Your body composition is the measure of the amount of fat, bone and muscle you have. Muscle and fat are very adaptable and depend on the level of exercise, dietary factors and of course much can depend on the genes you have inherited!
The more muscle and less subcutaneous (just under the skin) fat you have, the leaner you are considered.
Being lean will not benefit all positions in rugby, having a slightly greater body fat content can help those that are in positions where you have heavy contact as it can serve as a protective mechanism. It can also help you achieve more weight for tackling. However there are many benefits of being lean for all positions.
Of course keeping lean is favourable for a lot of people for aesthetic reasons – being trim and lean is very good for boosting self-confidence and mood! But there is more to it than just the feel-good factor!
Strength, speed and agility
If you take two players of a similar weight, but different leanness they will perform very differently. The player with greater lean tissue (i.e. more muscle, less fat) is likely to be stronger, faster and more agile.
Our muscles are commonly known as the “powerhouses” of our bodies, as they are the tissues that produce the power we need to drive our bodies. Therefore the greater muscle we have per unit of weight, the greater amount of power we can produce – this is called our power to mass ratio.
The greater power to mass ratio we have, the quicker we can run and the more strength we can produce. It may also benefit the length of time you can train, because our muscles are what use energy to produce movement!
Muscles stabilise our joints, and so it is likely that the more muscles we have surrounding our joints, the more stability and protection they provide, perhaps reducing the risk of injury.
The leaner you are, the more calories you burn
It has long been established that muscles burns more energy than fat. Therefore by having a lean body composition your metabolic rate is likely to be higher. So in theory the leaner you become, the leaner you should stay!
Although fat is an essential part of our bodies, too much can be detrimental to health. A leaner body composition can help reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease and obesity.
Having a leaner body composition may also help to reduce the risk of type 2 Diabetes. Muscles take up sugar (glucose) and either use it to fuel your body, or store it for use later. Therefore having a lean body composition with greater muscle mass will help to maintain a normal blood glucose level (constant high blood glucose levels are a risk factor for type 2 Diabetes).
So there you go, as you can see there are many benefits for staying lean that could enhance performance, and of course health, of all players. Therefore it is important to keep a balanced and healthy diet (keeping your eye on things like saturated fat and making sure you get enough protein), mixed with a balance of aerobic and strengthening types of exercise to keep your body in shape!