The price of getting lean

What got you to where you are, won’t get you where you are going.
Your body craves balance. When looking at fat loss/ body composition issues, maintaining where you are is what your body wants, and in order to affect change, you need to change something about what you do on a daily basis.
I thought we would look at the changes you need to make in order to achieve certain body fat ranges to help you decide what you need to do to achieve the look you want. These include dietary changes, exercise/ activity levels, effects on social life and as a bonus, health plus/ minuses.
Quick note, male and female body fat %’s are different. For physique competitors, men generally will be around 5% and women around 8%, as you go upwards, the difference opens up more. Healthy ranges for men are typically considered to be between 12 and 20%. For women, 20-28%.

For men above 20%, or women above 28%.

Time for a change

Nutrition:

The initial plan of attack for those in these ranges is to reduce the amount of processed foods eaten. Swapping these for whole food options can cut calories by reducing the amount of adding fats and sugars.

Learning to cook some basic recipes will be necessary.

Drink fewer calorific drinks. Swapping full sugar for diet alternatives can have a massive effect on calorie intake.

Training/ exercise:

Do some intentional movement most days. Intentional movement could be defined as movement that has a goal attached. Walking 10000 steps a day, making 2-3 group classes, following a basic training plan in the gym 2-3 times per week are examples.

Socially:

No major changes, though alcohol consumption and eating out may undo any of the above-mentioned changes.

Health:

Higher risk of health issues. Low energy levels and poor sleep quality.

For men 15-20%, or women 21-28%

I can handle this, no problem.

Nutrition:

Increasing levels of protein and vegetables in most meals. This improves satiety and reduces the likelihood of snacking.

Preparing most meals from scratch, and eating around 2/3s of meals to satisfied (not stuffed). You’re not going to be able to have dessert every day.

Food journaling may help with the increased level of adherence needed.

Some thoughts and planning about what you eat will be needed.

Training/ exercise:

Training 3-4 times per week. Focussing on getting stronger and maintaining/ adding muscle mass.

Some cardio most days, this could be aiming for your 10000 steps.

Socially:

Some thought will be needed about food choices when eating out, no real stress though.
Health:
Improved health and energy levels. Sleep quality is improved.

For men 10-14%, or women 16-20%

Oh Hai there Abz.

Nutrition:

Increasing levels of protein and vegetables in most meals to one palm sized portionof protein and one fistful of veggies for women, and 2 of each for guys. Preparing most meals from scratch, and eating around 4 out of 5  meals to satisfied (not stuffed). Desserts maybe happen a couple of times a week without going overboard.

Food journaling will be more necessary to help with the increased level of adherence.

More thought and planning about what you eat will be needed. Shopping and prepping food in advance will help.

Training/ exercise:

Training 3-4 times per week. Focussing on getting stronger and maintaining/ adding muscle mass. Higher intensity during sessions.

Some cardio most days, this could be aiming for your 10000 steps.

Socially:

Some sacrifices may need to be made socially in order to achieve and maintain this level of lean.
More thought about what you eat out is needed. Fewer caloric/ alcoholic drinks each week (less than 4 or 5).
Health:
Energy and focus continue to improve.
Sleep quality is better again.

For men 6-10%, or women 12-16%

Lean town – Population – You!

Nutrition:

Most meals are based around protein and veggies, with a serving of carbs at most meals.

Desserts and calorific drinks are once a fortnight or so.

Eating appropriate to your goal around 90-95% of the time. That works out as 1 of plan meal in every 20.

More planning, thought and time on the details of what you eat.

Training/ exercise:

Training 3-4 times per week. Focussing on getting stronger and maintaining/ adding muscle mass. Higher intensity every session.

Low intensity (if you have time) or high-intensity cardio (if you’re pushed for time) most days.

Socially:

More sacrifices of social events will be needed, particularly if food is involved. A bigger time commitment to both diet and training will be needed.
Health:
Improved health and energy levels. Sleep quality is improved.
Typically fewer food cravings.

For men <5%, or women <12%

Welcome to Shredsville.

Nutrition:

High levels of dietary adherence. Every meal is based around protein and veggies with carbs limited to post training.

No calorific/ alcoholic drinks.

A big time commitment to planning meals, measuring and weighing out food, and tracking everything.

95% + adherence.

Training/ exercise:

Training 5+ times per week. Focussing on getting stronger and maintaining/ adding muscle mass.

Cardio most days.

Socially:

What social life?
Health:
At these body fat percentages, health is going to take a hit. Hormonally, men will see a drop in testosterone levels and women will experience amenorrhea (the cessation of the menstrual cycle). Mentally, the strict regulation of diet can lead to a higher likelihood of disordered eating habits and body dysmorphic issues.
While aiming for the lowest body fat levels, there are massive trade-offs, so be aware of these if you want to get to these levels in order to compete. Slightly higher body fat levels are more easily maintained once good habits are achieved if you are willing to make some small sacrifices.
If you have any questions about changing your body composition and nutritional/ training approaches, please get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.
Stay healthy,
Dave

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