NFL Prospect Wide Receiver D.K. Metcalf is the talk of the combines after registering a 1.6 percent body fat level and showcasing a combination of athleticism rarely seen. In this video, I’m going to answer the question of whether or not I believe this body fat reading to be accurate, and even more importantly, healthy for a competitive athlete.
When you initially look at D.K. you realize that he is certainly in incredible shape. He has a level of muscularity not often seen in other wide receivers and nobody would argue he has low body fat levels. The question is, whether they are to be believed to be at such an incredibly low level such as 1.6 percent fat.
When you consider the preferred method of testing in the NFL Combine it becomes apparent quite quickly that the reported number is likely not accurate. You see, the combines have been using the Bod Pod to determine body fat levels for almost 13 years now. This form of fat analysis relies on volume displacement of air (very similar to the underwater testing being a volumetric measurement of water displacement).
The data is collected and the body fat level is determined by a serious of mathematical calculations, not actual limb by limb measurements. The accuracy of these readings can error by as much as 5 percent body fat. When you consider that this could apply to the measurements Metcalf received you realize that this could take his body fat levels all the way up to between a six and seven percent fat.
Just this season, the NFL started to use the DEXA scan as an additional measurement of body fat in the competing athletes. While more accurate due to the data being determined by a series of specific measurements, there is still a margin of error here and the data is more comprehensive making it more diffitcult to easily spit out a quick answer. To this point, this in depth analysis is privy only to the scouting departments of these teams and the media does not have access to them.
Regardless of the actual validity of the number, what should be more concerning to you is whether or not this low a body fat level is even desirable. Some may not like the way it looks aesthetically, but I’m not going to get into that since that is due to personal preferences. Instead, we want to look at the science of this type of body fat level and the medical concerns with being this low.
It is not uncommon for people at less than 5 percent body fat to have negative hormonal implications, impacting their testosterone levels and their virility. Beyond that however, the function of the brain can be incredibly impaired. Brain fog, confusion, and lack of concentration are all risks of carrying too low of a body fat level that definitely don’t mix well with being a high performing athlete.
Add in the high risk of joint injury that occurs from having poor lubrication of the joints at too low of body fat level and you have the recipe for a disaster. The key is to maintain fat in the 8 to 12 percent range to allow for maximum performance without having to risk getting too low in the pursuit of it.
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