Everybody who’s into fitness or aesthetics or just wants to build a nice looking physique is probably interested (to say the least) in controlling their body fat level. Everybody talks about getting lean and staying lean forever once they reached their goal physique.
And there’s nothing to blame them for – moderate to low body fat levels combined with a decent amount of muscle mass is the secret to a nice looking body. But once you get down to extremely low body fat levels such as less than 7% for males and 11% for females things start to get nasty and unhealthy.
Long story short, the body fat level is probably the second most discussed topic in fitness, after muscle building. That’s why I think it needs an article of its own.
Failing at it
If you take a look around yourself you will realize that most probably there are only a handful of people that are lean and have a physique that you look up to. That’s because getting lean is not that easy.
Well, it’s easy if you look at it from a theoretical point of view – you just need to be in a caloric deficit to lose fat – but when you put it into practice it isn’t that easy anymore. That’s when habits, environmental conditions and most importantly – the power of will – come into the game.
I am the best example – I started cutting at 18% body fat with a goal of reaching 10% in 4 months and I quit after 3.5 months or so when I was at just 12% body fat. So, there you go. You may know how and what to do, it may sound easy, but once you put it into practice it starts to get harder.
From a genetic point of view our bodies are programmed to stay within certain body fat levels which are considered reasonable – or relatively healthy. It is unhealthy to be super lean and it is unhealthy to be too fat and nature knows that way before us and works it’s towards this goal – maintaining our body weight within healthy thresholds. That’s a fact.
For males the so called sweet spot is anywhere from 7% to 18%. Here is how different male body fat levels look like:
For females the so called sweet spot is anywhere from 11% to 16%. And here is how different female body fat levels look like:
And if you happen to give a shit, here are a couple of pictures of myself at various body fat levels:
This is a picture I took right after I started going to the gym, at a juicy 30% body fat (left).
And here I am at 18% body fat (on the left) and 13% body fat (on the right).
Anyways, back to the topic. I mentioned above that our body has its own mechanism to keep us within healthy body fat ranges.
That’s why when we are dieting / cutting the metabolism slows down a little bit (you’ve probably heard of metabolic adaptation already), we are moving less and we are feeling hungry all the time – it’s our body’s way of protecting and trying to stay within the so called health body fat thresholds and hold on to the energy we have as long as possible. It’s just like a battery saver app for the mobile.
The opposite happens when we are overeating – the metabolism speeds up a bit, we have more energy, we are more active and the appetite is decreased. You don’t feel hungry all the time when you are in a surplus, right?
Environment is not helping
But we are now living in a world where we are surrounded by thousands of hundreds of different foods, one more delicious than the other and all of them at our very own disposal. This combined with our pleasure to eat tasty food will offset the genetic programming of our bodies to stay within the above mentioned body fat levels.
That’s why people are getting fatter and fatter over the years. Obesity has become a real life issue in the past decades. People are doing less and less physical work and food has become a very cheap conveniences.
This has been scientifically proven by the way. Some scientist did this experiment on some rats. According to this experiment, when the rats are under feed they lose bodyweight to a certain weight, then when they feed them more food, they eat more until they went back to their initial body weight and then stopped eating more and maintained that initial body weight.
But when the scientists started to feed the rats with food that tasted better (whatever that would be for a rat) the rats started to gain more weight and go over their initial body weight.
That’s exactly what happens to people as well. Our appetite and desire to eat food just because it tastes so good, not because we are hungry, is overpowering our genetic potential to maintain a healthy body weight. This is the environment we live in and this is how is affecting the body fat.
Willpower is the key
Lastly but not least we have our consciences and our power of will which we can use to regulate the amount of food we eat. It all starts from your head and that’s what we all need to get straight. The power of will is what makes us do things we maybe not feel like doing, but of the results you now those actions will give you, you do them anyway.
That’s why we order chicken breast and broccoli when our friends are eating pizza and that’s why we get up at 5 am in the morning and go lift weights even if we would rather sleep more.
It’s all down to willpower. It’s all down to what you are willing to do in order to reach your goal. When you want to get lean you don’t eat a food because it’s tasty, you eat it because of the results you will get from eating that damn food.
Willpower! And CT Fletcher tells it best. Check out the video below for some training and lifestyle motivation.