This blog post and its' sequel, are going to be two of the most important…
Part 1 focuses on defining the problem and understanding it, whilst part 2 focuses on how to get down to your biological set point, as opposed to the environmentally influenced set point. This is done without impairing your social life and happiness!
This article will be geared towards guys who are already within the biological range of 7-14%, but want to get towards to 7% end of the spectrum. As we are talking about body fat set points here, I mean that the goal here is:
To permanently change the level of body fat in which you’re comfortable maintaining.
Let me start off by saying that precisely 7% body fat probably isn’t sustainable year round for most, however 8-10% likely will be. So if you’re already in your biological set point range, maybe 12-13% for example, this article will detail how to lower that sustainably down to 8-10%.
Most people don’t do this when they lose body fat. Most people will cut for the summer and get pretty damn lean, but will suffer too much in the process, which automatically makes the lower level of body fat virtually impossible to sustain.
I’ve mentioned before that in most cases, the difference between:
- Reducing the environmental component influencing your body fat set point, and:
- Moving towards the lower end of your biological set point (once you’ve already done number 1)
Is that the latter requires sacrifices.
It’s not easy.
Reducing the environmental component gradually, as detailed in part 2 is very easy once you get some momentum going. However, becoming shredded in a sustainable fashion will require hard work. It means you will need to lay off your other goals for a while, until you achieve your physical goal.
Before embarking on this dangerous mission, you need to be well-fed, caught up on sleep and have low levels of stress in other areas of your life. Sort your life out first (uni work, high interest debt, dramatic girlfriends etc) then this will be possible.
So this means that if you have been cutting for a while already, you WILL need to take a diet break for at least 2 weeks. Preferably more like 3-4 weeks.
To start off this sustainable shredding period, follow the main 2 points I made in part 2. This means:
- A 10% calorie reduction from what you’re currently eating
- Intermittent Fasting – Push your first meal back by 4 hours, 30% of your calories at lunch and 70% in the evening
You should be fasting already though, don’t just jump into this. This should work for a few weeks (genetic dependent).
If you stall within the first 3 weeks, drop your calories by a further 5%. It’s critical that you NEVER drop them by more than 5% at this point. Only drop calories in 5% margins.
Most people employing this strategy (assuming they started off at below 14%) and have been losing fat consistently, will start to struggle after about 6 weeks. Even with my super-conservative calorie deficit and Intermittent Fasting to minimise deprivation, assuming you have been tweaking your calories by 5% to ensure you are always in a slight deficit, you will start to struggle by about week 6.
This is when we make some further changes:
- Push your first meal back by a further 2 hours. Start off with 1 hour for a few days, and then a further hour afterwards.
- Drink 1 extra cup of coffee in the morning (space them out evenly).
- Drink a little extra water with each meal.
- Drop your volume slightly on training (but make sure the RPE per set is sufficient for growth, I recommend an RPE of 9).
If you experience severe difficulties before week 6, then feel free to make these changes earlier. But I strongly suggest that you are critical with yourself, and ensure you haven’t been cutting calories by more than 5% at a time, and that you actually NEEDED to drop calories in the first place.
These tweaks should help most people to continue losing fat for an extra couple of weeks. Then for the final stage, this is the last push.
This is the final hurdle you will need to knock down, and will require some sacrifice:
- No longer follow the 80/20 rule. It now becomes 90/10.
This means 90% “clean” calories and 10% junk calories. This will inevitably make the diet harder to maintain. It will require you to increase your vegetable portions and get rid of some tastier stuff, which will likely increase your cravings significantly.
You just need to push through for the final couple of weeks here. Drink some diet drinks if it helps.
Now you are at the lower end of your set point, and have been dieting from approximately 12-14% for 10 weeks or so, you will be pretty shredded. Well done!
The key to maintaining this, assuming you have a naturally large appetite like myself, is to:
- Think of your lean bulk as “maintenance”. NOT bulking. NOT lean bulking. But maintenance. If you don’t make any substantial gains for a month, it doesn’t matter; your primary goal is to maintain your new, lowered body fat level. You can always add additional calories later if you need to.
- Keep Intermittent Fasting. The four hour push back for your first meal will do fine. 1-2 cups of coffee will do fine.
- Raise your calories by 10% margins, NO MORE.
The last few weeks doing this kind of thing are very difficult, and sacrifices do need to be made with your social life. But progression is always harder than maintenance, so once you are near the lower end of your set point, you can raise your calories slightly, have more crappy calories in the evenings, and still maintain this without gaining body fat.
Happy shredding! 🙂