Most guys and many girls all desire to have a super-lean physique. While we might be kidding ourselves somewhat; the prevailing idea that a six-pack will make us the sexiest version of ourselves possible is one that’s hard to ignore. Despite this desire, there are a number of issues getting in the way of our search for super low body fat levels.
Issues like getting on a regimented diet plan, and putting in solid cardio work. Then, once we’ve finally dialed it all in and got down below eight-percent body fat, maintaining that new physique can feel all but impossible. Stress and time management can curb a great diet and exercise program faster than a Lamborghini can reach 60mph from a dead stop!
With all these roadblocks in mind, achieving your weight loss goals, and maintaining the body you deserve is much easier than you might think. Discipline, along with following the principles laid out below, can help you get super lean and reduce the chance of future metabolic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.
Important: Slow and steady wins the race (forget crash/fad diets)
Crash diets and sporadic workouts simply do not work long term. Even in the short term, a rushed diet plan that fails to satisfy your taste buds and daily energy requirements is doomed to make you end up fatter than you were when you started.
Don’t get me wrong, you do need to limit calories, but it’s better to adopt healthier food choices, and limit daily calories by a couple of hundred calories for the rest of your life, than starve yourself or eat a bunch of vegetables you hate. When you suffer through a diet, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually attack all your favorite comfort foods later when (or before) you’ve achieved your fat loss goals.
If you’re in this thing to win (Ie., get super lean) you’ll want to prepare yourself for the long game. Getting ripped (initially) is easier than most people think. Maintaining it is near impossible when crash dieting, extreme caloric restriction, and eating bland foods that fail to satisfy are the game plan.
Low carbohydrates the key to fast fat lost (eat more fat, fewer carbs)
Low carb diets work to lose weight and most importantly, body fat, on a number of levels. Carbs are often listed as being different from sugar. However, unless it’s encased in a fiber molecule, the body quickly breaks carbs down into blood sugar, which is then converted to glycogen. Glycogen is mostly stored in the liver. The liver stores approximately eighty-percent of our body’s total glycogen reserves.
The rest is stored in our muscles, primarily skeletal muscles. When glycogen reserves are stocked up and energy demands on the body are limited, excess blood sugar is stored in the form of body fat. Excess protein can also be broken down in the liver and turned into glucose, but the extent of this action is different for everyone. Dietary fat, except for trans fat, has been proved to be healthy and not linked to gaining body fat when eaten responsibly (learn more), and will help you stay satiated between meals, including when intermittent fasting.
Insulin is the hormone that makes both of these processes possible, as it opens the door to cells, including fat cells, to uptake sugar for energy storage. Excess insulin in the blood signals the body to store more dietary sugar as body fat. This process is necessary for long-term survival when food is scarce. However, in developed societies, it makes us fat if we eat indiscriminately.
Don’t eat several meals per day (and fast every day)
Intermittent fasting is more than just a buzz-phrase. It’s one of the single best ways to shed body fat faster when combined with caloric restriction. Some people even find they get leaner while intermittent fasting — even when they don’t restrict calories. This is because intermittent fasting stokes the fires in our metabolism, and stops just short of causing the body to slow the calorie burning process to protect us against starvation.
How it’s done
• Basically, you only eat one or two meals per day within a 5 to 8 hour time-frame. Fasting time is spent drinking water, black tea or coffee, sleeping, and going on about your day without thinking about food. This is done every day, mind you, not just on occasion.
Since you’re not eating for a long time each day, blood sugar goes down and insulin levels plummet, meaning fat storage isn’t taking place. Growth hormone levels also rise during a fast, preserving lean muscle mass. Last, if you’re keeping dietary carbs low, stored glycogen stores will go much lower over the course of the fast, leading to more stored fat being burned throughout the day, as your brain and body will still require energy.
Dial in your diet
This is one area where visiting a local nutritionist or using the services of an online expert (who has an irrefutable reputation) can make all the difference in the world. Determining your true body type is an important first step in deciding what types of foods will work best in your diet to get super low body fat and maintain it.
There are 3 different metabolic types you can fall into
Naturally lean, lacking muscle mass and bone density. Ectos can eat whatever they want and not gain weight. However, if this is you and you still have body fat in the double digits, it’s likely you eat way too many carbs and/or consume too many calories from protein.
