O ne thing most bodybuilders do is to try and pump their muscles while trying to reduce their body fat percentage to a minimum, as this is the recipe for obtaining a ripped look. However, some specialists are drawing the attention that losing too much fat may not be beneficial for health and can lead to a lack of focus, poor performance, or even serious illnesses that are caused by organs not receiving the amount of energy they need to function properly. The fat ratio differs with age and can be easily estimated today with a body fat monitor that tells you your muscle mass, bone mass, and other parameters as well. What’s important to remember though is that it should not drop under 21% for women and 7% for men.
Taking these values into account, the next question that arises is if they apply to professional weightlifters as well, who often reach body fat ratios of 3 to 5%. This is what we will discuss today in our attempt to clarify where you should draw the line to make sure your body doesn’t get affected irreversibly.
Back to the end of the 90s and the beginning of the 21st century, German-based bodybuilder Andreas Munzer was a very popular figure in the world of weightlifters. He had the right constitution to build a ripped body and the determination to add more muscle while reducing fat to a bare minimum. People were admiring the paper-thin skin that allowed him to flaunt his enormous muscles, and he was getting great rankings in competitions. The secret? Diet, exercise, and… anabolic steroids.
Unfortunately, when things were about to turn really great for Munzer – he was ready to close some contracts with some famous bodybuilding magazines and got to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he admired enormously, he ended up in the hospital with stomach pain and internal bleeding. He was already too weak to receive a blood transfusion, so the doctors weren’t able to save him. At the autopsy, they discovered that he had almost no body fat but had a lot of steroids in his system. His liver was filled with small tumors, and a part of it was crumbling. They concluded that his death was provoked by multiple-organ failure, which could have been caused by his extremely restrictive diet and the consumption of stimulants.
Despite him having such a tragic end, Munzer is still seen as an icon, and his photos are largely shared and commented on in bodybuilder online communities. But there are more and more specialists who accentuate the risks of drastically reducing the fat ratio in the body due to the negative effects that were associated with it.
Coleman is one of today’s bodybuilders who claim to have a fat ratio close to zero. When invited to Joe Rogan’s podcast, he declared he has used bioelectrical impedance analysis to take a look at his body composition, and the scale showed him a fat percentage of only 0.33. When Looking at Coleman and seeing him looking all ripped and healthy, the first question that comes to mind is how isn’t he dead with such a low percentage? Are the specialists wrong when they say that you should keep your fat levels over 7%? Dr. Brian Sutterer MD offers the best explanation for this situation in his YouTube video about Coleman.
According to Dr. Sutter, it is impossible to have such a low-fat rate, since the human body doesn’t only store subcutaneous fat, but has fat deposits deep inside the cells that are essential for vital body functions to remain active. If you would eliminate almost all this fat from your body, your heart and brain as well as most of all the other organs would fail.
So, what’s the explanation? Dr. Sutter blames it all on the technology, which is accurate but not that accurate to deal with very small numbers. He says that Coleman is more likely to have a 3% body fat, but the scale wasn’t able to read it correctly.
This is the range toward which most weightlifters aim when they are preparing for competition season. For women, the range is 8 to 9 percent. However, and here is a very important aspect to remember, when there is not competition season, the lifters return to having higher fat percentages because it is almost impossible to maintain these values for long. Even for the short time they spend lowering their fat levels, combining harsh diets with sports and sauna sessions, many of them report feeling always hungry or sleepy, and many women confessed to feeling extremely cold all the time.
If you are aiming at lowering your BMI drastically and reducing the fat in your body under the standards, you will most probably experience some almost unbearable effects. And this is because your brain will be suffering a lot (it is a great fat lover), and your body will treat the lack of fat as a crisis and start reducing some functions. Here is how drastically cutting your fat levels can affect you:
Reaching a lower fat percentage to get a ripped body is not a problem, and we do appreciate bodybuilders who manage to show all those gorgeous muscles. However, trying to reach a fat percentage that is closer to zero is a bad idea. First, because it is basically impossible to have 0% fat and keep breathing, so bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman should check their facts twice before going live and telling that their fat percentage is under 1. And secondly because trying to lower your adipose tissue level under the normal value could affect your internal organs, your skin, your mood, sexual performance, and basically make you not have a life anymore since you will always be busy cooking low-fat foods, even for an on-the-run snack, and training at the gym.