Health, Body Composition & Performance

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Alicia Edge

Health, Body Composition & Performance

Summer is here! and this time of year so much of our focus can be on external measures like

.. a number on a scale

.. a body fat percentage

… or the number of calories in that muffin!

But how can you ensure you’re balancing this body composition focus whilst also ensuring performance, fuelling and adequate energy availability?

Very consistently, the key goals our clients have will usually involve a combination of body composition, performance improvement and Health. Sometimes one of these, sometimes all three. Very often clients assume that if you’re working towards one, then the others will follow suit. However, this approach is often problematic for long term success.

Body composition is only one aspect of health and performance, and in fact, may sit opposite improvements in performance and health.

This dilemma can best be imagined as a triangle. At each point of the triangle sits one of these main goals. The triangle implies that working on one aspect will likely take a little away from the other two.

health and body composition

You may decide to work on all 3 in combination, but you will remain firmly fixed in the middle of the triangle, not really making progress on any single aspect.

However, as an example, let’s assume you’re wanting to focus aggressively on body composition. You know that in order to lose weight, you will need to remain in an energy deficit so you dramatically decrease your total energy intake for an extended period of time. During this time you find that you’re not able to perform in training and you’re also struggling to fully recover. You find that your concentration and moods have dropped and your motivation to train dwindles. After a couple of months, you realise you’re constantly sick and can’t really keep up with your training schedule any more. You try to push a little further but it’s the final straw – you get injured and cannot train during your 6 week recovery period.

This is what occurs with chronically low energy availability resulting in RED-S. It’s an extreme example, but it’s a pattern we see all too often when clients push too far towards body composition and neglect their health and performance.

So within this triangle framework, we always prefer to maintain a degree of balance while pushing the needle slightly one way or the other. In that same way, at different points of the year and depending on the individual, our focus upon these goals change and adapt. Having a chat with your dietitian can help you identify opportunities throughout the year when it’s appropriate to focus on one more than the other.

So where do you feel you are within the triangle at the moment?

For me personally with family life and business demands, I fall mainly in the ‘Health’ focus currently with a touch of ‘Performance’ – but that is more performance for life and work rather than sport right now!