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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2001 Apr;55(4):268-77.

Body composition changes in female bodybuilders during preparation for competition.

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Exercise Physiology Laboratory, School of Education, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.



To determine anthropometric and body composition changes in female bodybuilders during preparation for competition.


There was an attempt to match subjects in the control and experimental groups for height and percentage body fat (%BF) for the initial test of this longitudinal study.


Five competitive bodybuilders (-X +/- s.d.: 35.3 +/- 5.7 y; 167.3 +/- 3.7 cm; 66.38 +/- 6.30 kg; 18.3 +/- 3.5 %BF) and five athletic females (-X +/- s.d.: 30.9 +/- 13.0 y; 166.9 +/- 3.9 cm; 55.94 +/- 3.59 kg; 19.1 +/- 3.3 %BF) were recruited from advertisements in a bodybuilding newsletter and placed on sports centre noticeboards.


The following measurements were conducted 12 weeks, 6 weeks and 3-5 d before the bodybuilders' competitions: anthropometric profile, body density by underwater weighing, total body water via deuterium dilution and bone mineral mass from a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan. A combination of the last three measurements enabled the %BF to the determined by a four compartment model.


A significant (P < or = 0.001) 5.80 kg body mass loss by the bodybuilders as they prepared for competition was primarily due to a reduction in fat mass (FM; -4.42 kg; 76.2%) as opposed to fat-free mass (FFM; -1.38 kg; 23.8%). The decreases in body mass and FM over the final 6 weeks were greater than those over the first 6 weeks. Their %BF decreased (P < 0.001) from 18.3 to 12.7, whereas the values for the control group remained essentially unchanged at 19.1-19.6 %BF. These body composition changes by the bodybuilders were accompanied by a significant decline (P < 0.001) of 25.5 mm (76.3-50.8 mm) in the sum of eight skinfold thicknesses (triceps + subscapular + biceps + iliac crest + supraspinale + abdominal + front thigh + medial calf).


Although the bodybuilders presented with low %BFs at the start of the experiment, they still significantly decreased their body mass during the 12 week preparation for competition and most of this loss was due to a reduction in FM as opposed to FFM.

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