Body Fat for a Figure Competition
Your body fat for a figure competition should run in the single digits to very low teens. As you’ve noticed, figure competitors are typically super lean when they are on stage. However, you have to realize that figure competitors don’t usually stay at such a low body fat percentage year around. Typically, they gain a little weight in the off-season to support heavy training in order to build muscle. They only diet down to the lower percentage frame for their competition. Such a low body fat percentage for a prolonged time isn’t healthy. It’s good to bring it up a bit while not in prep mode.
Importance of Body Fat
While it would be nice to walk around at 9% all the time, it’s not realistic, health-wise. It’s recommended to increase your body fat to 14% or so in your off-season. This brings you to a healthy hormonal range so your body can function properly. Body fat in the mid-teens keeps you within a decent range so your prep for the next season won’t have to be so extreme.
Dangers of Going too Low
So, the million dollar question is what is too low for a body fat percentage? We’ve seen the transformation of female bodybuilding and what the judging criteria has done to the sport. In female bodybuilding, the judges kept telling the athletes to come in softer and not so cut, yet they continued to award the biggest and most ripped female. All this did was make the women come in harder and harder in order to be competitive and place.
Pennshape.upenn.edu states, “The medical complications of a very low body fat involve almost every body function and include the cardiovascular, endocrine, reproductive, skeletal, gastrointestinal, renal, and central nervous systems with the possibility to develop conditions such as heart damage, gastrointestinal problems, shrinkage of internal organs, and connective tissue.”
Pay attention. Don’t let the judging criteria cause you get so lean that it jeopardizes your health. There’s a whole cascade of events that can follow when a competitor’s body fat gets too low.
Know Your Priorities
Your body can warn you if your body fat gets too low for too long. Some ways of knowing are a loss of menstrual cycle, fatigue, brain fog, slow reaction time, brittle hair, hair loss, and poor skin health. Other, more serious symptoms are lowered autoimmune function, osteoporosis, and elevated liver enzymes. While you can get in your zone, no competition is worth risking your overall health.
What Body Fat Percentage to Shoot for?
You need to know which division you are going to compete in. Each division requires a different body fat range. General competition condition is 6-15% these days. The higher range is due to the introduction of new divisions which focus on more shape than muscle definition.
Here are the general body fat guidelines
Bikini Division – 12-15%
Figure Category – 9-12%
Women’s Physique – 8-9%
Female Bodybuilding 6-8%
These are general ranges. Just because you are in the 7% body fat range doesn’t mean you must compete in female bodybuilding. Everyone is different and holds muscle and body fat differently.
Taking Your Physique to the Competitive Level
Now that you have a better idea of the divisions and levels of body fat required, you can get a jump start on your program. Grab my FREE Contest Prep Crash Course and get started on lowering your body fat and building lean muscle. Take the transformation challenge and see what you are made of. Game On…
Karen Sessions NSCA-CPT
Thanks for reading over my article! I hope you found the information helpful. If you have any questions you can contact me directly using the “Contact Link” at the top of the page. I answer all emails.
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