Today you’ll learn what it takes to get from about 13% body fat to about 6%…
After nicely fattening up in Bosnia over 3 months, I came back to the US in Sep 2017 weighing about 228lbs (about 104kgs) and with a hefty 13% body fat (picture on the left).
I agree – it’s not too bad, but that was the highest fat % I’ve allowed myself to get to in the last 15 years.
The “fattening up” was done on purpose.
I wanted to measure and track the hormones, mood, impact on sleep, mental and physical performance while going from that comfortable fat% to an extremely low level.
Here are the results.
Sep 15th 2017-weight: 228lbs (104kgs), 13% body fat.
Breakdown: 198lbs lean body mass, 30lbs fat
Feb 1st 2018 – weight: 210lbs (95.5kgs), 6-7% body fat
Breakdown: 197lbs lean body mass, 13lbs fat
A few notes:
1. I purposefully took 20 weeks or 4,5 months to do this intelligently.
Could have easily done it faster. Why didn’t I?
Because the leaner one is, the higher chances are of losing muscle mass (and vice versa).
As you can see from the numbers above, I’ve done a pretty good job on keeping almost all of my lean body mass and the weight lost came almost entirely from body fat.
2. I lost (on average) about 0.9lbs per week (18lbs in 20 weeks) but the weight/fat loss was NOT linear!
Meaning I wasn’t losing 0.9lbs every week.
I lost 1.5-2lbs on some weeks and even gained some fat/stayed the same back on others.
I took 2 full diet breaks, one lasting one week (in Nov) and the other lasting 2 weeks (Jan)
3. I worked out 5-6 days a week (which is what I normally do, so workout frequency did not change).
Sep-end of Nov I did 4-5 workouts in the gym and one 2-3hr mountain bike ride per week.
When the winter came, there was no cardio anymore so I did 5-6 workouts per week – in the gym.
I also average about 15K steps every day.
HOW DID I DO IT? WHAT WAS THE PROCESS?
I did NOT take any supplements nor follow any special “diet”.
I did NOT do intermittent fasting.
I did NOT do keto.
I did NOT do low carb or high carb, or low fat or high fat.
I did not use any of the bullshit magic approaches, tricks or Dr Oz’s coffee beans.
What I did do is follow the ONLY approach that has ever worked and will ever work:
CONTROL YOUR CALORIES OVER TIME WHILE OPTIMIZING MACROS BASED ON YOUR DESIRED RESULT..
My goal was “Ideal Body Re-composition”: Losing body fat while keeping your muscle mass.
1.So I started by determining my weekly maintenance calories, and taking about 20% deficit.
Started off at about 3700 calories daily, went down to about 3100.
Note: I calculate this on a weekly basis and then spread the allotted calories in a cyclical pattern:
Higher calories on workout days, lower on off days.
(PRO tip for advanced lifters – your anabolic window, aka the only time when you can build new muscle/when your muscle protein synthesis is the highest is SHORT and thus I put most of the calories in that period while keeping the other part of that 24hr period- low in calories)
The above tip doesn’t apply for 99,99% of you reading this.
So you can simplify and just eat more calories on your workout days and less on your off days.
How much less or more?
Can’t tell you as it’s always customized for every person based on several parameters (training status/ body fat%, individual preference etc)
2.After about 10 weeks or so, the fat loss stalled. This means the body caught up and it was time to either lower the calories more, or increase activity.
I didn’t do either.
Instead, I took a full diet break lasting one week.
Diet break = eating at maintenance calories so that Leptin and other hormones can stabilize and adapt to the new (lower) fat percentage.
I also used this week as a deload week (training volume decreased about 50%) so I can recover fully.
Yes, my strength went down at that time and I was feeling tired all the time.
Training intensity went down too. 400lbs deadlifts now became heavy 😤
Note: late Oct my sleep quality went to hell. I simply couldn’t sleep so I was getting 3-4hrs per night.
Not a fun time!
Between running my 2 businesses and keeping clients happy, keeping up with the newest research studies, trying to have a social life, watching the diet and training…
Sleeping less than 7hrs a night is a path to getting sick or injured.
And I did.
I haven’t been sick in a decade yet in that time I was getting sick every week.
This was why I ate more/took a diet break, and a deload week.
Started sleeping again. Things got better.
3.After this (early Dec) I wasn’t doing a weekly 3hr mountain bike ride anymore (roughly 2000 calories) so I had to re-adjust the calories to offset the lower expenditure.
At that time, I was at 215lbs with about 9% body fat.
4. I did not track my calories nor focus on specific carb/fat ratio.
(NOTE: I AM NOT SUGGESTING YOU CAN DO THIS WITHOUT TRACKING CALORIES!!!
I’ve been doing this for a living for a decade and can eye-ball my calories within 5% without tracking. It’s a skill and unless you spend a lot of time tracking, you will NOT know how many calories you’re consuming.
By default, EVERYONE eats more than they think they do (why is everyone overweight? 😉).
So for all intents and purposes, if you’re to lean out – YOU MUST TRACK CALORIES, period!)
