A Guide for Maintaining Low Body Fat Year Round
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of Maintaining low body fat year round , lets talk about why we would want low body fat year round?
For starters The Face alone becomes more lean, revealing the natural jaw line and the visual impact from muscle definition is greatly increased.
Just take a look at my face when body fat levels were 18% compared to 8%
This is the reason models and Hollywood actors are required to drop body fat levels for photo shoots and movie rolls.
The ancient Greek artist have known about this beauty and the anatomy of the body since the time of the Statue of David by Michelangelo.
Body Proportions are Ideal when body fat levels are lower.
When your waist is smaller the shoulders naturally appear bigger and wider.
Your chest gives off a bigger and fuller look as well.
Arm’s appear to look bigger due to muscle separation from lower body fat level’s.
Simply put when you see someone walking around creating a visual impact on people from having an amazing body, it’s not that they have insane amounts of muscle on them.
The Fact is they have lowered their body fat levels, creating Ideal body proportions with angular muscle definition and muscle separation.
Another reason low body fat levels are ideal, is athleticism.
When body fat levels are lower you’re able to run faster , jump higher , and pull your self up faster.
In other words you will be able to express your physical power more effectively relative to your body weight when fat levels are low.
This is the reason gymnast are always so lean.
So what are healthy body fat percentages for men and women to hold year round ?
Obviously we can not walk around with 4% body fat levels year round.
This low of body fat would result in some long term health problems and be extremely unpractical.
What’s a Healthy Body Fat Percentage for Men?
For men body fat levels of 7-9% are ideal and can be obtained naturally and maintained with no negative side effects.
So if you’re a guy and your goal is to get lean while looking aesthetic , there is nothing to worry about.
For women, dropping below body fat levels of 12% is not recommended.
What’s a Healthy Body Fat Percentage for Women?
What most women want and find attractive is anywhere from 18-20% body fat levels.
This looks ideal and easily achievable and sustainable as well.
Getting to a respectable level of leanness is one thing but it is another to maintain low body fat levels.
Why Maintaining low body fat levels is so difficult for most?
The number one reason most people struggle at maintaining low body fat level is simple.
90% of the time they hate their diet and the diet they used to get there.
Here’s the thing: if your dieting experience was miserable getting to a lower body fat level, maintaining it is going to be just a miserable.
The exact opposite holds true if you were to enjoy your diet, getting you to low levels of body fat.
If dropping fat levels was a pleasant experience for you, maintaining the lower fat levels will be pleasant as well!
Our bodies have whats called a natural set point and Settling point for body fat levels.
Set point- a body fat range your body is genetically wired to maintain. (for males it can be 7-28%)
Setting point- a body fat percentage your body maintains due to eating habits, daily activity and environment. ( Environment is much more powerful than genetics)
The key is finding a system that allows you to easily drop and maintain lower levels of body fat.
How to Shift From Dieting To Effortless Maintenance
Here is a little hierarchy of importance when it comes to developing a system for dropping and maintaining low body fat levels.
- Numbers (calories and Macros are most important )
- Food Choices are next up. ( pick whole foods that are going to satisfy you)
- Diet Structure( develop an eating schedule or model that is sustainable and enjoyable)
Okay so you have reached you ideal low body fat level, mission accomplished!
Give your self a pat on the back because not a lot of people can drop body fat levels successfully.
Here’s the thing though , just because you have reached your body fat goals does not mean its time to stop your diet and toss everything out the window!
Becoming to relaxed after a diet will send your fat levels right back to levels they were before.
The only thing that is going to actually change is the amount of calories will go up to maintenance calories.
In other words you will just have more room to work with.
Your diet should have been enjoyable while you dropped body fat levels so gaining more room should make it even more exciting!
Finding your New Maintenance
Figuring out your new maintenance calories is extremely important to keeping body fat levels low.
This will be the amount of calories you can consume while remaining the same weight.
It is important to note here that your body weight will go up about 5 lbs, switching back into maintenance calories.
Do not panic! This is only water weight, increased food in your GI and the extra glycogen storage’s in your muscles from carbohydrates.
After the initial elevated weight gain your weight will level out.
Now that you’re a smaller person, you will be burning fewer calories both at rest and during any kind of physical activity.
Many people do not take this into account and jump right back into their old maintenance calories.
Do not do this , it will only make you gain unwanted fat and set you back to your starting point.
Here are two ways to determine your new maintenance calories
- Take your new body weight after the weight loss and multiply it by 14. (The idea is that maintenance requirements are usually 14-15 calories per pound of bodyweight for most people that are reasonably active.)
- Add back in the calorie deficit based on average weekly weight loss. It takes an approximate 500 calorie deficit per day to lose 1 lb of fat.( If you’ve been losing on average 1 lb per week, you need to add back in 500 calories daily)
Remember these are just starting points.
