As most of you know, we regularly get the Applied Fitness Training guys over to test body compositions for anyone who is interested.
We do it for the following reason:
While our primary goal in CrossFit is not how we look, it IS about health. Body composition range is an indicator of our overall health, and that is information that is vital to know if we are trying to improve our well-being.
If we carry too much body fat we are at risk for numerous diseases, and if we don’t have enough body fat (especially in women) we also risk suffering from various health and hormonal problems.
Knowing where we stand allows us to make changes in our life-styles to improve those numbers and get to a place of true health, which exercise alone will not achieve.
Often the numbers will surprise you. Plenty of people don’t LOOK big but carry way more body fat than is ideal (skinny-fat anyone?), while sometimes a person may look less lean but actually have a super low body fat percentage. This is why we recommend that everyone gets it tested periodically. The results may unexpected and could indicate the need for some health improvements. And if you already know you’re over or underweight, it’s a great way to give yourself some actual numbers to work towards. It is so much more rewarding to see those numbers improve, than just looking at weight on a scale (which is often hugely deceptive).
But here’s the thing: it ONLY matters if you are outside of the healthy range. As a woman, if you are between 15-30%, and as a man 5-20%, then you are FINE in terms of basic health.
If you are wanting to look a little leaner (from an aesthetic standpoint) or to improve your power to weight ratio and athletic performance, then you may want to be closer to the 15-22% range for women or the 5-12% range for men.
But we need to understand that we each carry body fat differently. For some body types, it is super hard to get below a certain percentage, no matter what you might LIKE to have on paper, whilst for others the percentage will naturally fall much lower. One person’s 22% will be another’s 16%. For one person, getting lower than 20% will require starving themselves into an unhealthy state, whilst for another increasing their percentage above that will be hard, and perhaps not healthy for their body type. My body fat, for example, measured at 14.5% (a little too low for my liking) and yet I still do not have a visibly defined “6-pack”. If I desperately wanted a “6-pack” I would have to carefully monitor my macros and starve myself to a less healthy percentage – something I will never be prepared to do because my health is more important to me. Other women will have a visible “6-pack” at a higher body fat percentage. This is just the way our bodies store fat and I need to be ok with that.
We need to figure out what our personal healthy percentage is and be happy with that.
How do you know if you are in YOUR healthy range?
If you are eating super clean and in healthy proportions that are suitable to fuel YOUR energy expenditure, if you are exercising smartly (ie. 3-5 times a week and seeing your strength and conditioning consistently improve), if you are sleeping enough and have plenty of energy throughout the day and you feel vibrant and healthy, then you are probably at the perfect percentage for YOU. As long as this falls in the healthy range (above) then be content and accept that this is your happy place.
Striving for a number, just for the sake of it, is enough to drive most people crazy. And crazy is not healthy!
Rather, strive for health and love your body. Love it enough to feed it nourishing clean foods, exercise it regularly and treat it with compassion. If you do this consistently (and no, a Whole30 here or there does not count as consistently) then chances are your percentage will be perfect.