Most female athletes carry between 8 and 15 percent fat, but swimmers usually have a bit more -- between 14 and 24 percent. While any body fat percentage below 30 is perfectly healthy for a woman, it's expected that competitive athletes be among the leanest and sleekest people around. Swimming has different demands than land-based sports, though. Female swimmers who have a little extra padding are actually at an advantage in competition. Leanness is a benefit for women who participate in land-based sports. When facing gravity, fat only weighs you down and doesn't offer any strength or power to propel you forward. This is why female runners tend to have between 10 and 15 percent fat; they want to carry the minimum amount of weight possible. A leaner body also looks more defined and taut, so bodybuilders and fitness competitors also strive for similarly low levels. When a sport is performed in the water, however, fat provides more buoyancy than muscle mass. This allows swimmers who have a higher percentage of fat to float more readily in the water.
A Woman's Advantage in Fat Distribution
Swimmers Benefit From Buoyancy
Swimmers, especially female swimmers, face an energy balance conundrum. Elite swimmers typically undertake , m per day in training, burning thousands of calories. However, the typical body fat levels of these athletes are significantly higher than runners or cyclists who expend similar or even smaller amounts of energy in their training. Many female swimmers have fought well-publicized battles with their body fat levels and with their coaches! They are generally prescribed "land training" running or cycling in addition to their many laps of the pool in the belief that it is a necessary treatment to produce lower skinfold levels. Do energy discrepancies really exist in swimming? Why do swimmers seem to have drawn the short straw of body fat management?
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