Ok, on to macros distribution:
I had about 1gr of protein per pound of body weight (so about 220-230gr daily)
Fats and carbs intake varied with a bit of carbs consumed before training and a lot more after training.
Rough daily meals looked like this:
7am: 5eggs with some feta cheese+ spinach/cucumber/tomato
1pm: chicken/turkey with grilled/cooked veggies or a big salad
3:30pm: whey protein shake (30grams)
6pm: protein shake (milk with 50grs of protein)
Between 7-8pm: dinner (largest meal of the day with lots of carbs and protein, low fat)
10:30: fattier protein source (sardines/salmon/eggs) or if not hungry then some nuts
PRO tip for hormone optimization:
Testosterone is produced the most at night so giving your body good fats before sleep is a good idea. Thus- my final meal always included fatty protein source.
However, insulin counteracts testosterone so you don’t want to have a lot of carbs (that raise insulin) too close to sleep time.
Cortisol (stress hormone) also counteracts testosterone so it’s a good idea to relax before sleep (sex, meditation, weed, reading or combo of any or all of em will do the trick 😉)
I suggest against alcohol consumption, period.
4. Finally, I ended at about 6-7% body fat and at 210lbs in 20 weeks.
My calories were pretty low at about 2500-2700 daily.
At this time I was still having the same amount of protein, fats stayed at about 70-100grams and the rest was carbs.
NOTES: I looked great but felt like shit.
Being at 6% body fat is hard and really bad for survival.
Your brain thinks you’re starving to death.
Thus it responds by doing all it can to get you to increase calorie intake and decrease output:
-Raises your appetite
-raises your sensitivity to food (you “See” food everywhere)
-raises your cravings for sweets
– Makes you lethargic and tired in attempt to get you to move less both with exercise and just fidgeting and moving around
– Cortisol (stress hormone) is thru the roof
– Testosterone goes to hell (yes, all the men’s functions…are ahem… “impaired”)
– Thyroid output is decreased (this is how your body down-regulates metabolism)
In short – the body is fighting back, HARD!
It’s a misery when you’re natural and the way to solve it is – steroids.
Literally ALL of the Youtube/Instagram celebrities and body builders you know or follow – who are lean most of the time – are on gear.
Yes, that guy too. And him. And him. ALL of them are.
Note: women have about 9-10% higher fat percentage than men. So 6% body fat for a man is roughly 15-16% for a woman.
ALL of the above problems are the same or worse for dieting women. Will write a separate post on weight loss for ladies in the coming days.
Bottom line: for a natural lifter, this level of leanness is unsustainable and makes a miserable existence.
Having an 8-pack is cool and all, but fails in comparison to the fact that…You’re constantly tired, irritable, have no libido, your dick doesn’t work, you dream about food and you also become a narcissist.
However, being at about 10% body fat for a guy or about 20% body fat for a woman is totally sustainable and relatively easy to maintain (when you put systems in place to automate all of it).
You can also see your six pack at 10% and look pretty damn good too.
I normally stay at 10% body fat or so year-round, and this is what I recommend for a sustainable, long-term health and happiness!
Any questions – post it in the comments below!
P.S. – I will be doing a test for my thyroid, testosterone and cortisol levels in the coming week. It’ll be interesting to see just how messed up they are 😏
P.P.S. – Share this post so your friends who are trying to lose weight and maybe even get ripped can benefit from the info. Thanks!
EDIT: a few friends have private messaged me with a few questions:
Question 1: Is the “hormones going out of whack” situation” reversible?
Good news: yes it is! Testosterone, thyroid output, ghrelin, insulin and cortisol – all of those go back to normal when you start eating at maintenance calories and get to “normal” fat percentage.
The only exception is Leptin. It’s a hormone that plays the main role in how much body fat your body is burning. It’s levels are determined by two factors:
1. The amount of carbs you’re eating (this normalizes once you’re off the diet as you start eating more carbs)
2. The amount of body fat you carry
So the second point above means that you’ll never get your leptin to pre-diet levels…unless you gain all the fat back.
This is why the leaner you are – the less fat you’ll be burning.
Duh. There is less of it. Nothing we can do about it.
Question 2: “why does your d**k not work”?
When you get below 7-8% as a male or below 18% as a woman, the calories are very low and your brain and body think you’re starving to death.
Thus, in an effort to save your life and prevent you from dying – it will shut down all the non-essential functions like reproduction, libido, sexual desire etc…
This is why women lose their periods as they get really lean (having a child is NOT essential to that woman’s survival) and men’s “thing” doesn’t work.
Survival wins over anything else.
Question 3: Is X guy really on steroids?
Yes, he is. Every one of them is.
Here’s one study showing percentages of male steroid users in the US:
2.7% of all middle school students (ages 9 to 13)
4.7% of all 7th to 12th graders (ages 12 to 17)
6.6% of all 12th graders (age 17)
54% of competitive bodybuilders
Over 90% of professional bodybuilders
It’s very safe to say these are UNDERESTIMATIONS since most guys do not admit they are on gear, and this study was based on self-reporting.
Fun note: this study was done 14 years ago. Steroids are now much, much more available and many more people are using them.