You’re so close to showing off that six pack! If you’re at 15% body fat and looking to get lower, here’s exactly how to shed 5% of your body fat and see results.
IF YOU’VE WORKED your way down to 15% body fat, you’re already working out regularly, probably counting your macros and meal prepping, and eating pretty damn clean. But here’s the primary downside of shedding body fat: The lower your body fat percentage gets, the harder it becomes to lose just 1–2% more.
So if you’re aiming to get down to 10% body fat (or lower), it’s time to eat and train like an athlete. At a higher body fat, you need to focus more on nutrition. Now, though, everything centers around your workouts—namely, building muscle. “The closer you get to having low body fat, the more impact muscle mass will have on improving your composition,”
But you need to be as committed as an athlete now, too. “You have to remember how small of a population has 10% body fat. It’s bodybuilders, fitness competitors, athletes. You have to be willing to do what others aren’t.”
How to eat to achieve 10% body fat
1. Eat for fuel
To hit below 15%, you need to be laser-focused on getting the best fuel for your body, “You’re looking at chicken with no sauce, 5-9 servings of fruits or vegetables a day, choosing the leanest proteins possible, the best possible fats—nuts, oils, chia seeds—ditching most saturated fats, and consuming not just decent carbs but exclusively high-octane fuel carbohydrates like quinoa, ancient grains, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.” Sure, you should enjoy food. But if your goal is to look as good as humanly possible, you have to prioritize what the food offers your body over what it offers your taste buds.
2. Spend your calories better
When you’re 20lbs overweight, you need to eat fewer calories to lose weight. But at 15% body fat, your focus is on getting cut by increasing muscle—and that means you actually may need to eat more. You need muscle to burn fat, and you need calories to build muscle, so fat loss at this stage is driven by being just under or even slightly over maintenance calories, he says. The most crucial factor: Increase carbohydrates before and after your workouts for fuel and recovery, and lock in your protein at around at least 1.5g per kg of bodyweight.
3. Cut back on booze
At 15% body fat, you can probably still afford to have beers a few nights a week with your buddies. But to get to 10%, you’ll need to cut that back to two or three drinks on only one night a week. “Alcohol slides into your ‘indulgences’ category, of which you’re only getting once, maybe twice a week.” When you decide to spend it, stick to light-colored, juice-free drinks, like vodka with soda water and lime.
4. Stick to staples
Unfortunately, sub-15 eating is pretty boring. You need to hit your macros to a T, and you need to cut caloric, salty, but flavorful sauces (BBQ is a big offender), which means you’re probably eating the same or similar foods every day—skinless chicken breast, steamed vegetables, and brown rice. Sure, you can be an ultra-fit foodie, but unless you want to spend hours in the kitchen every day, your best bet is to find five meals that fit within your daily macros and meal-prep six or seven days’ worth at once.
5. Look at what foods you can cut
“To get past 15% body fat, there’s a smaller and smaller margin of error.” Once you’ve kicked the big-ticket items, you have to take a magnifying glass to your meals. Maybe you’ve been doing coffee with creamer. That milk is only 30 calories, but every day for a week, that’s 200 calories that could go.Look at any liquids you’re consuming other than water—that extends to oil and sauces—and scrutinize seemingly healthy packaged foods like protein bars and pre-made smoothies.
6. Hire a nutritionist for a one-time fine-tuning
If you can’t figure out what to cut from your already-clean diet and how to balance that with fueling muscle growth, bring your food journal to a registered dietitian. In addition to being trained to look for sneaky offenders, he or she can also check out peripheral influencers like stress and sleep.
7. Ditch the takeout
You probably already have your go-to restaurants who make a killer clean macro salad or the perfect salmon fillet. But food prepared by others is the biggest wild card when it comes to calories—so unless you control exactly what’s showing up on your plate, you probably only want to eat out once or twice a week as an indulgence.
8. Get your mind right
“When it comes down to it, what separates 15-percenters from 10-percenters is the ultra-focus.” We’re talking about dedication to meal prep, bulletproof accountability, a social life full of ultra-supportive people—fitness and nutrition has to be the No.1 focus in your life. Whatever takes away from your motivation—friends who don’t understand why you can’t just have another beer, a job that only allows for five hours of sleep a night—has to be adjusted, and whatever drives you and keeps you going, taking measurements and progress pictures, needs to be kicked up.