After 3 weeks take your weekly averages and determine if your need to add or decrease calorie intake.
See my article here on The Skill of Tracking Calories for a detailed outline.
I recommend increasing or decreasing calories by 5% as needed.
Eat Satiating Foods
Another mistake a lot of people make is switching the foods up after their fat loss diet.
People want to indulge in foods they were depriving themselves of or something easy like fast food.
Resorting back to these old habits will only give you the old results , more fat gain.
Stick to whole foods that keep you full and satisfied throughout the day. (ex rice , potatoes, lean meats, fats, veggies)
It is also important to enjoy your food as well.
Stick to an 80/20 rule of thumb. ( 80% whole foods while 20% can come from pleasure foods)
By allowing room in your diet for foods people claim are “off limit foods” will greatly decrease the risk of falling of track.
So what is the deal with macros?
Macros will not be making that big of change here actually.
The only thing that should change in your macros is an increase in carbs and fats.
Protein levels should be at least 30% with a balanced percentage for fats and carbs.
Marco’s are always something you can workout to see what is best for you.
I personally like a spit of 30% protein 20% fat and 50% carbs.
For me, I like getting lots of carbs and a sufficient amount of protein with room for fats as well.
I find this macro split keeps most satisfied but macros can be moved around based on an individuals genetics and needs.
Not only is maintenance and the food we choose to eat important , developing a low body fat diet structure will without a doubt increase your success rate.
I recommend finding a way to eat your meals in the most enjoyable way for you.
The best approach I have found for getting lean and building muscle is Intermittent Fasting. ( I have a simplified guide on it here)
Instead of cooking 6-7 small little meal over the course of a day or spending a whole Sunday food prepping for the following week , save your calories for 2-3 meals.
Fast the first part of the day and enjoy some coffee and accelerated clear-minded productivity.
Enjoy your 2-3 big meals with room for a variety of dishes.
If you enjoy eating out , Intermittent Fasting makes this easier than ever due to the fact you have so much room with calories per meal.
This will allow you to indulge on vacations, eat out with friends and set you up for long term success.
A great tactic I use if i know I’m going out with friends or for holiday dinners is to heave a lean protein lunch with some veggies, saving room for carbs later.
This will allow me the room to indulge in bread, pastas or appetizers for dinner.
Now I know some people get their body fat levels down but consider themselves still to skinny.
Most will never truly move forward with muscle gain because they are fearful of fat gain again.
My first tip is you must get comfortable with your body and testing its limits.
You already learned how to lose body fat so you know how to lose it again.
The idea is to create mini goals for your physique and not get caught up in your end goal desires.
Bulking and keeping body fat levels low
The Same exact outline will be followed as you work to put on lean muscle mass.
If your goal is to put on muscle as well, I recommend Sticking at maintenance calories for 2-3 weeks when you have reached low body fat levels.
Then simply transition your calorie intake for a proper calorie surplus by following the guide here.
When you reach body fat levels around 12% transition back to a calorie deficit.
You can use an aggressive fat loss approach like I have outlined in my rapid fat loss program here.
If you prefer a more conservative fat loss approach , the calorie deficit guide here would be best.
If you never go over 12% body fat you will have 6 pack all the time (or at least a 4 pack), your face will stay lean, and you’ll have good muscle definition and separation. You will look great year round!
The KEY is staying lean during the process.
(Take me in the picture above for example: I was bulking on the left, peaking at 180lb 12-13% body fat with abs starting to fade. The picture on the right I cut to 167lb 8-9% body fat 2 months later. Both looks are considered lean but I never had the “bulky” look. The next cycle I will be close to 180lb just as lean as I was at 167lb)
(Here is the example of me bulking from 167lb. On the left I am 167lb and on the right I am at 176lb . As you can see I am remaining lean in both phases and before my abs disappear I will cut back down. I will most likely go as high as 184lb for this bulk)
The leaner we are; the more of the weight that we gain has potential to be muscle.
There are calorie partitioning benefits if you remain leaner.
Every bulk should start from a lean physique or what I call a Rigid Core.
By starting your bulk while at a lean base, you can bulk for longer and it will be of a higher quality (a larger proportion of the weight gain will be lean muscle mass).
When you combine these key strategies, maintaining a low level of body fat year around is a walk in the park!
By following the steps outlined above , transitioning from a cut to maintenance should be no problem.
When everything is applied according, maintaining low body fat will be effortless.
If your goal is to build muscle while remaining lean, following this guide will allow for that.
I recommend setting at maintenance level for 2 to 3 weeks before transitioning into a lean bulk if you wish to put on more lean muscle mass.
My goal for you here is do not look at the guide for maintaining low body fat year round as a diet but rather A Way of Life.
When you do this you will start to see yourself in the image you want to be.
You will be living the life while looking the part.