Understanding Body Mass Index for Athletes

Published By: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
October 18, 2021

BMI or Body Mass Index utilizes a simple formula that calculates the link between your height and weight. By using the equation, you will be able to see if you are within range of what is considered as your ideal weight. While this is a great tool, it’s not always the case for people who are physically active, buff, or athletic. Measuring BMI alone may reveal inaccurate results since athletes have more muscle mass as compared to average people.

A healthy BMI would be 18.5 - 24.9. If you fall lower than 18.5, you’re considered underweight. Those who are within the 25 – 29.9 range are categorized as being overweight, while those who have 29.9 or higher are classified as obese. But take note that this categorization applies to the average people and not athletic ones. Those who are physically active and are inclined to sports tend to have a larger scale as compared to typical individuals.

Checking Body Composition for Further Assessment

runner sunset bmi

Compared to general individuals, athletic people are known to have a lower body fat percentage. Male athletes, in particular, have lesser body fat composition compared to women. For males, the average body fat percentage is 18 – 24 percent (6 – 13 percent for athletes). When it comes to women, the range is 25 – 31 percent (14 – 20 percent for female athletes).

Knowing the difference between your BMI and body fat percentage can offer you a clearer health perspective. You can get an estimate of body fat by utilizing special scales or checking it with a fitness pro by using body calipers designed for measurement. More accurate techniques, such as DEXA scans or underwater weighing, can also be done by healthcare professionals.

The Role of Waist Circumference

Varying types of body fat yield different implications. Those that are within your abdominal walls or surround your organs are considered more hazardous compared to others. If your waist circumference is higher than 40 inches (males) or 35 inches (females), this indicates a high risk for chronic diseases. If you have a muscular body built, you aren’t necessarily safe from this. It is advised that you utilize a tape measure to determine your waist circumference just above the hip bones. By regularly checking this, you will be able to see if you are still within the ideal range.

Further Blood Tests

athlete training muscle

If you have an athletic built, you aren’t exactly a hundred percent safe from certain health risks. Athletes may look fit on the outside but are still considered at risk. Bodyweight isn’t the sole risk factor for chronic diseases and metabolic illnesses. Factors like your family history come into play. A qualified physician may order blood tests to measure your glucose, cholesterol levels, or blood lipids to verify your level of health. Additionally, these tests will help in the overall assessment of your health.

Final Thoughts

BMI or Body Mass Index should not be used as the primary basis for your health, even if you are a highly active individual. Instead, the collection of recommended measurements like waist circumference and body fat percentage and inclusion of necessary blood tests will paint a more detailed picture of your fitness level.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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