I've noticed a couple things when I get down to a certain bodyfat level that makes me think that we, as individuals, may have set points that our body prefers to and functions best at. You may call it an "ideal" bodyfat level. First I notice that my recovery slows down, my sleep is disrupted and my digestion is not the same. I know this could be due to other factors such as caloric intake, rest, over training, etc. However, if you take into account my second point then you may understand why I am asking the question. Second, no matter how I approach it, and trust me I have tried many ways, it is extremely difficult to maintain a bodyfat level below a certain point. It is as if my body finds a way to re-adjust and slowly creep back to my "ideal" bodyfat level. Even when I was competitively bodybuilding I could only maintain a certain level for a short period of time and it wouldn't take long for my bodyfat levels to get to my normal range. I think the reverse could be said for the hard gainer. No matter how they slice it is difficult for them to maintain weight gain.
I've gotten to the point were I may just stop trying to work so hard for this certain bodyfat level I would like to maintain and accept the fact that my body functions best at my "ideal" level. Are you guys buying this theory?
Disclaimer: We aren't talking about a significant bodyfat range. I am fairly lean, probably 10%, but when I creep into the single digits my body doesn't want any part of it.
asked byhemanvt (5773)
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on July 18, 2011
at 07:26 PM
Stephan Guyenet's posts and interviews about this topic provide the best explanation IMO -
Then of course his current Food Reward series has a ton of overlap with this topic too. I think the term "set point" is a source of confusion for many because it implies something that is not changeable, which clearly it is based on hormonal and caloric considerations. I believe I've seen some people here take exception to Stephan's theory, but I will let them elaborate rather than my misrepresentation of their views.
I think there is a big difference between achieving a "healthy" set point vs that which is based on "vanity" in the case of body building. The definition of "health" is of course a key point of debate. Regardless, here is my view in summary-
- I believe we have body fat set point
- I believe this set-point is determined by genetic factors AND metabolic derangement post birth based on diet and environmental inputs
- I believe a healthy diet might be able to lower ones set-point subject to the extent of metabolic derangement that took place prior to correcting the diet
- I believe that the lower set point one eventually achieves might be above that which would have been possible absent any derangement after birth, and above that which we would wish for irrespective of our focus and attention to diet, etc.
- I believe that if you somehow force yourself to fall below your defended set-point (i.e. via caloric restriction, etc), that once the temporary factor is removed, you will regain back to that defended set-point irrespective of whether you are a naturally lean or overweight individual. The same applies in reverse. If you overeat (like I did this weekend!!!!), any temporary gain will be offset once the hormonal milieu returns to the previous condition where the set-point was established.
My 2 cents...
on July 19, 2011
at 09:31 PM
I know I have my own body fat set point! No matter what I do or where my weight is (I've been as low as 88 and as high as 110 lbs in the past 12 years since I attained adult height) my body fat stays in the mid to high teens (I've been tested a few times but I also estimate visually - I'm lean as heck compared to every women I know. I only see women with a composition like mine in the Olympics). I overeat and never get above 110 lbs. Extra calories 'burn off' through body heat and fidgeting. I have undereaten when stressed and depressed and my muscles get smaller without plenty of food, protein, and weight-bearing exercise.. but body fat stays about same and I have never missed a period.
I gained and am maintaining at a higher weight thanks to paleo but it appears to be more muscle than fat. It's very odd for a fertile younger woman, but it's where my body wants to be. My curves are all below the waist so I suppose the fat lower down allows me to stay in good health/fertile even with the ripped/bony (depending where you look) upper body.
on December 15, 2011
at 03:46 PM
oh, absolutely we have a species specific genetic fat level set point. Fat is future energy stored in a water insoluble state. it has to be that way. if you try to drive a car on empty you will have to stop the car more often to refuel and if you are a human that runs out of gas on the way to the pump, you are dead.
on July 18, 2011
at 07:29 PM
I find something similar happens when I try to gain weight. I also have a BF around 10%, and when I try to gain weight, I can overeat for 4-5 days but then my body says no. My sleep suffers and I just can't eat enough to maintain the gains. I eat around 3000-3500 kcals/day, and I have almost completely eliminated cardio.
I have somewhat given up and am accepting my body weight set point for now. I have gained a solid 5 lbs, and will try and hold it there for a while and see if that becomes a new set point.
on July 18, 2011
at 07:07 PM
I think when travelling into the single digit body fat ranges, it simply becomes harder to "beat the system". The body is so incredibly complex, and has myriad was to compensate and or adjust for it's needs. It just takes much more attention to detail, measuring, methods... the question becomes, "is it worth it?"