and performance goals.