Does Body Composition effect performance?
I explore this question in a couple of ways. If you put aside the actual physiological characteristics that lie within the muscle itself (the endurance, strength, speed or power you might have already adapted in the muscles) and just focus on body composition in terms of body weight (mass), body fat, size or height, then there are advantages to manipulating body composition.
One of them is the improvement of your relative VO2MAX.. an absolute VO2MAX measurement is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilise under strenuous activity (specific to a sports movement) measured in Litres per minute (L/min). Everyone has an absolute VO2MAX measurement. However, your ‘relative’ VO2MAX is your absolute measure divided by your body weight! This is measured as millilitres per kilo of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min). The more muscle mass you have the more oxygen you need to deliver to the working muscles. The less muscle mass you have the less oxygen required therefore you are more efficient. For example, two paddlers could have the same ‘Absolute VO2max’, one weighs 70kg and the other 90kg. If both of their absolute VO2max is 4 (L/min) then the 90kg athlete’s relative VO2max would be 44.4 (ml/kg/min) and the 70kg athlete would be 57.1 (ml/kg/min) which is significantly more efficient for long distance events.
The other way to look at improving performance would be through the reduction in excess body fat without hindering lean muscle mass. This will increase power to weight ratio in the canoe itself.
However, if we were to bring back the physiological characteristics in the muscle itself.. these would be the true predictors of performance over body composition itself. Without the specific adaptations in the muscle, body composition does not play a bit role as there are many successful paddlers at all shapes and sizes.