Improving Body Fat %

In December, I got myself a pre-Christmas present added a book to my shopping cart to get free shipping on someone else’s Christmas gift. That book was Racing Weight, by Matt Fitzgerald.  I’ve been reading it over the holiday, and it’s all about improving one’s physique in order to optimize athletic performance. Seeing as I have several running related goals, want to complete a triathlon, and also have some personal health/vanity goals, I thought it might be a good resource to explore. One of the key things that makes this book different from a traditional diet is that Fitzgerald recommends that you reduce your weight by focusing on body fat percentage.  The rationale behind this is that non-fat weight is your muscle, so you don’t want to reduce muscle when you’re training for endurance events.  Makes sense to me. 

Fitzgerald recommends that you take 5 Steps to work on reducing body fat (i.e. getting to racing weight):

  1. Improve your diet quality (improve nutrition-per-calorie)
  2. Balance your energy sources (improve carb-protein-fat ratios)
  3. Time your nutrition
  4. Manage your appetite
  5. Train right

According to the book, elite female distance runners have an average body fat percentage of 12.4%.  For female triathletes, the average is between 12-16%. I don’t think I saw it in the book, but according to the American Council for Exercise, for a woman my age, the healthy body fat percentage should be 21-32%.  

My body fat percentage statistics from 2010:

  • Average body fat percentage at end of 2010: 36.05%
  • 1-day Body fat percentage at end of 2010: 37.1%
  • Smallest average body fat percentage in 2010: 35.55%

Look – I’m average! (That makes me feel somewhat better, but not too great when I think about what that means for the greater US female population). 

I’ve been keeping track of my weight and body fat percentage in Physics Diet.  You can track your weight and body fat on a daily basis and then it will calculate the moving average, based on how frequently you log your measurements.  Here is a picture of the scale that I use:

So my goal for 2011 would be to get to a healthy body fat percentage of 30-32%.  According to Racing Weight, I should shoot for a 25% improvement, which would mean a body fat percentage of 27%.  I think that I’ll stick with a more reasonable initial goal – 32%.

First things first, some retrospection. What was I doing when I was losing the most body fat?  The months I lost the most % body fat, I tracked my weight & BF% most frequently. I ran at a faster pace in these months. Some of these months, I did a workout video (30 day shred) and/or Bikram Yoga.

Plans for January 2011

  • Track my daily weight & body fat percentage at least 23 days.
  • Go to Bikram Yoga or other Hot Yoga at least 1x/week. (This also fits in with my yoga goals – to better develop my habit)
  • Consider how to incorporate circuit training like in the 30 Day Shred.  Maybe I’ll just do the video, or cash in on my TeamiFit groupon. 
  • Work on adjusting my nutrition to not eat holiday cookies based on the Racing Weight guidelines. I was participating in the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge, which encourages you to eat 7+ servings of produce daily. That’s definitely a step in the right direction!

4 thoughts on “Improving Body Fat %

  1. Amy

    I’ve been hearing a lot about that book lately! I am thinking of looking into it as well. Would you definitely recommend it? I, too, want to get leaner, stronger, faster, etc. this year!

    1. Lauren Post author

      I’m still weighing whether it’s worth the $$ to buy the book. Nothing in the book was truly revolutionary, but I think it’s the first thing I’ve read that focused on body fat/lean mass rather than on weight. A lot of the numbers it suggested were designed for truly competitive athletes, whereas I’m even just looking to get to a “healthy” range.

      You may also want to check out the website to see what information you can get off of there. It’s divided into different articles, but gets toward the same goal.

  2. kilax

    I just got this book for the holiday and have only read the first few chapters. I am excited to read the rest. I am not sure if I will buy a body fat scale like the author recommends.

    It sounds like you have a very balanced plan to meet your goals in 2011 🙂

    1. Lauren Post author

      Thanks! I hope you enjoy the book. When I bought a scale last year, it came with a BF% calculator. I’m not 100% sure if it’s accurate, but I would guess it’s pretty close.

      I’m also considering whether I should pay extra $$ to get a professional BF% analysis. Might not make too much of a difference, but at least to confirm the accuracy of measuring body fat % through my scale.

      Let me know what you like about the book!


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