Changing Natural Body Size

What happens if you try to change an athlete’s natural body size?

If you encourage athletes to try to alter their natural body size and shape, their bodies will fight back!

If you eat fewer calories (i.e., diet) to try to live below your natural size, your body responds by slowing down your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories). This is because your body thinks you’re starving it, and actually starts burning fewer calories than if you were not dieting. At first you may dip below your natural body size. Over time, however, your body will return to its natural size. As an added insurance, your body may actually raise its natural size – just in case you try to starve it again!

If you try to bulk up and build a lot more muscle than is natural, your body will respond by burning more calories. As soon as you stop excessive strength training, your body will return to its natural size and shape.

You cannot healthfully maintain a body size and shape that is unnatural for you for any extended period of time. You will either become obsessed and preoccupied with food, weight and body shape or, on the other end of the spectrum, you will stop fighting nature – return to your natural body size and shape and learn to appreciate it.

It is important that key influencers reflect on their desires for their athletes with respect to body weight and shape. If you find yourself wishing an athlete you are working with were physically different (bigger, smaller, more muscular, etc.), consider the following:

  • Does the athlete eat well?
  • Is the athlete healthy, happy, fit and active?
  • What body type did the athlete likely inherit from his or her parents?
  • Is it necessary that your athletes alter their natural bodies to fit the sport in which they are participating?
  • What are the risks?

Evaluate your investment in your athletes’ performance. Remember that a natural body size and shape cannot be changed permanently, and temporary changes can be very harmful to an athlete’s health.