Why Athletes Shouldn’t Aspire to Be Shredded

Why Athletes Shouldn’t Aspire to Be Shredded

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It might surprise many of you to know that many athletes don’t have uber low body fat percentages.  To the casual observer, Rich Froning seems absolutely jacked.  This is true, but Rich isn’t shredded.  He’s not walking around at 5% body fat or something similar to what body builders aspire to on competition day.  Rich is probably 8-12%, and I can assure you that he gives absolutely zero thought to those numbers.

To be good at sports, you have to have a high-functioning metabolism.  You need to eat, and that makes it difficult to keep your body fat really low.  This isn’t a critique of physique competitors; I have brought guys down to single digit body fat before, but I can assure you that performance wasn’t their goal.  Many of them are models.  This is what happens when you get really lean:  your body starts to view your muscle as a viable energy source, so you are in a constant state of tearing down and building up.

Most competitors actually carry more fat going into the Open workouts, lean out a bit for Regionals and then get in a favorable state going towards the Games.  I would say the window probably looks like 8-16% body fat.

If You’re Trying to Get Stronger

I tested at 16.6% about 6 months ago and I had visible abs (I was adding muscle).  To have that look where your obliques are super defined and your bottom abs are showing, you need to be closer to 8-10%.  This matters very little for our sport.  When you are trying to gain muscle and strength, it isn’t necessary to go nuts with the food, get fat, and then enter a perpetual dieting cycle.  I would guess I am about 12% at the moment.  I weigh 165 pounds, and each percent of fat equals 1.65 pounds, so the difference between 12% and 17% for me is roughly 8 pounds.  That’s not a lot, especially when you consider that your metabolism is purring along at the higher percentage, so it’s much easier to mobilize fat in that situation.

Trust me, at no point in that cycle was I shy to represent the SOGO army (suns out guns out, even when the sun ain’t out).  This is a short article, but I see a lot of people focused on the wrong thing, thinking that extreme restriction is the path to better performance.  Unless that performance is graded on how many veins you have in your quads, the opposite is actually true.

Summary

  • Compared to bodybuilders and physique competitors, athletes generally maintain higher body fat percentages.
  • As you get leaner, your body starts to view your muscle as a viable source of energy and performance is put at a detriment.
  • Eating for performance goals rather than aesthetics will put you in a balance where you’re strong, powerful and still relatively lean.
  • By maintaining a body fat percentage in the mid teens (for men) and mid twenties (for women) you can ensure that your workouts are productive, and still look great because you’ll carry more muscle.

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