Muscles vs Fat

I don't know if this has been discussed before - but i guess we can all agree that fat is a good insulator and increases the amount of time people can spend in cold water.

Say IF you would retain your body fat percentage but instead build muscle - would it keep you warmer longer?
(As per the old a larger person has a lower surface area to volume ratio)

But i take it 5kg muscle gain would help less compared to 5kg fat gain as muscle is more dense?

(the reason for this thread is that i have lost 4kg fat!)



  • pavlicovpavlicov NYC USASenior Member

    @andiss I remember reading somewhere that, I think Adam Walker, prior his swims decided not to gain weight in fat but rather beef up his core muscles because they technically insulate better. I cannot find the reference at the moment. It was a nice article I read maybe 2-3 years ago about how it is not necessary to gain weight prior cold water swims but rather important to gain core muscles. It was also a lot about positive thinking and 'circle of fire'.

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited August 2016

    I imagine that there would be more veins, arteries, and capillaries in muscle than fat because (I also imagine) muscle is more metabolically active. I'd worry that if you start vasoconstricting muscles, your muscles wouldn't get an ideal/full flow of fuel, and it would lead to muscle weakness, and possibly hasten glycogen depletion.

  • andissandiss Senior Member

    Adam Walker is def not fat, but on the other hand he is a big man with his 6'5" and 97kg (214lbs)

  • tortugatortuga Senior Member

    I recently saw a small, but interisting, study evaluating core temps,, body fat, stroke rate in cold water. Findings indicated that more body fat increases cold tolerance but does not effect core temp. Core temp loss was correlated with decreased stroke rate i.e. exhaustion. i

  • SwimUpStreamSwimUpStream Portland Oregon Member

    I'm definitely intrigued with this conversation. I have EC in 2 yrs. I just got my body fat % measured by hydrostatic submersion and was defined as 17.5% (I'm 5.3" and 142 lbs). In the last 7-8 yrs, I've dropped from 35% and finally at a healthy range. I'm nervous about adding more weight for the channel and rebounding to my old unhealthy weight and eating habits.

  • andissandiss Senior Member

    i was at a swim a few weeks back, 12C in the water.

    The winner (a 6' something lad) did it in skins and was fine, he would be low on body fat but a lot of muscles, while another lad with less muscles but same approx body fat was very very cold....

  • SwimNCSwimNC Charlotte Member

    Interesting study related to this topic:

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    Darn! I have neither... well, maybe a little Xmas fat, but that disappears in early January...

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    SwimNC said:
    Interesting study related to this topic:

    Interesting article- thanks. :D I've been cold swimming, so any information is useful. My hands and feet remained colder than any other parts of me, and after the last water temperature drop, my hands were much stiffer than usual, although they warmed well. Although I have many exercises for hands, I'm not sure how much actual muscle mass I can pack onto them, but I guess I can try to knit faster. ;)

    Cross training by crossing cables? At least I'll have warm stuff for after swimming. . .

  • Nick_PNick_P PAMember

    André Wiersig Talked about how he gained a lot of fat for his Oceans7, I think 120kg compared to 95kg for Ironmans.

  • miklcctmiklcct London, United KingdomMem​ber

    Anyone here got significantly faster after losing fat?

  • MvGMvG MauritiusCharter Member

    @miklcct said:
    Anyone here got significantly faster after losing fat?

    I did. My EC weight was 104 kg, with quite bit of fat in places without any added insulation value, mostly my gut
    Having ditched alcohol and eating plant-based I am now 97 kgs (and 13 years older) so 7 kgs lighter (at 6'4'x/1.90m).
    Being more streamlined and not having extra mass to pull through the water definitely helped my speed.

    I am still by no means skinny, but am curious to see how my cold tolerance (which used to be excellent at 104 kgs) will be when back in Europe this Summer. I suspect it is not quite as good as it used to be, and my current training in tropical waters doesn't help. But being a bit lighter simply feels healthier.
    Unless you have very low BMI I would be careful with fattening up too enthusiastically just for the sake of a swim and focus on cold adaptation instead.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Yes. I've gone low-carb many years ago and eat mostly a meat-based diet. I also began serious lifting (3x per week during off season, 2x per week during swim season), heavy, and the improvement in my musculature (esp. lower back and lats) have improved my swimming.

    In 1996 I took part in the U.S. Navy PT test. The swim part was 500 yards (SCY pool). I beat all the Navy folks with a time of 9:33. I was 29 years old, and had, off and on, swum for exercise for months leading up to it. (Nothing serious though.) About a year ago, I did the same 500yd in 7:40-something. I was 54 years old.

    Four years ago (or so) I started doing USRPT. My 100 yd goal time was 1:38 (leaving on 2:00). My first fail would be in the range of set 6-9. Around that time I started lifting too.

    Since moving back to northern VA, I started back with a team. During one such morning, the set was 14 x 100, odds free, evens back. :15 rest. The coach came to our lane and decided to time us on set #7. I was second in our lane (love chasing the leader and being pushed from behind). Amazingly I swam a 1:24. I couldn't believe it. Set #9 I swam 1:23. Wha...?!

    Had to stop the team swimming (work got in the way) but found a pool with good access/time and started back up the USRPT once a week. Figured the 100yd goal would be 1:38 again. Nope. The first 3 x 100s I was swimming 1:24-1:26. I couldn't believe it. I set the goal to 1:34, first fails so far in the 5-7 range. (Once I make it to set 10 before my first fail, I'll drop the time to 1:32.)

    I credit the lifting with the increase in my times. I'd also like to mention: the lifting has strengthened my lower back: I realized this when I did my 10-hour pool swim. There's no way my back could have survived that if I hadn't worked deadlifts so hard. ;)


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member

    I wonder how gender plays into this, given the different fat percentages. FWIW, when I swam the Kinneret I was considerably plumper than I am now, and at the time attributed my success to that, but cold water is not giving me any particular grief--I suspect that Wim Hof (!) might have a point and a lot of this is mind-over-matter stuff rather than bioprene stuff.

  • abeabe australiaMember

    I like the idea of eating lots of food and when people say you been in a good pasture I say i am training for a marathon swim and need fat to stay warm - please can we say you need more fat to swim in cold water

  • gregorywannabegregorywannabe Senior Member

    I definitely need it. I have had full-on hypothermia before and don't want to experience that again. As we approach winter here in OZ I'm on my eat anything/everything diet again. I normally put on about 6-8kg to keep ocean swimming as it cools down, and lose it again when we start heading back into summer. Putting it on is more fun (but slower) than taking it off (which is quicker). I would probably need more but in winter I'm not doing any longer than 3km maintenance swims. All our ows events are in summer (when temps are around 22C 71.6F). And so far this winter (1st day today) the lowest has been 16-17C (60.8-62.6F) so not very cold for the true cold water swimmers.


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