T Nation

Optimal Bodyfat Percentages for T?

I’ve been reading stickies and they all state that one should lose fat to help keep up T levels. However, my trainer (one of the really good ones who is a T-Nation regular author) stated that my low (< 6%) BF levels were doing exactly the opposite, so I bulked up to a whopping 10%.

So… here are my questions:

  • Is there such a thing as too low BF? What is it?
  • Is there a upper limit for BF I should not exceed?

I do strength training but was a long distance runner for years, so still have that lean look, though I’ve gotten muscles. Runners often have really low T. Is this partly because of low bodyfat? It seems to me that the statements about losing fat to up T need a qualification that obese (whatever that means) people should do this. This site generally has a lot of leaner athletic guys, so it is not clear to me how this advice applies.

Just curious. Thanks!

– jj

Extremely low body fat lowers hormone levels in men and women. Starvation is starvation. Also stresses the adrenals and increases rT3, lowering overall metabolic rate.

Over training owers hormone levels in men and women.

Combination is brutal. We have had young guys do these things while chasing some disillusion of body image. The out come has been very low hormone levels and depression.

So what is optimal? More than what you think looks good on you.

Everyone is different. You see some guys walking around 24/7 365 at extremely low BF levels without any problems (hormonal or otherwise) and yet some guy’s bodies just can’t handle it. I had this problem for many years. My BF was too low, my body perceived this as if it were starving and it shut down my hormones in response. It took many years and many trips to the doctors to figure it out. T replacement and GH replacement was only a band-aid. Eventually I was taken off meds and told to gain 10lbs of body fat and then my hormone levels were normal when I was ~10-12% BF.

[quote]iDrDan wrote:
Everyone is different. You see some guys walking around 24/7 365 at extremely low BF levels without any problems (hormonal or otherwise) and yet some guy’s bodies just can’t handle it. I had this problem for many years. My BF was too low, my body perceived this as if it were starving and it shut down my hormones in response. It took many years and many trips to the doctors to figure it out. T replacement and GH replacement was only a band-aid. Eventually I was taken off meds and told to gain 10lbs of body fat and then my hormone levels were normal when I was ~10-12% BF. [/quote]

Interesting. I do martial arts, where a little too much weight you can’t move with agility might well mean you get a beating. Pretty pavlovian way to keep you at weight. It is always easier to cut weight than gain muscle mass.

Getting a serious strength coach and investing the time to get some serious strength (as in gained over 20 lbs. of actual muscle in the last 2 years) was probably one of the best things I have done. I can move me explosively and better than when I was lighter. I also understand that my diet was way to low in fat and protein to support what I want to do now, so I am having to retool that as well. Most of my question is trying to wrap my head around where I need to be and getting some objective feedback on what is actually healthy, since I what was, didn’t work, but I’m not sure what I should aim for.

Thanks to you both!

– jj

if you’re looking for an exact number, good luck. This topic has been discussed ad nauseum on here (you should know this, you’ve been around for awhile.) The general consensus that I’ve seen from both authors and quality forum posters seems to be that SOME fat is necessary. If you want to put some numbers to it, I’d say 8-16 percent for most people. Shelby Starnes has said that he basically maintains some semblance of abs when bulking, but he’s certainly not shredded.

Meadows stays fairly lean. Professor X would say that it doesn’t matter to an extent, assuming you’re trying to reach your absolute growth potential. ZRaw stays very lean in the off-season. Stu recently said he doesn’t go more than 30 lbs over contest weight. I think all of the guys mentioned are in the 8-16 range, aside from maybe X. Even he might be there now, I haven’t seen a good recent picture.