Sculpted. This is how professional athletes who compete in cycling, triathlon or athletics seem to be. Sculpted based on thousands of hours of training that shape the contour of bodies that are subjected to the maximum demand. Thin figures that release energy, in which there is tension, which are the resulting image of taking care of every detail on the long road to competition.
The organism is kept alive by continually seeking balance. Each response that it gives during an effort has the objective of creating the ideal conditions to compensate the demands that are produced on it. In short, adapt better and better to the demands of training. One of these adaptations can be seen at a glance: thin bodies, muscles marked under a skin that practically does not accumulate fat in the subcutaneous tissue.
That is the proof that the athlete is prepared after going through the training plan that has taken him/her to the starting line. Moment to which comes with a low percentage of fat that is obtained by the combination of different variables and that is related to the best performance: lower percentage of body fat is equal to higher performance.
This affirmation is based, in the first place, on the greater use of the oxygen that enters the organism. And, practically all the cells of the body (except for some like red blood cells) need oxygen to stay alive. Of course, to get the energy to contract and relax for hours and hours, the muscles need it too.
When all the inspired oxygen has to be distributed to the body cells, if the percentage of fat is greater and therefore the adipose tissue is more abundant, the amount of oxygen that that part of the organism will require (which does not help the movement) will be greater. In this way, the muscles are deprived of that amount of oxygen that would be adequate to increase the possibilities of providing the optimal energy for a better contraction and relaxation, in short, to move and thereby obtain a better performance.
In addition to the worst oxygen distribution when the percentage of fat increases, other unwanted effects can be observed. One of them, well known and essential in any endurance race is body weight gain. For hours the athlete must move his/her body and each extra gram will require an extra effort to be made in each stroke, turn of the pedal and stride.
In races as the Ironman, the Tour de France, one day cycling events with long climbs, trail and ultratrail races or the mythical marathon, this small added expense can make a big difference when crossing the finish line. For that same reason, the bodies of the athletes, to adapt better to the effort, progressively reduce the percentage of fat as the season progresses, reaching the objective of competing in their optimum weight, that which allows them to express their maximum power, generate the maximum energy and with it reach their best version. For this reason, the minimum weight must be calculated and checked in order not to lose muscle quality, which is essential to perform.
In addition to all this, another essential aspect is the ability to regulate body temperature during all hours of competition. It is well known scientifically that a higher percentage of body fat worsens the chances of eliminating the internal heat that is produced from the chemical reactions that are happening. Due to this, the thermoregulation worsens and with it the performance.
On the other hand, a lower percentage of fat favors the execution of more agile movements improving the efficiency. That is, biomechanically the technical gesture is better, more economical and consequently the energetic expenditure is reduced with the benefit that this implies in the long distance.
Finally, it should be noted that some research have concluded that those athletes who see themselves with a lower percentage of fat, have a better image of themselves, trusting more in their possibilities of performing to the maximum.
Combining correctly the nutrition of each day with the personalized training plan, knowing the body composition to achieve (in addition to the physiological benefits exposed) provides a mental reinforcement to the athlete who knows he/she is preparing perfectly to perform at his/her best.
Adaptation, that is the key. For that reason the body is shaped, preparing for the fight, preparing to perform.