Getting ripped as an ectomorph is easiest, as even a simple diet change can make a huge difference in a month’s time. Maintenance of fat loss is also more simple, if the ectomorph doesn’t go off the rails and abandon what got them there.
Mesomorphs are the middle-ground between ecto and endomorphs. They have a natural medium build, gain muscle easily, and are prone to easy fat gain when they over-indulge or eat the wrong types of calories (Ie., too much sugar and/or excessive protein).
Cutting carbs, intermittent fasting, and upping exercise intensity or total time can lead to big fat losses quickly. Maintaining low body fat can be tough for a mesomorph who dives into the pizza box for seconds and thirds too often. However, if they stick to the plan that helped them lower their body fat, results can be maintained indefinitely.
Endomorphs are known for a naturally large bone structure and muscle mass, and most endos find it really hard to get lean. They also gain muscle easily and typically gain fat weight fastest in the waist, buttocks and upper legs. Endomorphs also have naturally slower metabolisms and tend to “stress eat” due to current and past stressors.
Endomorphs need to have both their diet and exercise program dialed in, along with regimented intermittent fasting, if they want to get ripped and shredded. Endomorphs that want to lose fat and maintain muscle mass generally have to experiment more than the first two types, in order to find the right mix of diet and exercise to lose excess fat. More mental shifts are needed in the endomorph too, in order to better manage stress and avoid excess calorie intake.
What’s the best diet?
The best diet is the one that’s best for you and your metabolic type. However, the best advice for diet was mentioned earlier: Cutting carbs and replacing them with more natural dietary fat from meat, eggs, hard cheeses, and from fatty fruits like avocados.
Nuts are also a good choice, but use discipline and stick to handful-sized portions once a day, as a small amount of any nut is very calorie-dense. A high protein diet is also a good choice for losing tons of fat. Make sure you understand how many calories you need (calculator) to maintain your current weight, then cut 200 to 500 calories from that daily number.
Finally, start reading up on macros and/or download a calorie tracker like My Fitness Pal (iPhone, Android). You can go old school with paper food journals, but an app will make this so much easier because you just have to input your meal choices and portion sizes, and the app tells you where you’re at so you don’t go overboard.
I have no idea what you prefer to do for exercise. I love weights, mountain biking, hiking, martial arts and much more. You may not like any of those things. The best exercise is something you enjoy doing, so you always get daily exercise. The amount of exercise you’ll need in order to shed body fat will depend on your metabolic type and how disciplined you can be with your diet.
The simplest exercise that the majority of you reading this can do is to simply get out and walk. Like I said before, diet is the lynch-pin in weight loss success. Dial in the diet and the exercise is really just there to keep metabolic rate high. Exercise will also help you get the ultimate build you’re looking for, and of course strengthen your heart and other muscles.
Here’s some information on common exercises and the calories you can expect to burn in an hour (numbers based on a 150 lb person using this calculator):
• Brisk walk or hike: 350/hr
• Intense biking (street, mountain): 578/hr
• Jogging: 680/hr
• Vigorous swimming: 680/hr
• Weight training: 200/hr — This is why weight training isn’t a great weight loss exercise!
Pacing on all these exercises can lower or raise the calorie burn big time. I have a Samsung smartphone and use the Samsung Health app to track a lot of my training (obviously, swimming is one thing I don’t use this for!) When hiking with my dog, I can burn up to 1,000 calories in just two hours based on my pace and body weight. Obviously, weight training builds muscle and bone mass, but don’t expect to burn many calories unless you’re doing a CrossFit style workout with very little rest.
On that last note
CrossFit burns a tremendous amount of calories (up to 250 every 20 minutes). I didn’t include it because there’s a lot of training involved to learn how to do it safely, and, few people aside from a professional athlete can maintain a calorie burning-pace for longer than 20-minutes, let alone an hour.
Not to mention, I think CrossFit’s a dangerous form of exercise. It’s hard on the joints and good form is very hard to maintain when doing exercises like deadlifts, cleans, clean/presses and more repetitively, when they’re actually meant to be single-rep power lifts.
If you’ve got two legs propping you up, you can follow the advice listed above and achieve super low body fat, and maintain that new figure for the rest of your life. As I mentioned in the intro, discipline will be the single determining factor of whether you succeed or don’t. If you really want it, make the decision to go for it and don’t look back.
Here’s to your good health!