Monday, May 24, 2010

Body Fat?

Here's a common scenario.
You are following the CaveMan2.0/Primal lifestyle to a T. You are doing it all perfectly eating very clean. Hitting the gym regularly with good intensity, You IF regularly, but but you can't seem to drop that last couple of pounds of body fat. You feel great. You have tons of energy and are hitting personal bests in the gym on a regular basis, but you feel that you'd like to lean out that little bit more.
Or you could be guilty of the opposite. You started the lifestyle and the fat just melted away. Your performance was steadily increasing in the gym and you felt like a million bucks. You got down to your best weight ever, but that wasn't good enough so you cut back on your portions a little bit to see how ripped those abs could get. You got there bot now your performance in the gym has plummeted. All you max lifts are down by 30 - 40 pounds and weights that were easy now seem to weigh a ton. This one actually happened to me (twice!)  and it took me a long time to recover.

It's not healthy to to let your body weight drop too much. Your body needs a certain percentage of fat storage to operate at optimum performance and if you let those levels drop too much you run the risk of stalling your progress.

We all have a healthy body fat range, called Healthy Homeostasis, where we feel and perform our best and we should definitely judging where those levels are by how we feel not how ripped our abs are. This range is different for all of us and the reality of it is that you will most likely perform your best with a little bit more body fat than you would like to see.

This is not License to start letting yourself get heavy around the edges now. Keep in mind that we tend to be our own worst critics. What you see in the mirror tends to be 400% fatter than what your friends see when they see you in a bathing suit. If you are at your best performance weight I can pretty well guarantee that you will look much better than if you manage to push it to where you are getting too skinny. If you drop the body fat to the point where your performance drops, you will look like it! Trust me (just ask my wife)

Here's an excerpt from detailing what the average bodyfat ranges are average Joe's and Jane's and for elite athletes.

"Your Ideal Body Fat Percentage

The absolute perfect body fat percentage does NOT exist. Age and gender make a big contribution to the ideal value, but most importantly...
Everyone is an individual. Some people might feel and perform better at a higher or lower body fat percentage than others of the same age and sex. And that's why...
Ranges and guidelines exist. Have a look at the tables below. The first table gives the ideal body fat percentage ranges for the general population. The second table is the average body fat percentage for different athletes. The important thing to remember is...
Anywhere inside the range is good. Staying below the upper limit should be your target but as you'll soon see lower is not necessarily better.

Body Fat Percentage for The Average Population
AgeUp to 3030-5050+

Average Body Fat Percentage of Athletes
Basketball6-12%20-27%Shot Putters16-20%20-28%
Body building5-8%10-15%Skiing (X country)7-12%16-22%
Football (Backs)9-12%No dataSwimming9-12%14-2
Football (Linemen)15-19%No dataTennis12-16%16-24%
High/long Jumpers7-12%10-18%Volleyball11-14%16-25%
Ice/field Hockey8-15%12-18%Weightlifters9-16%No data
Racquetball8-13%15-22%Wrestlers5-16%No data
OK, have you worked out the ideal range for you? Great. You've probably already know the risks associated with falling significantly above the upper limit of this range. But what about the lower end of the scale?

Lower is Not Necessarily Better

A certain amount of body fat is vital for the body to function normally and healthy. In fact striving for a body fat percentage that is too low can be dangerous. Here's why...
Measuring your body fat percentage calculates your TOTAL body fat. This total body fat can be split into 2 categories...
Storage Fat -- This consists mainly of fat deposited just under the skin or subcutaneous fat. Storage fat for men and women is fairly similar. For the average man 12% of bodyweight is storage fat and for the average woman 15% of bodyweight is storage fat.
Essential Body Fat -- For the body to function normally and healthily a certain amount of body fat is required. This is called essential fat. For women the average amount of essential fat is 12% of bodyweight and for men it is 3%.
Trying to achieve a body fat percentage that is so low it affects your essential fat stores is NOT good for your health.
Some storage fat is also required for good health. It's used to protect internal organs in the chest and abdomen. So remember...
Aim to stay within the range for age and gender and rest assured you are taking one of the most positive steps to life-long health you can."

So my take on the subject is this. You have to take how you feel during the day and how you perform during your workouts as when you are in your ideal body fat range. Don't let what you see in the mirror steer you into dieting hell. I guarantee that if you are in the body fat range where you perform your best, that is where you will look your best as well. If you are leaning out and you have a couple of workouts where you just don't perform as well, try eating more and see if you feel better. I speak here from experience.

Bonus post! 
I  have been reading a great book on stretching, it's called "The Genius of Flexibility". It is a whole new perspective on stretching for mobility and performance. I highly recommend you pick it up. It will change how you look at stretching forever. It has for me so expect to see some posts on stretching and recovery to come up soon! 

Until next time



  1. Awesome article as usual Joey. Been there and thought I was great but couldn't do the same weight for working out. Learned as I get older. Trying to get back to where I was when you trained me. Long road but It can be done and I have my husband for the best support. Hopefully I will be able to do all of the exercises you recommend within time. Keep up the great work with the blog. Cheers Rhonda

  2. Thank you Rhonda. I really hope I get posted to Halifax and I'd love to train you again. I know that this time around I could take you much further before. I do post progressions in the workouts so if you need some further scaling or have questions about a workout send me an email and I'll do the best I can to help