Body composition changes in female bodybuilders during preparation for competition

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2001 Apr;55(4):268-77. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601154.


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

Design: 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.

Subjects: 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.

Interventions: 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.

Results: 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).

Conclusions: 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry*
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Water
  • Bone Density
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Competitive Behavior*
  • Deuterium
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Models, Biological*
  • Time Factors


  • Deuterium